Submitted Date 07/04/2019

On its face, this seems like something Jesus would have said by way of instruction and correction to His followers. This particular statement was, in fact, made by John the Baptist shortly prior to baptizing Jesus.

A look at the context of the verse can aid in understanding. Verses 1-6 explain John's ministry of baptism at the Jordan River. Verses 7-9 then contain today's verse. "'But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father." For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.'" (Matthew‬ ‭3:7-9‬ ‭NKJV)

Much could be said of this exchange. Among the notable features is John's use of the fruit-bearing analogy, which is seen throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Ancient societies were overwhelmingly agrarian. Whether in horticulture or animal husbandry, the concept of bearing fruit was critical to keeping a society growing. In their family lives the people also held dear the injunction to, "be fruitful and multiply," large families being the norm, even considered a necessity.

This particular analogy referenced the horticultural sense of fruitfulness. Verse 10 goes on to explain the consequence of an unfruitful plant, with grapevines and olive trees being prime examples in that day. As the vinedresser tended the vines or the trees, a branch which made an abundance of leaves and new branches, but was found consistently to not bear fruit (grapes or olives), was eventually cut off and used for firewood.

The religious leaders he addressed here showed the vestiges of righteousness and holiness, but were in fact toxic to the spiritual lives of their societies. Not only did they not bear fruit, they poisoned the environment around them. As such, John pointed out, they were in danger of destruction.

Herein lies the question for every believer. Is my spirituality all leaves, flowers and decoration, or does my spiritual life reproduce itself in others? If I am not bearing fruit, is my faith true? What do I need to do differently? Does my life demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit? Each believer must answer that for themselves; be sure our Lord, the divine Vinedresser, knows the truth.

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