Devotion 76

BY OUR FRUIT WE WILL BE KNOWN

Beware of the false prophets! They come to you wearing sheep’s clothing, but underneath they are hungry wolves!  You will recognize them by their fruit. Can people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but a poor tree produces bad fruit.

Matthew 7:15-17

Sometime ago, I was speaking with a friend, who seemed to be enamoured with a certain political leader who espoused belief in Salvation through belief in Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus. This, proved, she insisted, that he was a Christian.

I was taken aback with her assertion. Then I remembered Adonai Yeshua’s clear warning about listening to false prophets and false teachers. William Shakespeare, in his play, the Merchant of Venice, wrote, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart. O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

We all will be recognized by the fruit we produce! What does that mean? For many years, psychologists have recognized our words are of little value, if they do not support our actions. If our words and actions are congruent, then we will be believed. If our words are strong and said often enough but our actions are contradictory, then we will be believed by some, perhaps many, for a period of time. Eventually, though, the lack of congruity between our words and our actions will clearly broadcast who we are.

King David provides some direction for us, in identifying our fruit, as we read in Psalm 1: How blessed are those who reject the advice of the wicked, don’t stand on the way of sinners or sit where scoffers sit! Their delight is in Adonai’s Torah;
on his Torah they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams — they bear their fruit in season, their leaves never wither, everything they do succeeds. Here, we are told, the righteous follow Torah, Yahweh’s Life Instructions, and avoid the ways of the world.

There are two categories of fruit in Scripture. First, there is Fruit of the Spirit, which we find in Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control. Fruit of the Spirit is not the fruit of our actions, though. We are given a pointed clue to our fruit, when we read Adonai Yeshua’s words in Matthew 25 – ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!’ Who are the ‘least important’? These are the poor, the ill, the lost and the desolate ones of our society. Our engagement with these produce our fruit and through our fruit we will be known.

Going to worship on Shabbat, or any other day, and failing to engage with those who need our help, is not working out our salvation. Saying the right words to appease one’s political base is not working out our salvation. Indeed, such behaviour is, what James calls, ‘dead faith’’, faith without substance or hollow faith.

Adonai Yeshua gave us a warning, through the parable of the fig tree. I’m sure you know what I mean, as we read in Matthew 21:18-20 – The next morning, on His way back to the city, he felt hungry.  Spotting a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. So, He said to it, “May you never again bear fruit!” and immediately the fig tree dried up.  The talmidim saw this and were amazed. Fig trees often give vague indications of their ability to bear fruit, early in the spring. Passover occurs in the spring. As Adonai Yeshua approached the tree, He could see there was something wrong with it, such that it would no longer bear fruit. However, to the casual observer, particularly His disciples of fishermen and rural town-folk, the fig tree seemed normal. And so it often is with followers of Adonai Elohim/Adonai Yeshua. From the outside it appears that we are strong in Adonai, bearing fruit for Him; however, on the inside many of us have stopped bearing fruit and are languishing. Is it our fate to be dried up, so we can never again bear fruit? This is a question worth considering.

Let’s return to the opening Scripture: Beware of the false prophets! They come to you wearing sheep’s clothing. How true this is. Beloved, I urge all of us to be discerning, when looking for evidence to prove what we already believe to be true. This is known as ‘confirmation bias’ and is a grave sin, since it is used to confirm prejudice and even militant action against the objects of bias. Hitler used Scripture in his bias, as he set out to murder millions of Jews and other minorities; Hendrik Verwoerd, known as the architect of apartheid, also used Scripture to support his bias, in the imprisoning of millions of African nationals, in a white-dominated continent.

All across the ‘free-world‘ today, we are witnessing country after country falling to ‘populist’ governments, who seek to impose segregationist sentiments on once free societies, sentiments which recognize ‘proper’ colour, ‘proper’ country of origin, and ‘proper’ religion. How will each one of us respond, when this wave comes to our county, if it hasn’t already?

CONSIDER: How will our fruit be seen – as good, healthy, righteous – or as bad, dangerous, evil? How do we want to be remembered – as promoting the ‘good, righteous works of Adonai’ or the ‘politically expedient and politically approved works of man’?

ACT: Whatever our biases may be, if we aim to please Yahweh, Adonai Yeshua, we must strive to produce good works and break through any barriers our biases may erect. This is my personal choice. Is this your personal choice?

PRAY: Beloved Abba, I come to you now, on my knees, asking you to remove from me any barrier imposed by my biases, my prejudices. I pray you help me bring salt and light to a tasteless, dark world. Be the Light people see, when they look at my deeds.  In Your Beloved Name, I pray.

May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Ya’akov bless you richly.