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  • Writer's pictureMyles Hester

Bearing Good Fruit

Keeping and taking care of plants is a hobby that I have picked up in the last few years and it has taught me a lot about patience. I had a small succulent a couple years back that I evidently had overwatered but I did not realize it for the longest time because externally it was as green and healthy-looking as it had always been. Then, seemingly overnight, all the leaves drooped down to the soil and revealed a black, mushy middle. It had seemed alright from the outside, but it had slowly been rotting away and dying on the inside!

There are far too many people in the world who are living much like my poor dead succulent. They can compartmentalize and bottle up their problems, maintain appearances, only fight with their spouse behind closed doors, never miss a church service, use loans and credit cards to fund a life they cannot afford, and more.

Unfortunately, this truth is warped into extreme cynicism and wielded as a weapon against Christianity. It is devastating to think about people who have been hurt by Christians and impugn God’s character with the claim that because His people are so flawed, then the entire paradigm of Biblical, Godly, Righteous living is farcical. However, Jesus Himself makes it clear that there is no room in the Kingdom for this type of two-facedness. In His sermon on the Mount, He uses a couple metaphors to demonstrate this point:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

A wolf can only dress up as a sheep for so long before it becomes evident that its only intent is to do harm. A succulent that is dead inside will wilt eventually. A diseased tree may produce fruit, but the quality of that fruit will reveal that tree for what it is: bad! Jesus makes uncompromising application about this idea in the next section of His sermon, when He talks about people who do various seemingly spiritual acts in the name of Jesus, and yet when they come before Him on “that day,” He will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). This makes an interesting point about patiently waiting for truth to come to light.

We live in a world where we can check someone’s references, credit history, and take their fingerprints to get an idea of who they are. Now, to be clear, these examples are helpful tools in their respective contexts, and I am by no means suggesting that we approach other people, especially brethren, cynically or assuming the worst—rather, as Paul said, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). On the other hand, however, we can take comfort in the fact that God is just and knows people’s hearts. No one will get to judgment day and pull the wool over God’s eyes. No one will get to the throne of God and pass off thistles as figs. Jehovah will always see people for who they are. However, let us not be deceived by the use of the third person here. Remember what James says about taking a long, hard look in the mirror:

“Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:21-25)

Growing in our maturity and wisdom as Christians is a long process, and if after some introspection we realize that we are being hearers who forgets rather than doers who act, then that is a problem to address! If we find ourselves lacking perseverance, then by the grace of God we can rely on our friends, family, brethren, and the Word of God to help us cultivate better spiritual habits. While we can use proper, righteous judgment to assess a situation or someone’s character (including our own), ultimately, people are known by their fruits, and it may take time to see what fruit is produced from a person’s character. It is important to live prudently, careful to consider what fruit we are bearing, and what fruit we are on track to bear in the future. However, we must keep in mind that it does not happen overnight. Trees can take a long time to bear good fruit, but the patience and labor will be well worth it. It can be difficult to get rid of pests or root problems when a tree has some sort of disease, and that may mean taking drastic measures for the long-term health of the tree and its fruit, but these sacrifices are vital for the long-term health of the plant.

To this end, my prayer for all of us echoes Paul’s in Ephesians 3:

“…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or thing, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (vss. 16-21).

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