“A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears.”

Matthew 13:33

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Matthew 13:33-37


We just lived through a week of awfulness, where we saw the full consequences of evil on display. We saw the capacity of evil, when cornered, to create havoc, to kill and destroy, to break down and to shatter. We saw livelihoods wiped out, years of labour, energy and sacrifice destroyed within minutes. We saw whole town centres destroyed. We saw the anger and felt the rage behind it all, but most of all, we felt only the senselessness, the madness of the human spirit, caught up in a frenzy of destruction because no other avenues seemed left to it. “A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears”. And what fruits they were. 

But we saw another side to human nature this week as well. Unexpectedly, we saw people starting to push back, to clean up, to confiscate stolen goods and to return them, and to offer help to those who had lost everything. We saw communities coming together in solidarity and unity to guard their property and the property of others. We saw taxi organisations and residents defending shopping malls. We saw taxi owners begin to clean cities. We saw ordinary people mopping up the mess in malls. “A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears.” And what fruits they were. 

On the surface, all the people looked much the same. They were all South Africans. But in their hearts, they were different. Some had hearts full of anger and hatred and greed and destructiveness. Others had hearts of compassion, of protection, of building-up. “A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears.”

Jesus’ astute comments on the human spirit are just as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago. What is in our hearts is shown by what we do – our actions are the fruits of our thoughts. 

What kind of a tree am I? What kind of fruit do I produce? Where do these fruits come from within my heart? Is my heart full of anger and urge for revenge, or is it a heart full of peace, love and joy? How do I change this heart of mine? Where would I go to have my heart changed? What would Jesus say to me today?

Lord God,

We pray for those who have lost so much this past week. We pray for those who have defended them. We pray for the lives lost, for the families who mourn, for those who have lost livelihoods and their life’s savings. We pray for those who defended others, those who helped, who cleaned up and put things back. And we pray for us all that we may begin to heal the wounds that divide us and unite our fragile nation once more.


Tim Smith

Tim Smith is Regional Director for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Southern Africa, which covers Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Shona and son Patrick.

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