Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”
7:15 If destruction is the ultimate peril that Christians must avoid, then deception is a more proximate one. Jesus thus puts us on guard against false prophets who would steer us away from life. These folks look to be Christians on the outside, for their sheep’s clothing enables them to blend with others in the Lord’s flock. Nevertheless, appearances can be deceiving, for they are really wolves, predators on the hunt for prey (see Acts 20:28–30). The false prophets may claim to speak for God, but their teachings are at odds with the gospel. Of course, their presence within the Christian community is no basis for denying that there are genuine prophets and teachers (see 10:41; Acts 13:1; Eph 4:11). But Jesus warns that counterfeits will arise even within the Church (13:24–30).
7:16–20 How, then, is the community of believers to know a true prophet from a false one? Jesus tells us to examine their behavior. On the principle that like produces like, we are to evaluate the fruits of their lives. If their actions and their character show forth good things such as grapes and figs, then the prophet is a good and trustworthy tree. However, if the works of the alleged prophet produce prickly thistles or a harvest of bad fruit, then he has blown his cover—the self-styled prophet is really a rotten tree that cannot be trusted.
There are many references in the Old Testament to false prophets. How are false prophets and genuine prophets to be distinguished? By the fruit they produce. Human nobility and divine inspiration combine to give the things of God a savior of their own. A person who truly speaks the things of God sows faith, hope, charity, peace and understanding; whereas a false prophet in the Church of God, in his preaching and behavior, sows division, hatred, resentment, pride and sensuality. However, the main characteristic of a false prophet is that he separates the people of God from Christ’s teaching. Our Lord also indicates that these deceivers are destined to eternal perdition.
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.