15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be. Jesus has just talked about a wide impressive looking gate that leads to destruction. In tomorrow’s passage he’ll talk about people who said they did all sorts of things in Jesus’ name, but he never knew them. Today he warns against people who claim to speak for God but are doing something else entirely.
He gives a very straight forward way to recognise them: their fruit – the same way you tell an apple tree from an orange tree. What’s in our hearts comes out in what we do and particularly in what we say (see 12:33-37). In Galatians 5, Paul gives some specific examples of the fruit of a heart that rejects God and fruit of the Spirit.
There seems to be no end of people today claiming to be prophets, but speaking words full of “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage” (fruit of a life cut off from God in Galatians 5:20). Jesus makes it clear those people have nothing to do with his kingdom. When the Holy Spirit is speaking through a prophet their words show his fruit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Jesus warns me not to listen to such false prophets. But there’s also a challenge to me, to make sure my words are full of God’s grace and truth and mercy and are spoken in love. It sounds obvious, but it’s not always that easy. I need the Holy Spirit in the centre of my life if I’m to have any chance.
Jesus, please forgive me when my words don’t sound at all like yours. Holy Spirit, fill my heart and my mouth with words that show your fruit. I want to walk together with you today.
Written by David Cornell