24. Wolf in Sheep's clothing
Matthew 7:16b Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
There are some wonderful berries that have thorns. But for this example, Jesus is specific using grapes and figs. If you are looking for either, you will not look among thorn bushes or thistles.
When looking for grapes, you look at the leaf of the vine. Grape vines do not have thorns. Fig trees have a distinctive leaf too, and no thistles. This is an obvious statement to all the people that Jesus was addressing.
Jesus brings up thorns and thistles. Thorns are modified branches; they are made from the same material as a branch. Therefore, it is stiffer, and more solid than, say a leaf stem. If you have encountered thorn bushes, you will not soon forget that experience. The scratches and wounds are real! On the other hand, thistles are modified leaves. They are not as stout as a thorn, but as with thorns, the encounter will leave you leery of another entanglement with a thistle. The thistles require extraction with tweezers. They easily go into your skin and stay until they are removed.
Both fruits can be eaten when ripe, or they can be dried for later use. Grapes can be fermented for wine and vinegar. Grapes and figs are especially useful and nutritious foods, that are beneficial and delicious.
Let’s define FRUIT: “The produce of a tree or other plant; the last production for the propagation or multiplication of its kind: the seed of the plants, or part that contains seeds…” from Webster’s 1828 dictionary. (The fruit contains the ability to bring about more fruit. An important fact)
The previous verse (15) says, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (16a) Ye shall know them by their fruits.
I asked my husband about this verse. He pointed out that they are trying to look like sheep, not shepherds. What a great observation! These false prophets try to fit in. I did some research and thinking about the word: Ravening. It means with violence and greed, wicked at heart and opposed to the truth. They seize prey and plunder to make their living. They are predators. But they try to fit in with everyone else so they can easily get their prey.
In the next verses, 17, 18, 19: Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Jesus is telling us to judge the tree. Is it good? Is it corrupt? How can you tell? It is by its fruit that you can tell what kind of tree you are dealing with. Matthew 3:10 says, “And now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” This is after He calls the Pharisees and Sadducees, a “generation of vipers” beseeching them “to bring forth fruits meet for repentance…”
It is easy to tell who He is talking about. And now He is reiterating how to distinguish which person is a sheep or a wolf. Judge the tree, is it good or evil? Look at its fruit, their children, their peers, their disciples, their wives. Do your research to find out what is important to them.
For some of us, this means cleaning up your FB, IG posts. What do these things speak about you and your fruit? Do the latest posts show what truth you are pursuing? For others it means looking at the people you admire, their FB and IG pages. Yes, we call it stalking (snicker added) but you should do this to see what they might be hiding.
When a young man, from out of state, called for one of our girls, Zack talked with him. The guy had some good answers to Zack’s questions. Then Zack found him on mugshot.com. He also found two FB accounts for the same guy. One had multiple women posted on it. When Zack confronted this young guy, he immediately had a story to go with the facts, but it was to his own hurt. He had taken the one FB account down as soon as he could, but it was too late for him. He kept trying but eventually he understood the truth of the matter, and so did our daughter. She ended it. She stopped looking in the thorn bush for grapes.
Verse 20: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Ask God to look at your own fruits. What does He see? We all have a past that will haunt us, but have you become a new creation in Christ Jesus? If so, then check your fruits. Are the seeds in them capable of propagation or multiplication? Keep in mind fruit takes time to mature, to ripen to be used for propagation or multiplication. When you are checking for fruit in others, be gracious, be kind, if you have to lovingly redirect someone out of your life, do so with grace. You are bearing fruit also!
Will someone find some thorns or thistles when they are looking for fruit in you? If your tree is good, then your fruit will be also. Don’t be a beautiful but barren fig tree. Remember the fate of the barren fig tree, it was cursed by Jesus and it withered and died.
Do you look for grapes among the thorns? Or for figs among the thistles? Why should we be in the thorn bush or the thistle patch? Look for the fruit in the best place to find that fruit. Do your research on the church you attend, the parties you go to, the place you work, etc. Don’t be found among the wolves, even if they look like sheep.
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