“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good ...” (Matthew 12:33-37)

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)

What does the tree and its fruit analogy mean?

Jesus is referring to trusting a particular teaching doctrine and its institutions. How do we know whether a particular teaching and institution can be trusted?

Jesus is teaching that we can judge the institution by its activities and effects upon others, just as one can see the health of a tree by looking at its fruit.

Jesus is using the tree and its fruit as criteria for being able to determine who we can trust in terms of spiritual guidance. He is giving us the tools to help us determine who is equipped to offer us guidance.

Using Jesus' criteria, we can examine the various deeds and effects that have resulted from ecclesiastical organizations and their teachers, and use those to determine whether we can trust their teachings.

For example, should we trust the philosophy of an institution that breeds not just one but numerous priests that have sexually abused children? Is this a philosophy that we should trust?

Should we trust the teachings of an institution that maintains officials and teachers whose fruits have included the molestation of children and the protection of those who performed such acts?

How are 'bad fruits' to be found?

According to Jesus' criteria, a bad fruit is something that harms someone in some way. Jesus states this clearly:
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."
"Good things" are things that help others. They are things that bring peace to people. Things that appeal to our loving nature. Things that uplift our soul and bring us closer to God.

"Evil things" include physical harm, mental harm, hatred, being unforgiving, being mean, and in general, feeling oneself as the greatest, among others.

The bad fruits also include teachings that have mislead others about Jesus. The focus upon gaining membership rather than loving God. A history of violence and torture over the centuries against those who did not join their institution. And the various financial schemes utilizing monies given in good faith by innocent followers.

What about the fruits that we see from some institutions where its officials are receiving large salaries and palatial residential quarters in return for their services. Are these "good" fruits? Consider Jesus' statement:
"They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers." (Luke 20:47)
Jesus is speaking about the Temples and their officials and priests, who would confiscate a widow's house once her husband passed away. The house would be sold or occupied by the Temple, leaving the widow homeless and impoverished.

These grotesque fruits do not simply illustrate a rotten branch two, as proposed by some in these institutions. Following Jesus' teachings, they indicate the entire tree is rotten.

The very system that supported these persons gaining positions of authority and then remaining in those positions is rotten. This is illustrated by administrators moving abusive priests to other towns to allow them to continue their abuses of innocent children. It continued by not turning these criminals over to legal authorities to pay for their assaults.

Is fanaticism a rotten fruit?

We also have seen rotten trees in the form of fanatical organizations that commit acts of terror in the name of their faith. The various acts of terror by "fundamental" religious institutions over the centuries give testimony to their being bad trees.

What is religious fanaticism?

The primary criterion for religious fanaticism is harming others for the purpose of promoting a particular faith or institution.

This reflects upon the various wars that have been fought between fanatical institutions in the past. It also reflects upon terrorism that has taken place even in recent years by fanatical institutions.

Shamefully, it also includes the harm done to those labeled 'heretics' by the Roman Catholic institution for centuries. They burned people at the stake, imprisoned and tortured people, and otherwise harmed others in pursuit to control that society.

In more recent years, we've seen the rise of other institutions that have harmed people. These include cults and other fanatical organizations that have projected or threatened violence against others in the name of God or Jesus. Some of these institutions, such as the Jim Jones cult, murdered their own followers. Others have terrorized those who are not members of their institution.

What are the fruits of fanaticism?

Currently, the three major religions each claim their philosophy is right while the others are wrong. Even though they each claim to worship the Supreme Being they cannot find a common purpose or thread between them. 

Certainly, the common thread is they all are attempting to worship and honor God.

The antithesis of this is fanaticism. Fanaticism is a bad fruit from a bad tree. From modern-day Arab terrorism to the bloody Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition and the Massacre of Mountain Meadows, these acts are fruits of rotten trees. 

Other fruits include burning people at the stake for trying to translate the Bible, as were William Tyndale and John Rogers. The Roman Catholic Church considered anyone in possession of a Bible to be a heretic. Certainly, these acts are all rotten fruits from bad trees.

Fanatical interpretations of the teachings in Scripture can be made by virtually anyone who has gained a position of authority over others. How can a supposedly religious group say they are acting upon the teachings of Jesus while harming others? Are they referring to the same Jesus who personally healed many people by his touch, and once said:
"But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matt. 5:39)

Are fanatical teachers fit to guide us?

Virtually any organization or institution may have fanatical leaders or members. The question that each of us must independently answer is whether its teachers and doctrine are fanatical.

Fanaticism can be seductive, especially if the teacher is charismatic.

Fanatical teachers can easily mislead thousands of followers into believing things that are not true. Conspiracy theories often swirl around such teachers. These can be tested with independent research and an honest look within our own hearts.

It is also important to understand how a teacher has come to their position. Who were they appointed by? Often we find that preachers are appointed by committees of deacons or cardinals and so on.

These seems like a fair process. But can a political committee truly authorize someone to represent God?

A committee of people can only authorize a person to represent that committee. Therefore, the membership of that committee will be represented only. A committee cannot represent God’s wishes. God is not a democracy. God is a Person.

Only God can authorize someone to represent God's wishes. Only the Supreme Being can choose His representative.

The Scriptures show us that the Truth has been handed down from teacher to student for thousands of years. This Truth is founded upon love of God and the worship of God. To take those teachings and twist them into a need for violence over others in the name of religion is the bad fruit of fanaticism.

This starts with the notion that one can be elected or appointed to a position of authority within such organizations. This creates a political process that produces the opportunity for someone in that position to yearn for power over others. This is the seed of fanaticism.

Consider a person who says they represent someone that has not authorized that person to represent him. The person they are saying they represent will be offended, yes? It is no different with the Supreme Being, and this is why Jesus is saying here, "men will have to give account on the day of judgment."

Who authorizes God's true messengers?

God’s representative is authorized by the Supreme Being, not a committee of men. And God's representative is not a paid professional position. Those who get paid by organizations to give sermons once a week are employees of that organization. They are not representing God.

Jesus shows us how we can specifically judge whether a person is from a good tree or bad tree: by his or her words and deeds. Therefore we can make critical judgments about those who teach by what they teach and do:

Are they teaching and practicing love for God? Are they asking us to give our lives to the Supreme Being and have they? Or are they only a political organization whose teachers drone on about the importance of family life, how to be healed, how to succeed in life and how Jesus died for our sins? How can they, for example, teach about the importance of family when Jesus himself said:
“Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)
We can see that Jesus is not teaching the 'importance of family' as many modern preachers like to profess. Jesus taught about spiritual identity. He taught that we are spiritual individuals, and not these physical bodies.

Jesus taught the need to renew our relationship with the Supreme Being, and focus our lives upon pleasing Him. He did not teach his followers to focus their lives upon doing the will of their relatives or religious organizations. This why Jesus said:
“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 come 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!” (Matthew 7:21-23)