GOSPEL READING: Matthew 7:15-20
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. 18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Meditation: What do grapes, thorns, figs, and thistles have to teach us about the kingdom of God? The imagery used by Jesus would have been very familiar to his audience. A certain thorn bush had berries which resembled grapes. And a certain thistle had a flower, which at least from a distance, resembled the fig. Isn’t it the same today? What we “hear” might have a resemblance of the truth, but, in fact, when you inspect it closely, it’s actually false. False prophets or teachers abound today as much as they did in biblical times.
A sound mind accepts what is truly good and right and rejects what is false and wrong
What’s the test of a true or false teacher? Jesus connects soundness with good fruit. Something is sound when it is free from defect, decay, or disease and is healthy. Good fruit is the result of sound living – living according to moral truth and upright character. The prophet Isaiah warned against the dangers of falsehood:Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20). The fruits of falsehood produce an easy religion which takes the iron out of religion, the cross out of Christianity, and any teaching which eliminates the hard sayings of Jesus, and which push the judgments of God into the background and makes us think lightly of sin.
How do we avoid falsehood in our personal lives? By being true – true to God, his word, and his grace. And that takes character! Those who are true to God know that their strength lies not in themselves but in God who supplies what we need. The fruit of a disciple is marked by faith, hope and love, justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance. Do you seek to cultivate good fruit in your life and reject whatever produces bad fruit?
Lord Jesus, may I bear good fruit for your sake and reject whatever will produce evil fruit. Help me grow in faith, hope, love, sound judgment, justice, courage, and self control.
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; and give me life in your ways.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Beware of false prophets, by John Chrysostom, 547-407 A.D.
“Jesus reminded them of what happened to their ancestors who were attracted to false prophets. The same dangers are now faced as those that occurred in earlier days. He reminded them of the experience of their ancestors so that they would not despair at the multitude of troubles that would mount up on this way that is narrow and constricted. He reminded them that it is necessary to walk in a way that goes contrary to the common opinion. One must guard oneself not only against pigs and dogs but those other, more elusive creatures: the wolves. They were going to face inward anxieties as well as outward difficulties, but they are not to despair. ‘Therefore do not be thrown into confusion,’ Jesus says in effect, ‘for nothing will happen that is new or strange. Remember that the ancient adversary is forever introducing deception as if true.'” (excerpt from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 23.6)