I heard someone recently talking about Matthew 7:16-17:
“By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
I’ve heard a lot of people use this scripture to defend their judgment of other Christians based on their actions or inactions. I’ve been chewing on this a while…and still have trouble applying it as some others have been doing.
The verse before those two (Matthew 7:15) is speaking of false prophets…not simply fellow believers:
“Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Do I believe that Jesus’ words are true…that we will know a good tree or a bad tree by the fruit it bears? Yes…Jesus cannot lie. He IS Truth. However, I do not believe His words here were meant for us to look at what others are doing and decide for ourselves who is good and who is bad.**
We are clearly to be on guard against those who would lead us astray from Truth. By a person’s fruit we will be able to see if they are preaching Truth or lies. Sometimes it takes a while for fruit to be revealed. It’s important for us to have the Scripture in front of us so we can read along with the person who is teaching…so that we can see the whole context and to make sure the words we’re hearing/reading aren’t being twisted or misapplied.
Studying God’s Word is so very important!
We cannot recognize a lie if we do not know what the truth is.
Truth, when twisted, becomes the most dangerous lie…being close enough to sound like the real deal to those who are not familiar with God’s Word and/or Character. Those who are knowledgeable about God’s Word and Character, however, will not be easily fooled or led astray.
What led me to write tonight is the claim some have made that those who truly love the Lord will be involved in church work without
having to be coerced or begged.
I must urge caution in taking a stand such as this!
We also have been instructed by the very same Teacher (Christ)
to not judge others harshly:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use,
it will be measured to you.”
Will those who love Jesus have a desire in their hearts to share the love that He showed them? Absolutely!
Does this mean that all those who are busy doing “church work”
are doing so because they love Jesus?
I can’t tell you that…
I have seen people who love the Lord so much they have to jump in
and serve wherever they can.
I also have personally seen examples of people who stay busy doing church work…but later their lives revealed some pretty rotten fruit. While they were busy at doing all the “good things,” they were able to mask their underlying addictions and brokenness. Whether it was purposefully deceiving those around them or naively deceiving themselves by ignoring the existence of the wounds & weaknesses that needed attention…
only God knows the truth of that matter.
Does this mean that those who are not busy
doing church work are not true believers?
I can’t tell you that either.
Sometimes the problem is a lack of love…
sometimes laziness gets in the way…sometimes fear…
We have some pretty broken people who sit in the pews beside us. We can’t expect the infirmed or crippled to run marathons while
they are learning to walk again.
Pressuring people to serve in areas where they are not gifted (or not yet gifted) is not wise. God will provide the people to do His work and He will equip them with the gifts that they need when they need them.
His purpose will be fulfilled, whether we are participating or not!
If we want to be a part of His great work, our job is to listen for His call for our lives and to be ready to move when we are called, not sit around pointing out what everyone else should be doing.
I don’t believe that how busy someone is at church is a good litmus test for what kind of person or Christian they are…or even how obedient they are.
Some fruit takes time to mature. Some fruit looks good on the outside but when the outside is peeled back, it may be full of worms. Only God can see the true quality of the fruit…and only He seems to have the patience it takes to watch the fruit grow and mature and become good in its proper time.
Sometimes God asks us to do something that isn’t for everyone to see. It is an act of obedience that only He knows about. It’s foolishness to think that we can see everything that our brother or sister is doing with their 24hrs each day. We are not omnipresent!
Sometimes God asks us to do something we don’t want to do, so we come up with other “good works” to avoid what He asked of us. To those who can only see us on the outside, we look like we are being obedient…but we cannot fool the One who knows mere busy work when He sees it.
Staying busy does not equate obedience…
sometimes it’s actually disobedience in disguise.
Only our Lord can see our hearts and know the true
motivation for our actions…
…and whether we are truly obedient.
If we are focused on Christ…examining our own hearts for areas of weakness that needs attention…and using our strengths & opportunities to help others know about the Christ who loves them so much…we will not have time to compare ourselves to other people nor will we have time to judge another’s work with our limited perspective.
I cannot blame anyone else for my own disobedience…and neither can anyone else take credit for my obedience. We will each have to answer individually for what we did or did not do.
Our Father God is the only One who has the final verdict on our fruit…
whether it’s good or bad.
**There are situations in which we can see if our brother or sister in Christ is living out their life in truth or if they are still wallowing in the mud and lies of the world…and if they are still on a path to destruction, we must confront them with truth so they can change direction in order to avoid the inevitable devastating consequences. I Corinthians 5:9-13 clearly declares that Christians who embrace the destructive worldview of sexual immorality are to be confronted, and if they do not turn from their ways, they are not to be allowed to remain in fellowship.
Sexual sin involves not just the body, but also the spirit
(see I Corinthians 6:12-20).
Those living a lifestyle of lies cannot cooperate with
those seeking to live lives of truth.