11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[a] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Recently, during a discussion with a few of my mentors, I was taught the difference between having a heart that is critical and judgmental and having a spirit that can identify bad fruit.
Today, as God had me re-read these two passages of scripture, the Holy Spirit breathed revelation and understanding of His truth -and confirmed the wisdom of my friends.
You see, we are all sinners (shocking, I know!). Therefore, we have no right to judge the hearts of men – or women. If we do, we are guilty of pride- which, as it turns out, is a sin. By criticizing Gods law, we further prove that we are incapable of being a perfect judge. That right solely belongs to the One who has the power to save or destroy.
Seeing the fruit of people’s lives, however, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. People’s words, actions, behaviors, addictions, etc. are an outward sign of an inward issue. Therefore, the Lord gives us His power to identify bad fruit so that we can:
a) Pray for the person to repent and turn back to God
b) Lovingly rebuke the person (if we are in a relationship to do so) in order that they will be moved to repent and turn back to God
c) Follow the wisdom of Matthew and the writers of my study bible: “Beware (act in a way that shows you know that there may be danger or trouble) of those whose words sound religious, but who are motivated by money, fame or power. You can tell who they are because in their teaching they minimize Christ and glorify themselves”