Jesus was about as clear as he could be: the type of person we are is evidenced in the type of fruit we produce. Jesus wasn’t into blending good and bad trees together, calling them all good. Instead, he made a clear distinction. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33 ESV). Jesus continued, “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:35).
Jesus said told his audience, “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Words and actions matter. They actually matter a lot. It’s easy to get caught up into feeling that we are doing good when, in fact, we are doing great harm. Jesus said several chapters prior that false prophets would be recognized by their fruits. He said that “ever healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17). He also said that the tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. It’s a sobering reminder that the fruit we produce, and the heart that the fruit stems forth from matter.
A lot of people, Christians included, tout their freedom as a ticket to do and say whatever they want. But Peter, bearing in mind that fruits matter, said, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). This was in the context of living honorable lives among the Gentiles so that they see Christians’ good deeds and glorify God. Peter told them to be respectable to human institutions, even to the emperor.
The fruit we produce matters. The words we speak matter. Our conduct matters. Of course we’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way, but our hearts need to always be set on God. We can’t turn into bad trees, producing bad fruits, while saying that we are cool with God. Jesus is clear that he has no room for that kind of behavior in the kingdom.