Jesus said to his disciples, ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.’
Jesus said: Each tree is known by its own fruit.
In recent days there have emerged many stories of those who used their celebrity to mask criminal and harmful behaviour. We regularly hear of those who were seen, despite the truths told by their victims, to be beyond reproach because of their fame. Such famous people were sometimes generous in the way they used their wealth to support others but, as we now know, that generosity was not genuine, it was a cloak behind which they ruthlessly damaged the lives of young and other vulnerable people. Jesus’ words in today’s reading should help us put the duplicity of the abusers and the exploiters into some sort of context.
Jesus says that: Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. These words are not meant to urge us into an attitude of permanent scepticism and mistrust. Rather they are encouraging us to a life of honesty and openness. We need to beware when we are tempted to put on a ‘show’ and lead others into thinking well of us. Jesus makes it clear that the time will come when the truth will out, as the true nature of the spiritual fruit we produce is tasted and found to be wanting.
Jesus’ comments on the truth and worthiness of the fruit we produce is juxtaposed with the parable of the men who built their homes on different types of foundations. The home of the one who took the time and invested the effort into laying strong foundations stood the test of the flood, while the man whose house was built for show alone suffered the indignity of seeing it swept away as the flood waters rose.
In today’s reading we are being warned of God’s call to live an honest life, a life that seeks to honour God’s word and to glorify him in the details. Today we are being urged to set aside our need for the adoration of those amongst whom we live and to become humble and honest, letting the façade fade away and the true heart and spirit shine through.
We may live lives that deceive others, but we need to remember that we cannot hide the truth from God. If we live as thorns and brambles we will never yield the lush, rich fruits of the fig tree and the vine. Let us pray that we might set aside our need to hide behind a wall of untruth and deception, and let us pray that our Christ-like honesty may shine forth and give nourishment and consolation to those who are seeking a closer relationship with God.