The Fruit Tells the Story
Too often, I had assumed that a tree or a plant was a specific kind, only to be shocked when it began producing fruit. I have learned that it’s virtually impossible to believe a plant is a plum tree when you see peaches growing on it. It’s impossible to claim a pecan tree when you see acorns growing on it.
So what do you do when you see a person who claims to be a Jesus follower but lives a life that is so radically different from Jesus? The Lord actually gave us this guide during the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 7 records this:
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
I have spent too much of my time being influenced by people who talked about a good game but didn’t match it with their lives. I have also watched too many who were wounded by the same. So, for years, I have recited this truth: “Trust is EARNED, not given. And the currency for that trust is ACTION.” Our culture is full of blogs, podcasts, social media influencers, and leaders who make claims or identify themselves with Christ. But every time that happens, you have to ask yourself, “What does the fruit of this life look like?” It’s appropriate to pay attention to these things and allow the trust to be earned by that person’s actions over time.
When you evaluate by that means and decide about your trust in light of that pattern of actions, you are enacting something we call “discernment.” You are looking THROUGH the words, the claims, and the influence to see whether the actions tell the same story. If they do not, you do not trust them. That thinking is what Jesus was describing for the earliest followers. And it’s teaching that has helped me tremendously. The fruit really does tell the story.