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Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time. The reading is from Gospel of Matthew 7:15-20.

Beware of False Prophets – Matthew 7:15-20

[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.

Prophets according to Matthew

Evangelist Matthew calls the Christian disciples who proclaim the gospel and claimed to speak in the name of God as “prophets.”

  • Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. (Matthew 10:41)

The righteous will be astonished that in caring for the needs of the sufferers they were ministering to the Lord himself.

  • “Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:37-40)

Since righteousness is demanded of all the disciples, it is difficult to take the righteous man of this verse and “one of these little ones” in the following verse

  • And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

as indicating different groups within the followers of Jesus. Probably all three designations – prophets, righteous, and little ones – are used here of Christian missionaries as such.

These Christian disciples were without doubt an important group within the church of Matthew. As in the case of the Old Testament prophets, there were both true and false ones,

  • “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
  • “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1)

A Tree Known by Its Fruit

For Matthew the difference could be recognized by the quality of the deeds of the Christian disciples, the fruits.

  • “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16)

The mention of fruits leads to the comparison with trees, some producing good fruit, others bad.

  • “Either declare the tree good and its fruit is good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew12:33)

In the above verse the word declare is literally, “make.” The meaning of this verse is obscure. Possibly it is a challenge to the Pharisees either to declare Jesus and his exorcisms good or both of them bad. A tree is known by its fruit; if the fruit is good, so must the tree be. If the driving out of demons is good, so must its source be.

  •  “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43–44)
  • “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10)

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