Bearing Spiritual Fruit

     There is an account in Matthew 21:17-22 of Jesus withering a fig tree that bore no fruit. The context indicates He did this as an example of His power as an encouragement to His disciples as they faced difficult days ahead. As to Mark’s account (Mark 11) and the matter of figs not being in season and thus Jesus withering an innocent tree (nonsense I know but in print somewhere) let us rely on the botanical knowledge of the Lord Who made all things.

     An implication that comes to mind rather easily is that fruit trees that bear no fruit are of little use to anyone. I have one neighbor who shares plums from their tree and another who shares blueberries from their bushes. There is nothing much better than fresh fruit right from branch or bush. But a fruitless tree does not last long in the orchard.

     But Jesus did not only have figs in mind. Matthew 7:15-20 is the classic account. Jesus warned us about wolves in sheep’s clothing. He said “You will know them by their fruits” (7:16). Good fruit comes from good trees and bad from bad. The chilling line is this one: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and put into the fire.” Thus we all want to be good trees bearing good fruit.

     Of course the fruit we are thinking about is spiritual. The Lord, through the Holy Spirit led Paul to write the Book of Galatians. In the fifth chapter of that great discourse he spoke of the two extremes of spiritual behavior. On the one hand there are the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-21). On the other hand there is the fruit of the Spirit. Like many people I take the Spirit here to be the Holy Spirit who directs us through the written word in such a way that we can make our spirits (our inner and real beings) conform to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2).

     The characteristics listed in Galatians 5:22-26 are themselves spiritual as opposed to material realities. A great fallacy in our world is the philosophy that the only real things are material things. Nothing could be more wrong than that set of sad ideas.

     Now look at the list of spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. How do we bear this fruit? We have said these are spiritual things and this is surely so. No one can buy a pound of love or gentleness. Yet who would want to live without them?

     So though we know this fruit is spiritual we also know we live in physical bodies thus to bear this fruit means we must do certain things to manifest our desire to walk in the Spirit. How do we bear the fruit of love? Don’t we bear this fruit when we tell someone we love them? Don’t we bear this fruit when we do things that might reduce ourselves but increase the ones who are the object of our love? How do we bear the fruit of joy but by being joyous over our relationship with God and allowing that joy to permeate every aspect of our lives (Philippians 4:4-8). What about kindness? The question answers itself, doesn’t it? Being faithful to friends and to the family means always being ready to do the needed thing. Gentleness is out of fashion these days but it is a spiritual fruit of sublime sweetness. Perhaps least fruitlike to us is self-control. But if we allow God’s Word to have its way in us we will be blessed with this fruit. Remember, “When He was reviled, He reviled not again.”

     Finally, bearing fruit means being an encourager. Endeavor to bear the fruit of the Spirit today. See if your day isn’t much better. If our spiritual trees are a bit sparse we would do well to walk more fervently in the Spirit.