Monday, May 14, 2012

The Relationship Between Justice and Fruit...

In Matthew 12, Jesus talks about a tree and its fruit. He gives a simple rule that says a tree is known by its fruit: a good tree produces good fruit; a bad tree produces bad fruit.

All of this comes on the heels of Him be unjustly accused by the Pharisees. He had healed a man with a paralyzed hand (Matthew 12:9-14). Because it was done on the Sabbath (among presumably other reasons as well), the Pharisees began to plot how they might put Him to death. Jesus became aware of their intentions and withdrew to another place. However, the crowds followed and Jesus, having compassion on them, ministered to them and healed them.

Matthew then quotes a passage from Isaiah to show Jesus fulfilling prophecy where Isaiah says, "Here is My Servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom My should delights; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. he will not argue or shout, and no one will hear His voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick, until he has led justice to victory. The nations will put their hope in His name." (Isaiah 42:1-4)

Jesus then, as He almost always does, uses the opportunity of ministry for proclamation. He seizes upon the accusation by the Pharisees that He (Jesus) is demon possessed and "drives out demons only by Beelzebul..." (Matthew 12:24) He says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction..." (Matthew 12:25ff) This then leads into His famous passage of a tree and its fruit (Matthew 12:33-37).

What is interesting to me is that the whole chapter seems to be hinting at a connection between true justice and the fruits of our lives. And, in turn, the fruit of justice in our lives has much to do with the roots or "good tree" of our lives. The simple law seems to be if the tree and its roots are good, the fruit is going to be good as well.

I long to see justice. I am passionate about caring for the poor and needy, the homeless and the hurting. But I have found if I let my passion for the fruits outgrow my passion for the roots (Jesus Himself), I begin to miss the mark.

In the first few verses of chapter 12 of Matthew, Jesus says that He desires mercy, not sacrifice. This is in reference to Him being the Lord of the Sabbath. It also can apply to our efforts at social justice. He is the Lord of Social Justice! If we miss or forget that fact (HE is Lord), we can be striving for fruits that will only turn out bad because of the focus being on the wrong tree or roots.

Missions is about Jesus. Social justice is also about Jesus. In fact, what I learned in Sunday School many years ago is still true today: it's all about Jesus.


  1. Ian Sterling - KBC DRMay 16, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    This was a very good reminder to me personally that social justice is not an "end in itself" to be strived for ... but merely a reflection of something infinitely deeper and more profound ... namely Jesus himself and everything He represents for us as Christians.