Jesus ends his Sermon on the Mount with a call to choose the right way. He uses two pictures to make two points. The first picture is of two roads, one that leads to destruction and the other that leads to life. The second picture is of two builders, one who builds his home on solid foundation, and the other who builds on sand.
The points made by these two pictures are: (1) there is a decision to make from two options, one way is right and the other is wrong; and (2) the reward for making the right decision is great and the consequences for making the wrong decision are dreadful.
Between the word pictures, Jesus warned that there would be some who would try to give us a nudge in the wrong direction. He said:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matt 7:15-23; NIV)
It’s the fruit produced in the lives of people that is useful in identifying false prophets and those who will “enter the kingdom of heaven.” One can look like a sheep, talk like a sheep, spend time with the sheep, yet be a ferocious wolf out to destroy the real sheep. What would Matthew’s readers have looked for if they needed to distinguish between the wolves in sheep’s clothing and the real sheep around them? They would have looked for fruit like humility, gentleness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, purity, peace making desire, and willingness to endure suffering for Christ’s sake. In short, when they saw someone who did to others what they would have wanted others to do to them, they could know that they were seeing real sheep.
They would have looked to see fruit like angry name-calling; long, lustful stares at women and divorce papers drawn up so that another spouse could be pursued; broken promises, and acts of revenge. They would have looked to see fruit like a powerful desire for recognition, love of money, and hypocritical, harsh judgment. When they saw these things, they could know that they were seeing a wolf in disguise.
One final bit of information was vitally important to determine their response to the fruit they witnessed. When they determined whether they were seeing a sheep or a wolf in disguise, they needed to know whether they were looking at others or looking in a mirror. That’s Life at Work!