Luke 6:43-45 (HCSB) “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”
Jesus’ test of the heart is very simple: look at the fruit. By the fruit of a person’s life, Jesus means a person’s words, especially their unguarded words, their actions, especially their actions when they believe that they are unwatched, and the results that they have on the lives of the people around them, either causing blessing and betterment, or causing damage and destruction.
If a person’s fruit is good, if their words are pure, bringing light and wisdom when they speak; if their actions are just and right, reflecting God’s character; and if the result of their lives is building others up, drawing them closer to God, and causing change for the better, those are clear signs that their hearts are good. The fruit tells the story of a good tree.
If, on the other hand, a person’s fruit is bad, if their words are coarse and crude, or cruel and cutting, stirring up discontent and strife, and causing pain in those at whom they are directed; if their actions are wrong, sinful or harsh, inconsistent with God’s character; and if the result of their lives is tearing others down, driving them farther from God, and causing damage and despair, those are clear signs that their hearts are bad. Again, the fruit tells the story of a bad tree.
According to Jesus, there is no such thing as a person with a good heart who speaks crude, hateful words, whose actions and attitudes are sinful and harsh, and whose lives cause harm to the bodies and souls of others. That was why He so strongly condemned the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Their words, their actions, and the discouragement that they caused in the hearts of God’s people told the story of rotten hearts, despite the fact that they held themselves up as paragons of virtue.
It is interesting to some that Jesus spoke these words immediately after He seemed to condemn passing judgment on others. Isn’t evaluating a person’s fruit a sort of judgment? But the parable of the sawdust and the plank is not primarily about judging others; it is primarily about hypocrisy in judgment, judging others harshly for sins that we are also engaging in, like many of the Pharisees were doing. In contrast, Jesus here is admonishing His followers to be wise in who they follow, to inspect the fruit of the teacher’s life before they sign on as their disciples.
Father, it is easy to see that the fruit of Jesus’ life was 100% good all the time, bringing light and life and Your presence and grace everywhere He went. How different than so many of the teachers today, whose fruit is of a different kind, a bad kind, and whose lives are periodically shaken by scandals. Help me to only follow Jesus and those whose fruit shows a similar good heart, and help my own heart to be good and right, so that every fruit of my life brings glory to Your name. Amen,.