Read Matthew 7:15-20
15 Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. (NLT)
Appearances can be deceiving. The sun doesn’t always shine at those advertised holiday resorts. Not all advertised pain remedies give quick relief. Meals from the frozen-food cabinet might not resemble the picture on the packaging.
It can be true in matters of faith and life as well. There are people around the place who tell us they have the real truth about faith and life. They promise answers, the sort of answers we want to hear. Jesus warns us not to embrace them too readily. What sorts of life do they live? Are they getting rich from peddling their teaching? Does their private life back up their public pronouncements?
Of course as soon as we say this we have to guard against expecting perfection from those who teach us. Instead, we expect an honest and humble attempt to practise what is preached even if such attempts fall short. And we also guard against demanding overnight transformation from such leaders. Fruit takes time to ripen after all.
But the general truth is clear. Words are to be supported by actions. Truth is to be lived out however imperfectly. And this is not just so for those who teach and lead. Each follower of Jesus is to bear some fruit. We are not saved by our good works, but we sure can’t be saved without them either. They demonstrate the reality of our beliefs.