Your life as a fruit tree

In Lent 23 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:16-20, NLT

Earlier in the Sermon, Jesus gave the crowds his prohibition against judging which is often misunderstood by modern audiences. It gets interpreted as the suspension of any kind of qualifying discernment. You can see, given that interpretation, how Jesus’ discussion of bad trees and bad fruit must be confusing. “But wait, didn’t you just say not to judge?”

It is important to remember that judging goes beyond discernment of observable behavior. What Jesus is calling for in the text is different than “judging.” For example, sticking a product in your pocket without paying and then fleeing the store is wrong by any standard, and the Bible says “do not steal.” By Jesus’ definition, it is not judging to say, “that behavior is wrong.”

Jesus takes it a step further by saying that the “fruit” of a person’s life tells you something about them. In this case, Jesus is talking about the observable habitual behavior of a person’s life, e.g., someone who makes a life of stealing other people’s stuff or constantly abuses a wife, a child, or fellow employees or who you can’t trust because of constant lying.

By Jesus’ definition, the fruit of a person’s life is a big neon sign telling you something important. Such “tells” are used by employers to determine if a person is qualified for a job, by police officers to solve crimes, by people in the beginning of a relationship, and by voters making decisions about a candidate. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits,” Matthew 7:20.

Most important, however, is what our fruit tells others about our relationship with God, our priorities in life, and our moral/spiritual values. This statement by Jesus occurs within his warning to beware of false prophets. A way those early disciples could avoid falling prey to false individuals was to look at the fruit of their lives. “You will know them by their fruits,” said Jesus.

Fruit inspection, used cautiously, is a good tool. In any context, the fruit of a person’s life is a good barometer of how they will perform as a leader, a spouse, a teacher, or a friend.

Prayer: Jesus, we know you have told us to not judge other people. Please help us to be discerning but not judgmental. Give us wisdom as we pay attention to the fruit of people’s lives so that we may be able to assist them in their daily life. May we also bear good fruit for you in all that we do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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