This week, we’ve been meditating on Matthew 7:17:
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
Again, this comes from the Sermon on the Mount, and is part of our records of Jesus’ teachings.
What does the context tell us?
I think the word ‘Likewise’ really prompts us to look at the context. Jesus is teaching in verse 15-19 about true and false prophets. I imagine at Jesus’ time, there were a number of prophets, perhaps, like John, claiming they had seen the Messiah – or perhaps, claiming to be the Messiah. When I think about how this is relevant to me today, this opens up a whole can of worms!
A prophet is someone who ‘speaks for God.’ We’ve had some brilliant teaching on this fairly recently in our church, and the emphasis really was on discernment: asking yourself if the prophetic word is helpful, comforting or encouraging. For me, those qualities are only ‘good.’
The Bible is full of tree and fruit imagery. “I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus tells us in John 5:5. I’ve had a song in my head all week about having “good soil in my heart,” based on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. And, of course, there’s the fruit of the Spirit, which we’re studying now.
So good trees bear good fruit. But what does it mean to be a good tree?
I think the most important element of this is where we are rooted: we have to be rooted in Jesus. Planting our feet in Him, His word and His truth every single day.
We need our Spiritual version of light and water: the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. Those are the things which keep us growing, keep our roots getting deeper and keep up drawing closer to Him.
We also need community: in order to fruit, trees need pollinating. (I’m not a horticultural expert; there probably are some trees which self-pollinate.) So we need other trees around us.
Bearing Good Fruit
I thought quite a lot about what good fruit looks like this week. I’ve come to the conclusion that good fruit isn’t really about good deeds. Good fruit is partly an overflowing of what God gives to us. So we can love deeply because God first loved us. We can have peace in our relationships, because God gives us peace. We are kind because God is kind to us. This has come up time and time again as we’ve been working through the Fruits of the Spirit: the Spiritual fruit is us becoming more like Jesus.
Also, I think the fruit is about drawing other people towards Jesus. Talking about prophets, Jesus says that these true prophets will have ‘good fruit’ and that the false prophets will have ‘bad fruit.’ Ultimately, he says in verse 20 ‘Thus by their fruit you will recognise them.’
It’s by our fruit that others recognise that we belong to Jesus. People see the love, and they want to know more.
So it’s less about goodness this week, and more about good fruit. And that’s surely not a bad thing?! Goodness surely comes from being rooted in God, and bearing good fruit because God is good.
Next week, Rachel is looking at Matthew 12:35: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.