This passage is part of the “Sermon on the Mount” which contains core teaching by Jesus. An essential theme in the Sermon is wholeness or integrity - the need to combine spiritual principle and actual practice; internal and external must be aligned. We know God is not interested in appearances per se. He has always focused on spiritual integrity: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Sam. 16:7
Consistent with this broader truth, here Jesus challenges us to care about integrity. We need to be discerning about those who influence us and about our own spiritual lives. Jesus teaches that the fruit a tree produces and a tree’s external appearance combine to determine if it is good or true. Healthy, good trees are those that produce good fruit that reflects the kind of trees they actually are. Christ-followers care that internal and external realities align, in their mentors and in their own lives.
Jesus alerts us that our own spiritual integrity is guarded when we ensure that those who influence us are truly good; people who reflect a commitment to Christ internally and externally. The fruit of their daily living lines up with what they are saying and is consistent with Jesus. Our own integrity, wholeness and growth in Christ are furthered when we are discerning about those we allow to be our models, mentors and teachers.
Just as importantly, Jesus’ teaching can apply to our own lives. Our goal is to have our heart, our words, and our actions all in truthful alignment with Jesus. The fruit of our lives indicates the condition of our heart. If my heart is surrendered to Jesus, it will be seen in the way I live daily. My inner commitment is seen in my willingness to follow the hard teachings of Jesus: to care for the poor, to reach out to the stranger, to love my neighbour, to forgive others, to keep my promises, and to seek God in prayer and daily worship even if not seen by others.
This Lenten Season God invites us to honest assessment of what is truly good – in those we allow to shape and influence us and in our own lives. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is very ready to help us line up our inner and outer lives as we ask for his help.