A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Recently I had a conversation with my daughters about trusting things that you see on the internet. They are pre-teens and are fascinated with YouTube, Roblox, and many of the other sites your kids are probably into as well. We talked about clickbait. This came about as I grumbled over the huge number of junk emails that I had in my inbox, all of them trying to get my attention, and spend my money. They told me that when they play their games online pop-up ads come on for other games. This is when I explained how the internet isn’t your friend.
Sites make money through advertising. If they can get you to click, they get paid. It’s really that simple. They aren’t your friends. They do collect your information. They do know what you like, what you don’t. They know your political beliefs. They know your religious beliefs. And all of them want your attention. Again, this is the way they get paid. The sites appear innocuous. The clicks appear healthy. Until you’ve binged on them, and you’re bloated with useless information at best; at worst you have a head full of lies.
Every tree does not produce good fruit. Some of them would make better firewood. If you’re looking at someone, or something that does not reflect the Gospel, the life and story of Jesus Christ, all the while purporting to be in your spiritual best interest, then you need to chop that tree down.
I’m not saying that every moment of our lives should be devotional, what I am saying is this; if it is meant to be devotional, if that was your intent, make sure that it is a pure source. What is the fruit of it? Does it have people at each other’s throats? Is it meant to divide or offend? Is it only meant to make you feel better about yourself, and not challenge you to grow in your discipleship? If the answer to any of those is yes, it needs to be cut out of your life. That tree will only produce rotten fruit.
Inspect the fruit.
And as Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets.” Wolves in sheep’s clothing. As I attempt to navigate spaces like Facebook, or YouTube there are literally countless streams of information all purporting to come from a Christian point of view. They want your support, your attention, and your money. Be wary of them. If their teaching contradicts that of Jesus Christ, don’t listen. If they claim to be Christian and speak more of political beliefs and current events than of Jesus Christ and the impact the Gospel has had in their lives, do not listen.
Does this mean that we should never speak of politics or current events? Absolutely not. What it means is that we should be viewing the world (politics, the media, arts, and entertainment) through a Christ-formed point of view. The Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount, the message of the cross should be the filter through which everything has to enter into our minds. Your theology needs to inform your politics, not the other way around.
Producing the good fruit that Jesus speaks of, and consuming it should be intentional. We understand that if we walk into our kitchens without a plan, and are simply hungry, we won’t frequently come back to the table with a plate full of healthy food. In the same way, if you engage in social media, or internet browsing without a plan, you’re going to come away with so much spiritual junk food from rotten sources.
Inspect the fruit.