Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Not About Your Pretty Leaves

It seems I'm being inundated with the Biblical vine/branch/fruit analogy lately.  You know, the one from John 15:

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off any branch in me that doesn't bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be more fruitful.

And the fruit of the Spirit list in Galatians 5:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these things there is no law.

I recently discovered that these passages shed light on another story that I've always been confused by. 

In Mark 11, on his way into Jerusalem, Jesus is hungry and passes by a fig tree with no fruit. He curses the tree, and the next day on their way out of town, the fig tree is withered from its roots. I always thought that an odd story. I also wasn't quite sure what the point was; I mean, after the disciples comment on the tree, Jesus goes on to tell them that they can move mountains with enough faith, but he makes that point in other ways -- it doesn't seem necessary to kill a living plant to communicate that message.

But perhaps there's something of this fruit analogy involved. The purpose of a fig tree is to bear figs. Not to grow leaves and branches and deep roots -- those are all merely tools used in the process of bearing figs. Similarly, believers live on earth strictly to bear fruit.

And notice that the fruit of the plant is used by other creatures. Animals eat the fruit. The fruit gives life -- but not to the plant itself, really. It gives life to others. And a plant that bears no fruit to give life to others is not justified in sticking around, Jesus seems to be saying.

So, all the Bible studies I go to . . . all the books I read, the scripture I memorize . . . all the church services I attend and sermons I hear . . . if all they do is deepen my own roots and broaden my own leaves, they are a waste. Deep roots and broad leaves are only there to bring me the nutrients I need to bear fruit -- fruit that is for the benefit of others, not myself.

Another thing: the fruit of the plant is part of the reproductive system. The seed to create another plant is inside the fruit. The way a plant makes more of itself is by its seed being scattered -- by animals eating of its fruit and leaving the seeds elsewhere.

See, I should have gone to a Christian school growing up. If science had been taught to me this way, as a reflection of the character of God, I might have cared.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I love your insight on fruitfulness! These Scriptures are working in my heart this year and I am grateful to get to learn from you! Blessings-