Vol. 8, No. 8
~ Page 12 ~
During the hot summer months of the year, my family enjoys eating what we call a "cold plate" for dinner. Practically everything on the table comes from the garden and nothing is cooked--it's all fresh produce. There's no hot stove to endure, just delicious garden fruit and vegetables. One of our favorite table items is chilled cantaloupe. Unfortunately, until recently we've not had much success with selecting them. Inevitably, the melons we've bought from the grocery have been green, generally tasteless and too hard for consumption. Too many times, our family has anticipated eating a nice, ripe, juicy cantaloupe--only to be disappointed from the very first bite. And if we've brought a good one home, it's been by shear accident.
I called my father in Tennessee one afternoon to see if he had any insight on buying good cantaloupes. Having spent a considerable amount of time in his own garden through the years, he offered me a few suggestions that I have found especially helpful. Dad said there are certain "indicators" to look for when purchasing ripe melons. They include:
1. Color--What color is it? Avoid green-skinned melons; look for orange, brown or tan skin.
2. Firmness--Is the melon hard like a bowling ball, or can you squeeze it to certain degree? Is the consistency of the fruit over hard, or is there a certain "pliability"? Is it soft at the stem end of the melon?
3. Smell--This is one of the best signs. Is there the aroma of fresh cantaloupe? If the smell is absent, don't buy it--it's not ripe yet.
By now you're probably thinking, "Okay Mike, is this a religious article on the web or an add for the local grocery?" Actually, my intent is not to help us in our selection of edible fruit, but to help us in our understanding and application of the Lord's words in Matthew 7. In the opening verse of the chapter, Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged."
It has often been suggested that we can never--in any way--judge someone on his doctrinal views based upon the injunction in this verse. "You can't judge!" is a popular refrain. Ironically, in the very same chapter, only fourteen short verses later, we also find Jesus saying, "You will know them [i.e., false teachers] by their fruits..." (Matthew 7:16). Is there an inconsistency here? Is Jesus telling us not to judge, but then telling us that judgment is, in fact, necessary?
The answer depends on the kind the judging were discussing. A certain kind of judgment is condemned in Scripture. Harsh, censorious, hypocritical judgment that refuses to engage in self-examination (cf. 2 Samuel 12:5-9) is wrong (Matthew 7:2-6). However, another kind of judgment is actually commanded. "...Judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Friends, if all judgment is wrong, then how can we fulfill the Lord's wishes and distinguish between a teacher of truth and a teacher of error? If we don't have some kind of indicators to differentiate between green and ripe cantaloupe, then how can we know which one to buy? The answer on both counts is, "We can't." It is impossible to tell the difference between a false prophet and a true one unless we engage in some sort of righteous (i.e., according to the Lord's righteous standard--John 12:47-48; Psalm 119:72; cf. Romans 2:5) "fruit inspection" (cf. Acts 13:8-10; 45-46; John 8:15; Matthew 7:15-20; Romans 16:17; Revelation 2:2).
Dad would ask, "Is it the right color?" "How does it feel?" "How does it smell?" "What are the indicators?" Jesus would ask, "Is this teacher's doctrine in keeping with what I've revealed?" "Is what he says contrary to, or opposite of what I've taught in My word?" "Is he teaching truth or error?" "Is what he says based upon My divine standard (cf. Romans 2:5), or his own personal opinion?" "What are the doctrinal indicators?"
Friends, we need to inspect the fruit and then decide. If the cantaloupe doesn't look right, if it doesn't feel right, and if it doesn't smell right--then let's be careful not to "buy" it (1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:19-20).