For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:43-45 NASB)
One of the images Jesus seems to prefer are references to fig or fruit trees. He also uses grapes, He refers to a mustard seed and tree. But He seems to use references to the fruit produced most often. In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses this imagery to refer to false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20). Here in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is using the imagery to refer to the human heart.
Again, context is important here. The fruit is what reveals the “log” or “splinter” in the eye. The “logs” and “splinters” are things in the heart. What Jesus is providing is the measure which we use to “judge”, right here in the same context as His charge not to judge. He says that by the same measure we judge we will be judged. Rather than have no measure, we are to examine our hearts. Actually, considering the log and splinter parable, we are to have someone else help us with our heart.
One of Jesus’ points in the log and splinter parable is that we are often unaware of what sort of fruit we’re producing. So, combined with the prior parable, this reference of Jesus to fruit, trees, and our heart would mean that we are to actually invite someone else into our examination. That’s not very American of us. We don’t broke no guff from anyone. It seems that Jesus expects His followers to do just that.
So as to be clear, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 that we are to examine our own hearts, but in saying, he doesn’t prohibit inviting someone else to look at us as well. Jesus is very accurate in pointing out that we are often blindest when it comes to our own logs and splinters. When the fruit of our lives indicates a heart problem, we are often the last to see it. What we tend to see first is the reaction of people around us, and we reason backwards from there.
But if we adopt a transparent, humble approach to our walk with Jesus, then we have the benefit of discovering these logs and splinters much sooner. And that reduces the damage we cause to the relationships around us. This doesn’t make it easier to be open to criticism, and it doesn’t mean we take criticism from just anywhere. Keep in mind that some who criticize haven’t removed their own logs or splinters.
So what I’m advocating in applying this passage is accountability as to what is in our hearts. What sort of fruit are we producing? What are people gathering from us? Are the fruits of the Spirit evident or are we producing bad fruit? This sort of invitation to others to inspect us for logs and splinters is part of what keeps spiritual leaders able to lead. It’s a strange quality, and not necessarily popular. But I believe it’s necessary.
An area I have struggled with, and continue to struggle is pride. I don’t mean to, and I’m typically the last to notice I’m exhibiting it. So I need people around me relatively log and splinter free to point it out. My wife is excellent at pointing out when I’m producing selfish fruit because she’s the closest person to me. I need this sort of accountability in my life.
It’s very easy for me to excuse my own splinters and logs of anger, resentment, selfishness, pride, and so on because I convince myself they don’t affect others. But these things in my heat “leak” and produce fruit in spite of my efforts to hide them. I may be blind to such a log or splinter, but others see my fruit, and can either move on to a different “tree” or help me prune my own, and change my heart. In very plain terms I need help to repent. I need it. I can try to repent on my own, but I’m still blind to my own stuff. I need help to see so I can help others see.
So my heart is changed, I repent, in the context of others who will come along side me and point out to me the fruit I’m producing. To the extent I’m open to it, I will become sighted enough to help others with their logs and splinters, enabling them to help others. It’s this quality of transparency in a congregation or group of followers of Jesus that enables them to become a healed group helping others heal.
Transparency and the openness to criticism isn’t the only quality that makes healing possible. But without it, I’m not sure the Holy Spirit has the opening He seeks in the life of His followers to make the changes He’s after. We may like to think that His work is personal, and it is. But He prefers to work on a person in the context of the corporate body of the Messiah.
That’s my view through the knothole. What do you see?