Costumed Wolves and Bad Fruit Trees

July 22, 2017

Gardening season is in full swing. Peas are plentiful. Cucumbers are multiplying. Zucchini abound. Six or seven years ago our church started a community garden. Individuals plant and tend their own plots, and several church people plant and tend all the tilled ground that remains. We share the produce with each other and with the homeless shelter downtown.

Each year has been an adventure, and we’ve learned a lot. In defending our crops against the critters, we’ve learned how to use live traps, how to recognize the eggs and larvae of several kinds of bugs, and how to install and use a solar electric fence. We’ve also learned about leaf molds, fungi, and tomato blight. We’ve learned how deep to plant potatoes, how far apart to plant corn, and how to trim the leaves of the brussel sprouts. We’ve had some glorious successes and some spectacular failures.

But some things remain a mystery. Such as: why did one row of peas come up perfectly and the other row not at all? And: why did the perfectly beautiful looking cantaloupe taste so strange a couple years ago? The seeds looked fine. The plants looked normal. The fruit looked amazing. Yet it tasted awful; we never figured out why.

Jesus said that you can tell a tree by its fruit. Good trees yield good fruit. Bad trees bear bad fruit. The trees might both look like perfectly fine trees. But if the fruit on one is good and the fruit on the other is bad, you know something’s going on. Something was certainly up with that cantaloupe!

Mixed metaphors. Costumed wolves and bad fruit trees. Two images of how tempting falsehoods can draw us in. Some of them, like ravenous wolves, can be really dangerous. Others, perhaps, just disappointing. But Jesus tells us to beware either way.

Beware of falling for the innocent sounding lie that could destroy you. Beware of pursuing the delicious looking temptation that may turn out to be terrible.

Doug and I have been talking about shopping for a new vehicle. (And I must admit that the idea of dealing with car salesman has brought to mind the image of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, but that’s beside the point.) We’ve looked online, we’ve driven through some car lots, we’ve watched what other people are driving. And we’ve realized that it’s easy to get sucked in by the tempting fruit of navigation systems, leather seats, and shiny paint. We start to believe that we need it, and we deserve it, and that maybe it’s worth some sacrifice to get one that’s a little nicer, a little more luxurious, a little more impressive. We find that we are talking each other into it as we ride down the road in our twelve-year-old minivan.

We sat down and looked at what this purchase would really mean for us financially…and how it would impact our kids, our plans to pay off some debts, our hopes for some future travels, and our ability to give and share. We realized that we don’t really need a new van; we just wanted one. The old one runs fine, still looks pretty good, and probably has a couple more years of life in it. But it’s easy to get sucked in by the things that tempt us.

I know that Jesus was most likely not thinking about our vehicle when he warned about the wolves and the fruit. But he certainly did know that the world tells us lies. The world tempts us with things we don’t need. The world pulls at our desires for prestige, for power, for wealth, for comfort. The world appeals to our most gullible, most self-centered, most needy nature.

Whether it’s fresh cantaloupe or a shiny new car, a politician or a prophet, it might look great but be all wrong for us. It might sound wonderful, but pull us in a dangerous direction. Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. It might be yourself.

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