When I was growing up my father often reminded me that the key to purchasing quality fruit is knowing how to pick the good stuff. It is delicate work because grocers are smart. They use fancy lights and dip the fruit in a thin veneer of wax to trick you into thinking it is all good. It is not. In order to discern good from bad, you cannot trust your eyes alone. You have to feel the fruit. Is it too hard or mushy? Is it covered with occasional soft spots from sitting in the pile too long? It takes effort to discern the quality of fruit and looks can be deceiving.
Jesus uses fruit discernment as a measure for evaluating those who claim to speak on behalf of God as he concludes the Sermon on the Mount. He warns, “Watch out for the falseprophets, who will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but will be plundering wolves. From their fruit you will know them” (Mt 7.15-16).
The principle is simple enough, but often people trust their eyes and fail to evaluate carefully. A friend of mine spent a summer internship at a large church and was convinced that the church was failing to make real disciples. Then he quipped, “But, they have had hundreds of baptisms this year alone. I guess you can’t argue with that kind of fruit.” Big fruit is not good fruit. Lots of fruit is not good fruit. Jesus is not advocating an ends-justifies-the-means approach to teaching. Rather, he is saying quite pointedly, “Good fruit looks like obedience to my teaching.”
How does your church measure up to the Sermon on the Mount? Most people go to churches that make them feel comfortable, have nice facilities, and good children’s programs. I have never read the Sermon on the Mount and felt comfortable afterward. What would happen if churches were evaluated by Jesus' teaching? How would yours measure up?