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. (Matthew 7:15-20 NRSV)
Jesus is teaching his disciples just how much outward appearances can be deceiving. He warns us to pay attention to the fruits that people produce more than the images they display. We are to be wary of those who appear to be good or holy, those we may even admire, until we see the results of their lives and the impacts they make.
One doesn’t have to look very far to find leaders who claim to be faithful but bear very bad fruit. One example that comes to my mind is a WV state senator. Out of his “biblical” fervor against LGTBQ people, he claimed in an interview that if his children turned out to be gay or lesbian he would take them out to “see if they could swim.” The interviewer asked for clarification for such an appalling statement, but he just repeated the phrase- intending that he would drop his kids into water and possibly leave them to drown if they weren’t straight…
But this Lenten season, we are turning the question back to us. When our own bad fruits begin to show, we need to recheck our vine. What currently is the main source of our nourishment and sustenance? Are we clinging to Jesus or are we looking elsewhere? When we become attached to such things as our career, our culture, our ego, our success, our past, our mistakes, or our possessions, we may produce bad fruits. Impatience. Envy. Greed. Stress. Regret. Criticism. Weariness. Anger. Selfishness. When we are strongly attached to Jesus, we will produce those lovely Fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
How do we cling more firmly to Jesus? We might spend more time in prayer, less time on social media. We might forego additional hours at work in order to spend time with our family. Could we spend time at the community food bank more often, the shopping mall less often? Perhaps we could turn off the news reports and try a little contemplative silence. We might allow others to shine instead of clamoring for attention. We might ask Jesus for help in strengthening our connection with him.
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles?”
What will be your answer? Are your actions, words, and even your thoughts Christ-like? Do you resemble Jesus in your daily living? Are your fruits healthy, good and true? Have you noticed any bad fruits recently? How might you remedy this? In what areas do you need to reconnect to the healthy, pure, true source that helps us bear good fruit?
Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles?