By Lynette Kittle
“Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit”—Matthew 7:17,18
We have fruit trees growing in our yard. Our orange tree produces oranges, and our lemon tree grows lemons, it’s how we can tell which one is an orange tree and which one is a lemon tree. Only through a tree’s produce are we able to accurately identify the true core that produces the seeds and fruit.
What Does Fruit Have to Do With Us?
Interestingly, Jesus explains how what people produce in their lives also reveals who they are on the inside. “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles” (Matthew 7:16).
In a nutshell, whatever is within a person will eventually be evident, revealing what’s truly hidden inside. Still, individuals like to argue that there is no way to tell if someone is a sincere believer or not to know if they’ve, in fact, been transformed. But Jesus explains how it’s really pretty easy and obvious to spot the difference between true believers and unbelievers.
What’s the Difference Between Judging and Identifying Fruit?
Interestingly, Matthew 7 begins by warning us about judging others, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). As the chapter continues, it instructs us to examine someone’s fruit to determine who they are, especially when it comes to Christian leadership. Matthew 7:15 strongly cautions, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Summing it up, here’s where the Bible cautions, “Looks can be deceiving.” But some Christians are confused by this, not understanding the difference between judging an individual and identifying their true identity. In Matthew 7:17,18, Jesus clarifies by explaining how good fruit can only come from a good tree and bad fruit from a bad tree. Fruit is an accurate indicator of what kind of tree it is because it just isn’t possible to get good fruit from a bad tree or vice versa.
So what's the difference between judging a person and looking at their fruit? Judging is condemning one's attitudes or actions while examining someone’s fruit is identifying true believers from imposters.
How to Tell the Difference
Although true believers still sin, they don’t live in ongoing sinful lifestyles. The presence of continuing sin reveals hearts that love the world more than loving God.
1 John 2:15,16 explains, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
If individuals claim to be Christians but continue to live, support, and facilitate actions that clearly go against God’s word, they are producing rotten fruit.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 explains, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Although a Christian’s words may seem biblical and “good” in hearing, what is his or her life producing? A person’s fruit doesn’t lie but identifies the core of who they really are, whether a true believer in Jesus Christ or a counterfeit Christian who loves the world. Galatians 5:22,23 describes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Intersecting Faith and Life:
What kind of fruit are you producing in your life? If you’re not seeing the kind that comes from loving God more than the world, ask God to examine your heart. Ask Him to reveal the truth to you.
Can Someone Believe in God but Not Be Saved?
Photo credit: Unsplash/Monika Grabkowska
Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.
Want to grow your prayer life? The So Much More Podcast shows you how to create space to be with God. This podcast, hosted by Jodie Niznik, introduces you to two types of scripture experiences: Lectio Divina and Imaginative Prayer. Join our growing prayer community today!