Matthew 12:33, Jesus is speaking to a bunch of pharisees that denied his being God, and attributed his deliverance of a man to the devil. This is an incredible scene and really deserves you looking at the entire chapter. It is one in which Jesus declares to these knotheads that he is God and God's son. In truth they recognized that for they understood that only God could do what they had just witnessed. Blatantly ignoring truth they blasted him publicly, and made plans to kill him. Jesus gives this as part of his response: “make a tree good and it's fruit will be good,...”
The inverse of that question is: what makes a tree bad?
A tree does not know how to be bad, it only knows to do what is inherently in its nature and qualities. A fruit tree only knows how to produce fruit, or in a sense, be good. That fruit may or may not be suitable for human consumption, but that does not make it bad. An obvious factor is that some trees produce a fruit that is barely noticeable and would be deemed non-fruiting, merely decorative. With minimal help a person can go to a nursery and pick out the type of tree they want based upon particular characteristics, as many of the aspects of that tree are described on a tag to aid in your decision.
The tree does nothing but function according to its nature, so how do you make the tree bad? Mind you Jesus is really not talking about trees but people, and yet you will find that so much of this makes sense when you put it into human perspectives. Sadly, we humans rarely come with information pamphlets that describe our future nature and characteristics. That tends to force us into God's word as there are many passages that define precisely who we are. Some we need to focus on would be who we are in Christ, as he is the rooting stock that we have been grafted into.
What can make a tree "bad."
- A tree, especially a fruit tree, needs adequate water. Yes, there are scientific studies that can tell you how much water that tree will need, dependent upon environmental conditions. Water promotes healthy sap production, which aids in its ability to resist pests, and carries nutrients throughout the tree. So if the tree does not get adequate water the tree will initially wilt. This is called plant stress. Plant stress on a continued basis impacts the fruit production, the foliage (the leaves), and eventually the plant cannot recover from the stress and you lose a perfectly good tree to death.
- In most cases, fruit trees have to be pruned if you want to obtain the maximum and best fruit from them. An orange bears fruit on new growth, while a peach tree produces fruit on mature, second year growth. This need for specific pruning varies with different fruiting trees, but in equating people to trees I see that we respond in similar ways, producing fruit in all stages of growth. Even though we might deem ourselves mature, there is always a time and season for new growth. How many times have you reread something and had it jump out at you as though it was new. By the way, you will find references to us being intentionally pruned by a loving God in order that we bear much fruit.
- Keeping a tree insect and disease free can assist in keeping the tree good. Here in Southern California we recently had a drought that lasted several years. The impact upon the pines in our local mountains was horrendous. Due to a lack of water the pines could not produce enough sap, a natural defense for them, and pine boring beetles were able to undermine the nutrient transport system of the pines, killing and weakening many of them. Add to that the work of an arsonist. Not only did we lose the beauty of a forest, but homes and lives were lost. There was nothing that demonstrated that the trees were trying to kill themselves, but they certainly could not defend themselves against such devastating outside influences.
The tree needs, wants, and in a sense demands water, and will do nothing on its own to deny itself water, but we are not talking about a tree here are we. As a matter of fact many trees by "adaptation" have smaller leaves, and in some cases needles that assist in the retention of water.
Unlike a tree, we humans have minds of our own, and are frequently withholding water from our own lives. How? By not investing our time in God's word, and fellowship.