“By their fruits you will know them.”

Another short excerpt from Jesus’ teaching (Mt 7:15-20) directly follows yesterday’s passage.  Immediately we find another famous saying: Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.  This refers to false prophets who can be known by the bad fruit that results from their teaching and actions.  Such as these will eventually “be cut down and thrown into the fire” (v. 19).  The passage closes by repeating the words at top.  I don’t know that many of us consider ourselves prophets (although the Holy Spirit does give this specific gift to some — see 1 Cor 12:10) but, whether we are evaluating prophets, teachers, those in authority, or our ourselves, the message is a tremendously important one.  Let us always first look at ourselves (remember about “remov[ing] the wooden beam” [Mt 7:5]?).  What are the fruits that we bear?  Are others better off for having encountered us?  Do we build up rather than tear down?  Do people say of us what pagans said of the early Christians:”Look how they love one another” (Tertullian, Apology 39)?  Do we live exemplary lives inspiring others to do likewise?  Do we exude the joy of knowing the Lord and are we prepared to share it (cf. 1 Pt 3:15)?  As we more and more conform ourselves to Christ we become better able to discern if others are also producing good fruit or if they are simply tickling our ears: “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity [“itching ears” in the RSV], will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths” (1 Tim 4:3-4).  Let us first reform our lives so that we are not taken in by pleasant and smoothly delivered words but prudently evaluate such words and look with a wary eye at what is produced by them.

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