15 “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
A few years ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a “thud.” My wife and I jumped out of bed to see what happened. Though it was storming and dark outside, we could see that a tree had fallen on our house. A few hours later when it was light, we realized a huge tree had come loose from its foundation and toppled toward our house. Fortunately, the base of the tree was close enough to our house that it hadn’t picked up much momentum as it came down. The tree didn’t crash onto our house—it sort of leaned onto our house. Hence the “thud,” not a crash.
An arborist came to our house to oversee the tree’s removal, and he told us the tree was a water oak. Having lived in Florida for 15 years, I knew the danger of water oaks because they are ubiquitous further south. Water oaks have a shallow root system, so their foundation during a storm can be easily compromised.
Having a firm foundation is key to building anything that is strong and healthy. As we learned to our near peril, a tree without a firm foundation is not likely to stand during a storm. That’s why you should never have a water oak near your house!
Another sign that a tree has a firm foundation is the quality of the fruit it bears. If you’ve ever walked through a Florida orange grove, you know that not all trees produce the same quality of fruit. The difference is usually the quality of the tree, which begins with the quality of its foundation.
People living in the time of Jesus knew the difference between a tree that produced good fruit and a tree that produced something less edible. But what did Jesus actually mean when He said we are known by our “good fruit”? Does that mean we are judged by the amount or quality of our good deeds? If so, that would seem to suggest our faith is works driven. Yet we know Christ followers are connected to Him, not by works, but by faith. So what does “good fruit” mean in today’s terms?
Scripture helps us understand Scripture. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul gives clear understanding as to what good fruit means. He says the “fruit of the Spirit” is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. So when Jesus referred to “good fruit,” He wasn’t talking about deeds. Instead, He was referring to our attitude and behavior through the ups and downs of life. The fruit of the Spirit should be evident in everything we do…literally everything, literally all the time.
When you find yourself in a crisis, tough jam or difficult personal situation, think about how your actions and reactions could be measured by the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit you bear in those situations will be the clearest evidence of your foundation. Those around you will notice. Focus on strengthening your foundation, which is your relationship with Christ, and you will bear good fruit.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- When you get advice on something you should or shouldn’t do, what is the first source by which you measure its wisdom?
- Do you ever consider how others look at the fruit you bear?
- Would people recognize you as a follower of Christ by the fruit you bear?
- Can you think of a recent time your reaction to something did not manifest the fruit of the Spirit?