When we lived in Colorado we built two garden boxes for our backyard. D’s daughter came over and helped us put the boards together, tightening the screws and ensuring there were no gaps for dirt and water to escape. We filled the boxes with soil and then went to the nursery.
We went home and eagerly planted our garden. We installed a drip system an even distribution of water would reach all of our happy plants. We weeded constantly, but I always questioned what was a weed and what might be a new plant. Did a bird move a pumpkin seed and now I was unearthing it?
Lettuce was easier to grow. Cilantro we never figured out. Tomatoes and beans came in spurts. Our garden showed our time and attention (or lack thereof) by what we were able to harvest.
The Bible says that follows of Christ will be known by their fruit. But what does that mean? How do we determine our harvest (and should we?). This kind of exercise could easily turn into a judgment show, where we determine if other people have a lush rainforest or a barren garden by our standards.
And who would be our standards – Billy Graham? Mother Teresa? Dorothy Day? Or would we go for more pomp and fame – Joel Olstean? Rob Bell? No matter who we would hold as the “ideal” – we would all fall flat. Who can really “compete” with Mother Teresa? And really, is that the point? What about what’s going on in our hearts?
We can fake good deeds. We can give all we have to the poor, volunteer all over the place, mentor ladies till we fill up every free moment. And yet, our hearts can be entirely left out of it.
So are our gardens an internal thing, cultivated by the Lord?
In Galatians Paul writes about the fruit of the spirit. He says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”
I don’t think the use of “fruit” by Jesus in Matthew 7 and Paul in the verse above are coincidental. I think it’s intentional that God is called a vine and us His branches (where fruit grows).
Most people would say that “fruit” would be good deeds, fame, money, influence, people you’ve led to Christ, things that we can see.
But that is not the list Paul gives us. What he lists as the fruit of the Spirit, manifestations of an honest, grafted walk with God, are things that we cannot do on our own.
I can do kind things, but that does not make me a kind person.
I can do good things, but that does not make me a good person.
I can bite my tongue, but that does not make me patient.
I can not spend money every time I want to, but that does not mean I have self-control.
I might not respond with anger, but that does make me gentle.
All of these things are matters of the heart. For that is where Christ dwells. And the more at home He is, the more we let Him move in, clean out the clutter and redecorate to His standards, the more we will be kind, loving, patience, and gentle.
The Message says it this way, “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
Next week, I will share how I have seen this coming to fruition in my life. But, until then, let me ask: what is the fruit of your life?