As a church, we seem to have an ongoing theme of ‘fruitfulness’ showing up a lot lately. Fruitfulness is most certainly something to celebrate and pursue—for all of us as individuals as we walk out our faith, and as a church body. Not all fruit is good fruit, however. In fact, Jesus himself tells us to take note of the fruit that people produce, including being cautious of ‘bad fruit’ (Matthew 7:15–20).
Good or Bad Fruit?
Jesus, when speaking to a group of 'less than fruitful' Pharisees, said:
"How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12:34–37, CSB)
One way we can measure fruit is by a person's speech. What do they talk about? How do they speak? Does their speech line up with the Word of God? Does it build up or tear down? We all are prone to sin with our words from time to time. Some of us probably more than others, myself among them. The passage above is more than the occasional sin, it is referring to the regular pattern of one's speech. What dominates their words? The person who bears good fruit is one who honors the Lord and is edifying with their speech as opposed to one who twists and manipulates the truth.
False Teachers and Their Fruit
In Matthew 7, which I referenced earlier, Jesus is speaking specifically of false teachers. He said they come in sheep’s clothing but are inwardly ravenous wolves. The reason this is dangerous is that they look on the outside like actual sheep. They appear to be Christian. Peter describes the same thing when he warns that "there will be false teachers among you," (2 Peter 2:1). He's not speaking here of a danger outside the church, but from within.
Pastor and Theologian Warren Wiersbe says:
"Satan is the counterfeiter. . . . He has a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), preached by false ministers (2 Corinthians 11:13-12), producing false Christians (2 Corinthians 11:26). . . . Satan plants his counterfeits wherever God plants true believers (Matthew 13:38)."
The resulting 'bad fruit' that comes from false teachers is what Wiersbe called 'false Christians'. Meaning, people who believe they are saved but do not actually have a saving faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. This is not only the dangerous result of false teaching but it is the kind of fruit that brings the false teacher swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1). The fruit that the bad tree of a false teacher offers is merely material, temporal, and ultimately dissatisfying. On the other hand, the good fruit from the teaching of truth is supernatural, eternal, and more satisfying than anything the world could ever offer us.
As you think about the biblical concepts of good fruit and bad fruit, what thoughts come to mind? Do you take the time to carefully discern the kinds of blogs, books, and articles you read; the preachers you listen to; the media you consume? Are you careful with the words of "truth" that you pass on to others?
May we not be counted among those tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14), but may we instead be a people grounded in God's Word, ever-growing in the grace and the knowledge of King Jesus (2 Pet. 3:18), for God's glory and our good.