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Judging Verses Judging Fruit
by Stacy Miller
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We live in a society where people push so hard to get us to be tolerant of their sin. Because of this, the scripture that tells us not to judge often gets taken out of context.

Matthew 7:1-5 warns us not to judge others. Yet, when you read it in context, it is referring to people who judge others for every little thing they do wrong, yet they refuse to see the planks in their own eye. Some examples of this would be if I judge you because you smoke, yet I overeat frequently. Another instance would be if I judge you for having books with occultic themes in them, yet I have a whole bookcase of steamy, romance novels in my own home. Another case in point would be if I judge someone for committing adultery, yet I daily struggle with lust and fantasizing. Jesus points out that when we even look upon another person with lust, we have already committed adultery in our heart. (Matthew 5:28)

Going back to the scripture in Matthew 7, it seems as if Jesus is negating what He said earlier in the chapter. In verses 15-23, He gives a clear warning to watch out for false prophets. In order to help us understand how to watch out for them, He tells us to look at the fruit in their lives. He points out that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit and vice versa. He even cautions us that not all who prophecy, cast out demons, and perform miracles will enter the kingdom of heaven. Wouldnt this be considered judging? No  it is judging fruit, and that is entirely different.

Obviously, it takes a discerning heart to tell if someones fruit is good. As a new Christian, I was naïve enough to believe that if someone could talk the talk then they were a good, strong Christian. After walking with the Lord for over twenty years now, I know that is not always true.

For instance, the Pharisees and teachers of the law knew the Word very well. They followed it as closely as they possibly could. Yet Jesus said they were full of dead mens bones. (Matthew 23:27) Was Jesus judging them? No, He was judging their fruit, or the lack thereof.

In Acts 16:16-18, Paul and Silas were being followed by a slave girl who predicted the future. When Paul turned and commanded an evil spirit to come out of her, was he judging her? No, he was judging the fruit in her life. He was able to discern that while she did speak the truth about them, saying that they were servants of the Most High God, it was actually the spirit in her that was speaking, seeking attention for itself.

We find another example in Matthew 14:3-12 when John the Baptist spoke out and told Herod that it was wrong for him to have his brothers wife. Was John judging Herod when he spoke this? No, he was preaching the uncompromised truth of Gods Word. Obviously, it infuriated Herod because he had John arrested, and later consented to have him beheaded.

It is the same with us when we dare to stand firm on the Word. We may also infuriate people. Besides facing persecution from my unsaved family members, I have received some of the most hateful, derogatory emails when I have dared to speak Gods truth. Unfortunately, there are many carnal Christians who want to be holy enough to make it to heaven, but they do not want to be holy enough where it causes a major disruption to their lifestyle. Speaking the uncompromised truth of Gods Word can bring conviction to those who do not want to be convicted. Their response is to lash out at us  the messenger. Second Timothy 3:12 tells us that if we live godly lives, we will face persecution. Just as Jesus was persecuted and even called a lunatic from his own family members, it is no different with us. We will also be persecuted.

It is understandable when the unsaved persecute us, but it can really hurt when we are persecuted by those who claim to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. The one thing that has helped me in those times is to remember that when I face persecution, Gods spirit and His glory rest on me. (First Peter 4:14) In part 2, which is below this devotion, I will show some practical applications of how discerning the difference applies to us today. © 2006, Stacy R. Miller

Judging (continued) When Jesus tells us that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, what does that mean for me? How do I live that out?

As I pointed out in the last devotion, it takes a lot of discernment. It also requires us to be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16) I want to share some examples that would easily fit our society today, in hopes of helping you to understand what it means to judge fruit.

Suppose you see a man who faithfully attends church, often gives testimonies, and prays out loud at prayer meetings. He seems like a very spiritual man, yet when you observe him around the women, you notice that he touches them in ways that do not seem to be appropriate. As you watch his eyes when a lady walks passed him, you see that he is looking at certain places on her anatomy that a truly godly man should refrain from viewing. Are you judging him by thinking that he is after more than just hearing the Pastors sermon? No. You are judging the fruit of his life, and it tells you to avoid him at all costs.

Suppose a lady starts coming to the womens Bible study and she is very vibrant and expressive in her worship. She appears to really be in love with Jesus. After several weeks of attending Bible study, it becomes apparent that she has a serious problem with respecting her husband and submitting to him. She can never talk about him in a good light. Many of the stories she shares show that she is very manipulative in her relationships. If you choose not to befriend her, are you judging her? No, you are simply being cautious in friendship. (Proverbs 12:26) You want to choose a friend who is like iron sharpening iron. (Proverbs 27:17)

Perhaps there is a woman who attends your church who seems to thrive on attention. During worship, you cannot help but see her because she is making such an expressive display of emotion. In fact, she almost seems out of control. This lady is involved in so many activities in the church that she appears to be quite disorganized. Yet she continues to faithfully attend every activity at church, spending more time at church than she does home. You decide to stop by her house one day, only to find that her house is so filled with clutter that you would not be able to safely maneuver through the living room. Piles upon piles of disarray, and they are everywhere! Are you judging her if you decide that you do not want to spend much time with her? No, you have judged her fruit against Proverbs 31:12, which says that she brings her husband good and not harm. You see that she is not the faithful manager of the home that a virtuous woman should be. (Proverbs 31:27)

I firmly believe that we are living in the latter days. Because of that, Jesus told us that the love of many will wax cold. (Matthew 24:12) People will want to hear only preaching that will tickle their itching ears. (Second Timothy 4:3) While it may be easier to just keep our mouth shut and refuse to speak the truth of Gods Word, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Keep running the race He has marked out for you. Even in the midst of persecution, know that your Father is closely watching you, and He is pleased when you stand up for righteousness. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

© 2006, Stacy R. Miller

Written by: Stacy Miller

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