It’s been a good year for peppers and tomatoes at our house. That’s especially good news for Gabrielle and I, since we both love fresh salsa with a kick. Unfortunately, it looks like some of the other veggies we’d planted didn’t have such a banner season. The cabbage and califlower looked pretty in our garden, but didn’t produce a thing.
Harvest time is a season of revealing: will there be fruit to show for months of watering and weeding, or will the plant just have been taking up space?
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a man who owned a fig tree, which in three years never bore any fruit. The man tells his gardener to cut the unproductive tree down. The gardener asks for one more year, during which he will tend its soil. If by the next year it begins to produce fruit, there will be cause to celebrate. If not, then it will be cut down.
The warning is clear: lives that look good or look religious on the outside but which bear no fruit will be revealed for what they are at harvest time. And as John the Baptist and Jesus warned, that which bears no fruit will not be kept in the harvest.
Of course, that raises two important questions: what is the fruit that Jesus and John the Baptist are talking about, and how does one produce it in their lives?
Paul writes that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. These are qualities not just of individual piety, but they are part of living out the purpose for which God created us as we live out and share the gospel.
Jesus’ message to the disciples in John 15 emphasizes this; we are purposed to bear much fruit, so that the world can be blessed and God’s truth be made visible. In this same passage, we also find out how we can bear fruit for God: by clinging to Jesus, remaining connected, drawing our life and our strength from Him. A dry branch on its own cannot produce fruit, but connected to the vine, it will thrive and be useful.
This suggests that if we (or others) are not seeing fruit in our lives, we need to till the soil of our hearts and take a look at our relationship with Jesus. Are others receiving God’s love through us? Do they see joy in us? Do the people around us experience our patience or kindness (though those who need it the most from us may not realize they are getting it…)?
May we take note of these harvest parables, and connect faith and action, and may God provide an abundance of fruit in our lives along the journey.