In 2006 we moved from Switzerland to our house in Fruit Cove. It was early spring when we moved in, and a full crop of oranges hung off our only fruit tree. And each year after, hundreds of ripe oranges filled it.
Two years ago, the crop was a little more sparse. McCail and I enjoyed throwing the hard and mostly rotting fruit over the fence into the woods behind my house to feed the deer. But this year… nothing. Just ugly, gnarled sticks and a few sprigs of leaves. Now it’s ugly… and fruitless. And it illustrates the question made by a man about a tree in one of Jesus’ parables: “Why cumbereth it the ground?”
So this year, my orange tree will be cut down and thrown into the fire. It’s not even a pretty tree. It’s just… fruitless, and the odd orange that does show up is not edible. I’m not going to allow it to “cumbereth” the ground. Now no doubt I killed it… don’t send me links to information on how to grow fruit. I’m gettin my fruit the normal way… in a bag from Walmart!
But it’s kind of sad isn’t it? To have a tree that is supposed to bear fruit but doesn’t?
Something of this sorrow is captured in the Old Testament when God refers to Israel as a vine He planted but when He came to examine it, there was no fruit or at best, sour grapes.
“Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes....For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (Isaiah 5:1-2, 7 ESV)
Jesus picks up the imagery again in John 15:1-5
“”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:1-2, 4-5 ESV)
We are the branches that are supposed to be connected to the vine and “abide” (stay connected) to it. If we aren’t, we’re just taking up space. God looks at us when we don’t bear fruit like I look at my dead fruit tree in the backyard. He’s disappointed. Even heartbroken.
We are meant to bear fruit. One writer explains it this way:
“Fruit is the result of a long organic and living process. The process is complex and intricate. Fruits are not something made, manufactured or engineered. They are the result of a life of faith created by God. We do not produce fruit by our own effort. We do not purchase it from another. It is not a reward for doing good deeds, like a merit badge, a gold medal, a blue ribbon. Fruits are simply there.”
Fruit is outward evidence of an inner, invisible power and reality. When we are fruitful, we are giving external proof that our profession of faith is the real thing. We have the Holy Spirit living in us, working the fruit out. As I told you last week, what you are inside will come out of you. Especially when you get squeezed. Whatever your cup is filled with is going to come out when you get tipped over. The pressures and problems of life are opportunities to prove what you possess within you. This is why we are reminded to be “filled with the Spirit…”
The question this leaves before us today is an important one: ARE YOU?