Leafy and lifeless
It just kept getting lower and lower. We had an apple tree that I could see out our kitchen window. But I noticed its branches seemed to be getting lower and lower. I was surprised that it seemed to be sprouting so many new, leafy branches because, frankly, it is an awful tree. It produced tiny, flavorless, spotty apples. They looked like they had acne. I bought a fruit dehydrator last year and dried trays and trays of these apples, thinking that, surely, every piece of fruit would taste better dried. Wrong. They tasted like cardboard, and I threw them all out.
Still, here it was, growing new branches and looking really healthy. I thought, “Hmm…maybe THIS year will be different. Maybe this year it will produce acne-free, good-tasting fruit…like the beloved prune tree to its left or the wonderful pear tree to its right.”
Well, I was out working in the yard last week and went over to take a closer look. And I discovered that the lousy apple tree wasn’t, in fact, growing new branches. It was sinking. Slowly tipping over, getting lower and lower to the ground. It was falling over! And the penny dropped! Aha…MAYBE the reason this tree always produces lousy fruit…is because it has lousy roots. It is sick down deep in places I cannot see. I wanted to believe the foliage. But it was the fruit that told the truth…the real story.
So…I chopped that sucker down. Any good excuse to pull out my Stihl chain saw, throw on my chaps and ear protection, and go to town. In a very few minutes, that fruitless, saggy tree was lying in pieces on the ground before me. I don’t know whether I’ll replace it. For now, I’m going to allow more sun to fall on the neighboring prune tree, which I LOVE. Maybe it will give me even more of its sweet fruit.
Having a sermonic mind that never stops searching for illustrations, Jesus’ comments about fruitlessness came to mind. “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.” (Luke 6:43-44)
This, and several other similar passages, all say the same thing: appearances don’t matter. What matters is fruit. And if even a healthy-looking tree bears no fruit, it will either be pruned, fertilized for a time…or chopped down for firewood. (Matthew 7: 17 ff.; Luke 13: 6 ff.; John 15:1 ff.)
Jesus wasn’t talking about apples in any of these passages. He was talking about people; apparently spiritual people whose fruitlessness tells the real story about their diseased inner spiritual condition. And how unsparing is the pruner’s hand when it comes to leafy but lifeless Christians!
As I cut down that tree…without mercy…I couldn’t help but ask myself what the fruit of my life reveals about my inner spiritual health.
How about you, hmmmmm?