“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Let’s start with the second part of the title and the passage. For those who may be reading this in a future dystopian day, during the time of this writing, all we have heard for two years on the news, Twitter, Facebook and other media outlets (that although purposefully pushed for your current state of affairs, are no doubt banned), is that of Russian Collusion! My title reflects this media phenomenon–it is a play on words, which was a literary device we used in the old days to draw out one’s attention and for levity. Has levity returned to your repertoire or is it still considered hate speech? Godspeed to you all.
At the end of this particular passage we read; “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” I want to rip these words out of context and apply them to me, because the truth is that they do. Although my main mission in these missives is to promote personal and public Bible studies using decent hermeneutics, such as the CAGED (context, author’s aspirations, examples, genre, divide rightly) method, I also teach using my words. James 3:1 is also on my mind, “Let not many of you become teachers…there will be a stricter judgement.” Therefore, while I may not always be correct, know that I am not colluding with what is contrary to the scriptures. I take these verses seriously and I am seriously concerned with pastors in this country who twist and distort the word of God for their own benefit, leading thousands astray. I do this for free, actually it costs me money, and who else but me, points this passage and James 3 directly at himself. I am 100 percent accountable for every word…and so are they–and this frightens me. Therefore, let them speak of blood moons and prosperity and I will write on the Bible, sentence by sentence and you can judge for yourself my level of collusion.
Back to the Bible and Jesus’s words because they are without any error, originally; “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” Good fruit and good trees vs. Bad fruit and bad trees. Lesson time; Christianese: “the verbiage and vocabulary used by Christians that even Christians don’t understand.” Some examples; a hedge of protection, travel mercies, doing life, quiet time, hats off (my favorite, if men must uncover, doesn’t that mean that the women must cover?) and the relating to today’s text, bearing fruit. I am reluctant to write about this because many a great man have said to me, “bearing fruit.” I have also used the term many times myself. It is actually a common phrase uttered by a man to whom I give utter respect and confidence but sometimes I want to scream, “stop treating me like a Christian and be specific! What exactly are you talking about when you say, ‘fruit?'”
I realize that he is speaking about good fruit, that only comes from the good tree but I would like to know specifics. Nevertheless, he mentions fruit with good intentions. The reason is because he knows that the fruit, which is good, can only come from a good tree. Without giving a biology lesson, trees sustain, support, nourish and water the fruit. Therefore, a good tree will produce good fruit. Even more importantly, good fruit must come from a good tree. This is exactly the point Jesus is making. Bad trees can’t produce good produce. This all ties together what Jesus has been saying here in Matthew 12.
God is the good tree and he produces good fruit. Everything else, including the devil, is a bad tree that produces bad fruit. Like when Jesus says, “if you are not for me, you are against me,” all other trees bear bad fruit, regardless of whether or not the fruit looks good. The devil is the prime and most extreme example; as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” You see, false teachers and the devil himself, look like good fruit, but the tree is rotten to the core.
Jesus is known by his fruit and the devil by his. Guess to which tree the Pharisees belong? Jesus has had enough and confronts the Pharisees directly at this point; “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.”
Context is king and we must consider it. Jesus is in no way suggesting that the Pharisees are good, it’s another rhetorical question. He is pointing out that what they say and do is not good because it is not rooted in the tree of the Spirit of God. Isaiah calls these deeds, “dirty rags.” Even if the Pharisees quote Scripture, they miss the mark because the tree is bad, it’s a self-righteous tree. The fruit may look good, but it is not because it came from a bad tree. It is the same way with the “name it and claim it,” “prosperity gospel.” It seems rooted in the Scripture and sometimes Scripture, although rare, is quoted. Nevertheless, it is bad fruit coming from a bad tree. The mouth of the speaker confirms this according to the context.
James says something similar, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” Remember, both the good tree and the bad bear fruit. The question is not about fruit but about where the fruit came from, the good tree or the bad? Sometimes it seems that some of these mega-churches are producing much fruit. But again, it’s not about the quantity of fruit but the quality; good or bad. Jesus doesn’t say in Matthew 7, you’ll know them because there is fruit, he says, “you will know them by their fruit.” That is good fruit juxtaposed to bad fruit–good treasure compared to bad treasure, earthly or heavenly. It essentially boils down to: done for Christ, through Christ or done for any other reason.
“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” If this is true, the day of judgement will last for a gazillion years. All jokes aside, think about that. Every careless thing said by every person will be accounted for on the day of judgement. I only have one suggestion, think before you speak!