We’ve all heard that we’re NOT supposed to judge a book by it’s cover. In fact I just gave a sermon to our youth on that very topic. Yet Jesus tells us to judge by the fruit.
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45)
So I was wondering… What then is the difference between judging a ‘book by its cover’ and a ‘tree by its fruit’?
Then I realized the answer was in the very sermon I gave yesterday. I used a clip from Captain America. Here’s the scene and then we’ll discuss the difference between “cover” and “fruit”.
Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) is already judging Steve Rogers (Chris Evans – shrunk down to a skinny kid through creative CGI). He’s looking at the ‘cover’ and just not seeing the makings of a super soldier. But Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) is seeing the character inside. In an attempt to prove the Dr. wrong, Colonel Phillips decides to through a dummy grenade into the middle of the training camp. Expecting his ideal pick of a soldier to “be a soldier” and protect everyone, he and everyone else (except the Dr.) is surprised when EVERYONE scatters except Steve Rogers. He dives on the grenade, prepared to sacrifice himself to save everyone else. The character inside him shown bright when there was no time to think, pure reaction.
The very same clip I used to draw the difference between the character inside and the reputation from judging the ‘book by its cover’, also proved the very point Jesus was saying.
Jesus didn’t reference the beauty of a tree, its bark or leaves… the things that are already there and just visible for all to see. Instead he referenced the fruit, that which the tree “produces”. Up until that moment, Colonel Phillips was judging Steve Rogers by his cover (“He’s still skinny”). But the moment that Steve’s ‘fruit’ was visible, Colonel Phillips began to see who Steve Rogers really was.
Jesus is telling us that we are to examine the fruit to know what’s in the heart. Now before you go on using this to judge others… realized the context of this story. It was following immediately after Jesus rebuked the for judging others. The very verse before this is “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (v 42). So when Jesus tells us to examine the fruit immediately after telling us not to judge others, He’s telling us to examine OUR OWN fruit.
What fruit do you produce? Do you encourage others or put them down? Do you let others stand on your shoulders or do you step on their back? Do you interpret others’ actions in the best or worst light? Do you assume the positive or negative connotation of what someone says?
Examining your own fruit is HOW you manage to “first take the log our of your own eye”. Only AFTER you have removed that log can you “see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye”. And we are called to do just that. Not judge our brother for that speck, not push it around to irritate the eye, no point it out for others to judge. We are called to (after removing our own log) help our brother remove the speck.
So, before you assume you can help someone with their speck, examine your own fruit… is it the fruit of the Spirit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” or is it the fruit of the flesh “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these”?
Check your fruit…