In today’s world selecting and following leaders of companies, churches, organizations and governments based upon their positions on policy and social issues and the results they achieve is the norm. Calling into question their words and behaviors is rarely a standard of measuring whether or not to follow or elect someone. Holy Scripture tells us that “We shall know them by their fruit.” Yet even the most ardent church goers don’t use fruits of the spirit as a metric to make decisions about who they elect or follow.
The phrase “fruit of the spirit” comes from Galatians 5 where Paul lists nine specific attributes – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – that are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life. Understanding that “fruit” in this verse can mean “deed, action, or word” helps clarify its application. My observation is that the result or the work of the Spirit in a life also includes humility, honesty, compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, wisdom, and generosity to name a few.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 (and similar passages) are a powerful warning that there are many who come in His name who are actively seeking to lead us away from the truth, and we are to be on guard against this threat. Jesus uses well known phrases like “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and “you will know them by their fruit” to make His urgent point. In short, Jesus is calling us to be “fruit inspectors” when it comes to selecting our leaders.
Yet, the rancorous words and behaviors of leaders in boardrooms, churches, courthouses, houses of government, online, and in the media reflect that when determining their leaders being spirit led is not always a priority for voters or followers. Clearly, Pastor Search Committees, Denominations, Boards and voters all need to become better fruit inspectors.
Being Spirit Led Does Make A Difference
Recently my wife shared an observation of her time as a leader in a church new member ministry where she helped hundreds of new members understand how their personality could be a clue as to how God might want to use them to fulfill His purposes. She observed that inevitably when it came time to look at the positive and negative attributes of a given personality trait, people went off on their own negative traits as well as those of family members, friends, and those they worked with and for. My wife was always quick to counter with the truth that the various negative personality attributes aren’t a given and that in fact they look quite different when someone is “spirit controlled.”
I would go so far as to suggest that this truth goes beyond just personality to include governing, economic and leadership philosophies. Both Democracy and Communism look different when leaders are spirit filled. Same goes for Capitalism and Socialism. Both authoritarian and egalitarian leadership structures are implemented differently when leaders are spirit led. In fact, spirit led leaders can make any system or structure more effective, more just, and even more “biblical.” This is all the more reason we should focus more attention on becoming better fruit inspectors when it comes to determining who we wish to lead and influence us.
It Isn’t Rocket Science
Becoming a better fruit inspector isn’t rocket science. Knowing a leader by their fruit simply means that their attributes will give them away. And, those attributes are clearly listed in Holy Scripture and in the teachings and actions of Jesus. A person may initially appear upright in every way but eventually their words and actions will betray them if they are not spirit led. We spot them by carefully listening to the content of their words and observing the character of their actions and then comparing them to the Scriptural standards of a spirit filled, controlled, and led life, a life that gives evidence of the fruits of the Spirit.
Jesus thought that being a fruit inspector was important enough to warn us about it. The Apostles and Prophets echoed it. We then should regard it as important enough to keep ever before us, lest we be led astray. Simply put, we must look at the fruit.
Posted on December 7, 2021