As we get into the tail end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is becoming more emphatic and is speaking to a broader reality. He has given some very specific instruction, and now is giving the disciples some warnings about what they are going to encounter when the training ends and their time of service begins. Last week we heard Phil speak to the reality that the world around us makes it easy to follow paths that lead away from God and the truth of who and what we have been gifted to be. This week, Jesus addresses how to spot those who are luring us to the easy path for their own ends.
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20
- Agrarian society. How wolves hunt.
- The two types of wolfishness.
- Fear wolf. Throws the acorn at Chicken Little.
- No worries wolf. Prosperity, God just wants us to be happy and succesful.
- The wolves play off of each other for mutual benefit.
- Wolves are identified by behaviors that benefit them at others’ expense.
- The fruit we are looking for is fruit that is benefiting others and building them up.
- Paul in Galatians gives very similar teaching, reiterating what Jesus calls us to look for.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 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. Galatians 5:13-23
- There are no qualifying statements. One of the ways we can identify wolfish thoughts in ourselves is when we feel the need to qualify these characteristics and make exceptions.
- Jesus’ way is focused on others and how we can serve, and that is a narrow gate and a narrow path indeed. Let us ask God to give us wisdom in recognizing the messages of self-gratification that are used to entice us from His path and for the grace to confront ourselves when we give in to wolfish thoughts..