As he nears the end of his sermon, the radical rabbi will give two final things that make the difference for those who follow him. He’ll talk about the first one today:
It all comes down to fruit.
I know that sounds a bit simplistic, but you decide for yourself as you hear what he said next:
Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.Matthew 7:15-20 CSB
This was probably not hard for his hearers to swallow; after all, Jesus seemed to be pointing the finger in the direction of those from the religious class—false prophets—he calls them. That wouldn’t have anything to do with the average Joseph (Joe of the ancient days) sitting on the mountainside that day. I can see heads turning now, as they looked at those standing uneasily on the fringes of the group.
Yep, it’s us who need to be on our guard against false prophets—they’re the bad guys.
Why would they be so evil? Because Jesus says they are ravaging wolves on the inside, seeking out the innocent sheep to trap and control. But how will we know them?
The fruit they produce will give them away.
As usual, Jesus uses examples from nature to make his point, so even without the Holy Spirit, I don’t think the message was lost on anyone there that day. They knew he wasn’t talking about literal grapes and figs. No, he was talking about the results of their words, actions, or work.
Bad on the inside leads to bad fruit.
You can’t go against the laws of nature with Jesus, even with the spiritual nature. Bad brings bad; good brings good. So how do we guard against the false prophets? We give it some time and watch their harvest. This is such a good lesson for us today, as all his teaching is, because we are so quick to accept a person at their word, glance at a website, see how many followers they have on social media, and look at their endorsers and jump on the bandwagon without another thought.
False prophets count on blind trust.
Are you a sucker for a charismatic leader with a big following? What does his fruit say about him?
What about a mild-mannered, kind prophet; loved by one and all? What does his fruit say about him?
What about a strong woman, who speaks at churches packed full of women, including some of your friends? What does her fruit say about her?
Just as fruit-producing trees come in all shapes and sizes, so do false prophets and ministers, and they each require our due diligence before we like and share, or quote and follow.
We’re not the ones who are responsible for cutting down the bad trees; let’s leave that to God, but we can be the ones who are not singed by association when judgement does come.
So, watch out.
Grace and Peace