Is there fruit?
A Tree and Its Fruit
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
This chapter begins with Jesus warning people not to judge others. He talks about having a plank in your own eye and being hypocritical when pointing out the speck in someone else's eye. He is speaking to those who saw themselves as spiritual. Those who believe that they are doing everything right must be aware, for they will be identified by the fruit that they bear. There have always been those who have wanted to take advantage of people through their spiritual lives. Sadly they appear to be concerned about others, when in fact, they are not. They simply want to use others for their own gain. What type of gain? What about power? There is something intoxicating about power and it can change the hearts of individuals who have been in tuned to God.
The religious leaders had tasted power and now they did not want to give it up. Jesus was threatening everything that they had established and this was a problem for them. Jesus focused on the ordinary people and told them to examine the fruits of those who called themselves spiritual. Were they thorny or prickly individuals? Why were they trying to get grapes from those kinds of people? You only get hurt by hanging around those individuals. They poke you and yet, there are those who stick around them for they love to be among those who have the power.
Jesus said to forget all of that. Look for the good fruit -- the fruit that can provide sustenance and longevity. In the long run those who are not producing fruit will be cut down because they will run out of resources and will die.
Jesus' words are very convicting. We live in an era when people become famous and popular not because of what they have accomplished, but simply because they work hard to get attention. Think about the popularity of people like Kim Kardashian, who is famous for working at being famous. What has she really accomplished in life? People don't talk about her accomplishments -- they just talk about her. Society has become enamored with those who are able to generate attention.
Could this attitude seep into the church? Clearly, I think it has. A popular Christian culture has developed, one in which we have made certain Christian characters "famous" because they are able to draw attention to themselves. Recently I was encouraged to watch the video tape of a "Christian leader" who has become popular by the "antics" he portrays in services. Thousands of people show up to watch, what appears to me, to be a show. He walks in front of the crowd shouting out "bam, bam, bam" and the people drop to the ground. The sad part is that he is almost laughing and making fun of the people at the same time. He brags about kicking people "in the spirit." Really? This seems like one of those prickly thorns! Why would we hang out with someone who would hurt us? Jesus wondered the same thing.
This situation I mention may seem to be the extreme and yet, could there be varying levels to which we allow ourselves to be engaged with these "popular" individuals? Jesus was reminding us to be discerning. We must not look for the popular Christian leader, we must look for the genuine Christian leader. More than likely this individual flies under the radar screen, living their lives on a daily basis ministering to the world around them and bearing fruit. Eventually those who are not bearing fruit will wither away.
May God help us to follow the leadership of those who are bearing fruit in this world!
God, please help us to have eyes of discernment as we follow you and those whom you have brought to lead us. Amen.