Read Matthew 7
Focus on verse 16-17
Quite possibly one of the most deceptively evil plants that I have encountered in my life is the sand bur. Growing up in southern Manitoba I had plenty of experience with cockle burs which were large obvious plants with pretty purple flowers that would turn into large burs that would stick to ones clothes and make a person itchy if they got in one’s hair. We also had the tiny little hitchhikers that would get stuck in our socks and were frustratingly difficult to remove from ones clothing. These also were annoying and messy, but hardly comparable to the nastiness of the sand bur, which I first encountered in southeastern Minnesota.
These little buggers would spring up in our lawn blending in innocently with the grass that was trying very hard to make my yard look green. Then under the cover of darkness these evil plants would put forth their vile little orbs of pain and destruction. A tiny seed, about the size of kernel of corn, still green and camouflaged with the rest of the grass, but covered with razor sharp fishhooks of death! It would not surprise me if it were discovered that these critters could penetrate and stick to polished titanium! You can then imagine the carnage that was inflicted upon the poor unassuming bare footed human who forgot to inspect that one square millimeter of turf where the beast was hiding before planting the foot.
In today’s reading Jesus teaches His followers about recognizing false teachers. He says,
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (v. 16-17)
I did eventually learn to identify the grassy weed that bore this hideous fruit. As I learned to pull those plants out prior to the fruit-bearing season, my lawn gradually became a safer place to play. I suppose one could say “I learned to recognize them by their fruit”.
The same principle is true of people. We may not always be able to determine what motivates a person immediately, but eventually the fruit becomes visible and then it is typically obvious. This principle is closely related to the principle of sowing and reaping as well, and it is equally applicable to our actions and attitudes. If I plant a grape seed, a grape vine grows and grapes are produced. If I plant a sand bur, a sand bur plant grows and sand burs are produced. It would be insane to plant a sand bur and expect to harvest grapes, yet some of us do this with regularity in our attitudes and actions. We routinely lose our temper, and then get angry when someone confronts us about being an angry person, or we habitually use cuss words in front of our children and then wonder why our children have such a foul mouth.
The fruit of our life will be whatever it is we have chosen to plant and nurture as we live it out. If we seriously want to get rid of the sand burs of life that continue to cause us grief and pain, it might be more effective if we stop planting them and begin methodically and intentionally removing them from our lives.