Along the way, watch out for false prophets. They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath that quaint and innocent wool, they are hungry wolves. But you will recognize them by their fruits. You don’t find sweet, delicious grapes growing on thorny bushes, do you? You don’t find delectable figs growing in the midst of prickly thistles. People and their lives are like trees. Good trees bear beautiful, tasty fruit, but bad trees bear ugly, bitter fruit. A good tree cannot bear ugly, bitter fruit; nor can a bad tree bear fruit that is beautiful and tasty. And what happens to the rotten trees? They are cut down. They are used for firewood. When a prophet comes to you and preaches this or that, look for his fruits: sweet or sour? rotten or ripe?
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven. Simply calling Me “Lord” will not be enough. Only those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven will join Me in heaven.Matthew 7:15-21 (VOICE)
This mention of trees serves as a measure for the followers of Jesus. Knowing we would be facing an enemy that would try to deceive us with words that would appear true, Jesus gives us a way to discern a true prophet (or teacher) from a false prophet.
In my study of writing, I recognize three different ways Jesus uses to explain: a metaphor, a simile, and literal example.
Metaphor: a false prophet is a wolf disguised as a sheep. The first thing that comes to my mind is the commonly used comparison of God as a shepherd and we as his sheep. Wolves eat sheep. But this wolf is disguised as one of us. We are saying come on over for dinner, when we should be saying, “Danger! Danger!”
Simile: a false prophet is like a bad tree. Maybe the tree itself looks fine, but if the fruit is diseased, rotten, or poisonous, we know not to eat that fruit. It’s better to uproot it and get it out of the garden. We want our trees (our prophets, our teachers) to be healthy and produce good fruit.
Literal Example: a false prophet may sound like a believer, saying “Lord, Lord,” but they aren’t living in obedience to Christ. This brings home how some famous televangelists fell from their lofty pedestals when their private lives were uncovered.
It’s easy to look back with 20/20 vision. We shout at Eve, “Don’t eat the fruit, it’s a trap!” The serpent knows how to twist his words, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5) We want to believe him. His words touch our desires.
I won’t go into it, but a word search on the “sons of disobedience” is a good start to further your understanding of this “fruit.” Jesus declares: “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15) With this measure we will find the good fruit and be able to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)
Grace & Peace,