Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday April 15, 2014 Matthew 7:15-20

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20

This has always been a difficult passage for me.  The story is pretty straightforward, but my experiences get in the way.  I grew up on a farm.  My undergraduate degree is in horticulture: growing plants for food and beauty, as well as many other uses.  My major professor in graduate school was an internationally acclaimed plant breeder.  For thousands of years, people have been intentionally developing new varieties of plants through rather simple plant breeding methods, well before the last few decades of genetic engineering.

Truth be known, most of the products of plant breeding that come out of the initial cross breeding methods will produce many fold more unimproved or even inferior fruits.  Plant breeders employ many hours of selection at each generation, until they are satisfied with the variety.  

Looking at a fruit, it is not always evident whether it is going to be good or not for a particular usage.  It is hard to recognize a True improvement in a plant.

False prophets can be just as difficult to recognize.  People can be tricky!

During the Great Depression, a man named Al ran a soup kitchen in Chicago.  Many people were without jobs, and his soup kitchen provided a lot of meals.  Al did not even take any donations or money from the government.  That was really a great thing to do, right?  Literally, a point of light in the darkness.

You may not know about Al.  Al made a lot of money during the depression.  He worked hard to become one of the most violent mob bosses in the country, responsible for ordering scores of his perceived enemies killed.  Al Capone really bore bad fruit.

In the case of human prophets, you need to be sure to get a full assessment of what they are telling you.  If they quote Scripture, you need to investigate.  You need the council of others.

Work with a friend to evaluate your findings using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.   Use all of these tools to be better able to live a holy life.

Lord, keep me open to your love.  Keep me open to opportunities to follow you.  Lord, keep me open to question what I am told, so that I may walk closer to your steps.  Lord, keep me humble, keep me always learning, keep me always praying, until we are together in heaven.


Tracy said...

This reflection by Henry. McCarter. Sorry friends it won't let me edit today for some reason to add that. I'm traveling and the wifi not so great here

Gladys said...

It sounds like a seemingly good tree can switch to producing bad fruit. Jesus clearly delineates good trees versus bad trees, however.

To pick your mind, Tracy: What does a plant breeder seek to do, if s/he ends up producing a fruit that is inferior? Create a fruit that looks better on the outside (sells in the supermarket), regardless of its actual "usage"?


Tracy said...

Tim, you make a good point regarding the difference in God's way and human tendency.
But the lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)
So which fruit is "inferior"? According to this passage, and what I know of God, it may well be that fruit that looks so beautiful on the outside and sells so well in the marketplace. Unfortunately, in our time, I believe, we see this in the " marketing" of Christianity. We approach our worship "experience" with such a consumer mentality that our own entertainment becomes the goal at the expense of true worship of The Lord. Not that worship leaders should'nt be doing all in their power to "do a beautiful thing for The Lord" in the words of Mother Teresa. But that is exactly the point...worship should be FOR THE LORD not for the marketplace and when we lose sight of that fact we are on a slippery slope. To bring it back to the fruit metaphor, I am reminded of strawberries. The strawberries we get in this country have been genetically engineered for looking good, lasting long and holding up well in transport. All good qualities in the marketplace. However, this is often at the expense of flavor, as we have all no doubt experienced. When I travel home with Dave to Wales though, we get strawberries that are so different as to seem almost another fruit. They are small and tender and hold up so poorly that even when you pick them yourself, you will be lucky if they are still good 48 hours later. But oh the sweetness of those little berries! May we be ever mindful of the fruit we are called to bear, and may we strive to please the One who looks on the heart, not outward appearance.

neffryan1 said...

Henry, I really like your advice to seek the counsel of others, instead of wholly believing just because someone who makes a good impression told you so. Thank you for adding the Wesleyan Quadralteral. I need to brush up on my Methodism. I remember when I first moved to Warwick we had a discussion group regarding John Wesley, his life and Methodist teachings.

Henry McCarter said...

Tim, plant breeders have a concept of what they are aiming to achieve. When they grow out the many offspring, they are brutal in their selection process.

What makes a perfect plant? Well, what are your constraints? Do you want a tomato that is perfectly juicy and very flavorful, with a particular flavor profile of acidity, aroma, taste, mouth feel, to name just a few. Do you want a bright red color, yellow, orange, with stripes or even color. Do you want it firm enough for slicing? Do you want it round, irregular, plum shaped, or pear shaped? Do you want it to ripen fully, or can you accept green shoulders? Does it ripen from the outside in or the inside out?

Most of those decisions lead to trade-offs. The genius of the best plant breeders know their goals, and select inbred lines using a lot of work. Hybridizers have a few other tricks, but knowledge and experience can lead to some exceptional varieties such as the Burpee Big Boy, a great home garden variety that only had limited commercial usage.

Let's have some coffee and a few hours and you can pick my brain.