" Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears
bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot
bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down
and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 7:17-19)
God instructs us to be fruit inspectors.
I have no idea how many different varieties of fruit are cultivated commercially,
but a cursory glance on the internet came up with a figure for apples
of 7500 varieties grown throughout the world, and the information that
the tomato is probably the world's most popular fruit. Apparently somewhere
in the region of 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced per year, well
ahead of bananas, apples, oranges and, in fifth place, watermelons.
Since plants cannot move from place to place, they have developed ways
to make certain that their seeds dispersed over a wide area; this is important
because if the seeds were to develop close to the parent plant, the young
plants would not receive enough sunlight to grow. They would also compete
for light, water and minerals. It is much better if the seeds germinate
and grow in another area. Fruits are one means of achieving this aim.
"16 By their fruit you will recognise them…." (Matthew
There is no part of nature that does not cause us to wonder, but of course
there are spiritual lessons that we have to take into account as we pick
our apples from the tree, or harvest our sun-ripened tomatoes from greenhouse
or garden. It is in these words from Matthew's Gospel that we begin to
see how the Creator's design for the spreading of a plant's seeds might
be a picture that we can relate to in our Christian lives.
If we ignore the anomalies of such as the seedless grape, then the sole
purpose of a fruit is to assist a plant in achieving a very important
purpose, the continuation of life from one generation to another. It does
this generally through other birds or animals, by providing the means
through which they will perform the task. In other words, the plant not
only has to show fruit but it is also dependent upon others. Without that
assistance the future is not promising - seed that is merely dropped to
the floor around a plant will eventually become overgrown, weak and choked.
Jesus used the example of fruit because he knew it was a picture that
his listeners could relate to. It remains a relevant picture for us, and
indeed it is one that our Celtic ancestors would have understood because
they had a clear vision of the need for mission. Yes, mission. It was
not enough for them to draw close to God in the quiet and lonely places
of the world they inhabited; they had a yearning to spread the Good News
of the Gospel message not only to those in their immediate vicinity but
further away. Why else would those Christian saints risk their lives sailing
to distant lands?
These saintly folk had spent time in study, prayer and fasting. They had
grown in knowledge and faith; become fruitful, and through the prompting
of God's Spirit they took the sweetness of the Gospel to distant places,
sowed the seed and watched it grow. In a very real sense it could be said
that the lives they led and the message they proclaimed were as effective
as any fruit in dispersing the seed and ensuring that there would be a
continuing harvest from generation to generation. Without their fruitfulness
our ancestors would not have heard the Good News and we in turn would
not know of the love that our Creator God has invested in us.
I read somewhere that two signs of a prosperous nation are that firstly
that it produces enough fruit to feed its own people, and secondly it
has abundance left over to export to other nations.
So often it is the fruitfulness of others that causes us to be drawn close
to God - it is this same fruit that we should be willing to export to
a world full of people who are starving.
Mentioned previously was the fact that within nature, a plant often needs
help to distribute its fruit and seed, and of course there is a straight
analogy here with the Christian community. We are not created to be isolated
Christians, or if we are then we are not very effective. Nurture, growth
and fruitfulness happen within communities where there is there is a loving
and effective fellowship of believers working together.
God didn't plant us so that we might look good sitting in a church pew.
He had an expectation that we might show fruit in due season! Jesus doesn't
bless us, teach us and feed us through his Word and Spirit so we can become
pretty plants to look at in the garden. No, he looks for fruitfulness!
Pause for thought
"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is "
- H. Jackson Browne
1. ‘Being fruitful’ is a common theme in sermons preached from pulpits throughout the
world. How do you understand the term in relation to
a) your personal life?
c) The Christian Church as a whole in your country?
2. We perhaps understand more about how a plant produces fruit than we do a
Christian becoming fruitful. What is the process of growth that a Christian goes
through before they can truly become fruitful?
3. Is this one area where the Church ought to be looking not just inwardly, but
outward to an involvement with organisations involved with the provision of aid to
those in need, or becoming involved in the lobbying of politicians over particular
issues relating, for instance to trade justice?
In other words, does ‘Being Fruitful’
involve our interaction with the wider world, being a part of our mission work?
©John Birch, faithandworship.com (More Bible Studies avilable on the Faith & Worship website)