“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit…Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
These past few months I found myself negotiating with a very successful business person on the purchase of a large real estate transaction. The deal never closed. Throughout the discussions, they would negotiate a fair deal but never live up to any of their commitments. They made promises but not once delivered on their word. After several attempts to finalize the deal, we walked away. How can you negotiate with someone who isn’t honest and doesn’t live up to their word?
Jesus discusses in Matthew how to identify false prophets. You can recognize them by their behavior. Their appearance may impress you, but what is the fruit of their life?
You can use the same analogy toward any person who comes to you looking like a saint, speaking like a saint, but whose actions don’t live up to their appearance. These are people who promise you anything and everything to follow them. Their intention is very self-centered and they have no problem using you for their personal satisfaction.
Most of the people we meet in life, we quickly (and most often wrongly) judge them by their appearance. Most of the people who we come to know through the media are presented to us from the bias of the reporter. We quickly make assumptions based on which tribe or education or social position or economic status they seem to belong too.
Yet most likely we are wrong. Until you spend time with a person, getting to know their worldview, their values, their life goals and ambitions, and how they manage themselves through a crisis, you are only guessing. Until then, you can only watch how their actions align with their words.
Politicians are in many ways today’s false prophets. They promise you freedom, but implement programs that enslave you to the state. They cast visions of utopia for you if you elect them, but at the end, they are building their utopia at your expense.
The fruit Jesus speaks about is the character attributes of the Triune God: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, humility, honesty, freedom, good work, etc. The fruit of a dead tree follows the attributes of Satan who is the antithesis of God. John records Jesus stating that the devil’s role is to lie, steal, enslave, kill, and destroy.
So, when you look at the fruit of people’s lives, what do you see? A life flourishing with the treasurers of God or a life drowning in the destructive path of Satan? You will know them by their fruit.
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