Matthew 12:33 (the message)
“If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree.”
In the verse above Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, the “religious elite” of the day. The Pharisees had the right position, the right words, the respect of the people and could easily call you out on any infraction of old testament law. But in the midst of a response to their calloused hearts Jesus tells them to check their fruit…but what does that mean?
I am not really an “outdoorsy” girl, however, I married a true outdoors-man! For anyone married you can already sniff the conflict that brought on at first! But over the years I have come to actually enjoy time outside and my tolerance for our hot and humid summers has grown. My husband plants a vegetable garden each year and this past spring Rivers (my 6-year-old) and I actually planted a flower garden together. My porch and back deck has been my little oasis this summer with the various plants I bought. Those that know me well have been equally shocked and impressed that all of my ferns and potted plants thrived under my care! No one would call me an expert but I have learned a few things about roots and fruit…
If I wanted lush, green ferns on my porch or the flowers to continue to bloom on the plants (no I don’t remember their names!) sitting on my deck I had to pay attention to a few things. First, the roots needed soil that was rich in nutrients, so periodically I brought out the miracle-grow. Secondly, the roots needed moist soil so I had to water them every day!! Yes, in our 100 degree temps this summer I thought for certain they were doomed but they stayed healthy as long as I was careful to water them. These were the basics and would keep the greenery alive but I noticed after a while the colorful blooms on some of the plants were sparse. Ahhh…pruning! Every so often I had to snip those dead-heads and a couple of times actually cut away stems that were overgrown, then what do ya know…the blooms were bursting again.
I know…a first-grade version of gardening, but if we care to know how healthy our own “roots” are then all we need to do is look at the fruit in our lives. Matter of fact, Jesus directs us to judge our tree (or life) by its fruit. Like the Pharisees, it really doesn’t matter if I have the right position at church or how well I speak church-world lingo, and it doesn’t matter how many other people I have convinced I am really spiritual. What matters, what really speaks to the health of my spiritual life, is the fruit it produces (or not). So, what kind of fruit are we looking for?
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…
Do we dare slow down enough to really be honest with ourselves about the ripeness of our fruit? Most church-goers are familiar with the verse above. It’s on calenders and plaques and cards all over the place! But what if we really listen to what Jesus is saying? If our lives are healthy, if our roots are planted in the rich soil of spending time with God daily and we are watered by His Word then we will know more of Him. As we yield to His Spirit within us, the fruit above matures in our lives.
The Pharisees may have called themselves “holy” or “chosen” or “followers” of God but they did not exhibit the fruit that comes with that claim. I can walk into my yard and call a pine tree a dogwood all day but everyone else can easily see the needles and cones. Calling it a dogwood doesn’t mean it’s a dogwood! You know when it’s obvious I have dogwoods? In the spring when the pretty little blooms make their appearance…when their “fruit” is displayed.
Just like my potted plants and the dogwood trees in our yard, producing fruit in our lives requires a healthy root. Maybe your “roots” aren’t so healthy. Maybe your life has been really hard and you have been hurt deeply. Maybe your hopes for a healthy marriage have been crushed. Perhaps your dreams have all but died. Maybe you only since a flicker of desire to become the person God created you to be or you are simply living a sin-sick lifestyle. No matter how malnourished and dry the soil of your life is today, Jesus is the Master Green-thumb. He knows just what your heart needs to heal and begin to produce good fruit. Sometimes Jesus prunes and snips, but always with loving care and the soothing balm of His presence.
Father, I ask for my own life as well as each person who reads this post that you show us, no matter the condition of our hearts…no matter how diseased the fruit in our lives is today, that you love us unconditionally. I ask that you awaken our hearts and that as this prayer is read the truth of your love will saturate even the most crusty of hearts. There is so much healing and peace to be had in a life lived with you. In the name of Jesus.