Whenever we use our grain mill, it is the fruit of the wheat we are grinding. In our modern society we most often use the word “fruit” to mean apples, oranges, etc. However, biblically, “fruit” has two closely related definitions: 1) The fruit of trees; 2) that which originates or comes from something; an effect, result. Wheat is considered “fruit” in Matthew 13:26 when referring to the kernels:
Matthew 13:26 (KJV)
“But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.”
Edible fruit originated with God, “in the beginning,” and has continued reproducing itself over and over to this day. That’s one of the many attributes of fruit—it reproduces, a lot.
There have been many teachings on the fruit of the spirit; this is not one of them. However, my hope is that after deeply and honestly considering fruit—how one obtains it and why—each of us will reconsider our own personal gardens of life more honestly, seek out the production of fruit in our lives, and do so with much more diligence.
We farm, to the best of our ability. We do not farm enough to sell, as our family consumes nearly all that we grow. We try to grow as much of what we eat as we can, so our garden is much larger than the average American family garden, but significantly smaller than a national or local producer who sells to others. We plan what we will produce starting in December of most years, definitely by January. February is too late to begin thinking, planning and ordering for some of our crops, like onions. We dig, we prepare the earth, overturning sod for a new patch or composting and fertilizing an old bed. We rotate crops, so that no field contains a crop of the same genus as the year before in order to prevent the spread of disease. We start seeds in pots indoors, bathing them in light as soon as they emerge from the warm soil. Then, after a few weeks, we transplant them into larger pots, moving them into the greenhouse and watching them carefully to tend to their needs: Do we need to water? Are they too warm/too cold? All the while we continue to turn our compost piles from last year, filled with decomposing leaves, grass, manure, and household scraps, enabling us to use them to fertilize and enrich this year’s harvest.
The first crops to go into the garden are onions, spinach and the brassicas: cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts and broccoli. On our hands and knees, we clear away any weeds or rocks that might hinder growth. Next, we dig a hole, fill it with water doused with a hearty dose of fish emulsion to give moisture and a boost of nutrients directly into the setting roots, and gently place the fledging plant in, covering it carefully with soil. But then, even after all that, we cover the plants with wire hoops and a floating row cover, a lightweight material that helps trap some heat to speed the warming of the soil, to keep off any last frosts and to deter the initial onslaught of insects that could destroy our precious crops.
This is just the beginning. Before we enjoy the fruit of the crops, there will be a few more months of attentive management: removing the floating row cover, weeding, mulching, weeding, and watering, (this year, praying diligently for the rain to stop).
One day, I walked by the broccoli on the way to hill the potatoes, a little tired of looking at all these luscious green plants, of all the sweat, of all this planning and tending, and there they were…fruit! They may have been the size of dimes, but they were finally there—broccoli florets!
If your first thought was, “Geez…it’s tiring enough just reading about all that! No thanks! I’ll just pick up my broccoli at the grocery store, thank you very much,” or anything along those lines, it’s important to take a moment to recognize that this type of thinking is a modern thought. Mankind has struggled for thousands of years to produce the fruit that would keep him alive and he was no stranger to what it would cost him in labor, time and sweat. He could not afford to ignore his garden.
(17) To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
(18) It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
(19) By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Having grocery stores as a fallback is only one piece of the modern mindset. We also live in a blessed nation, where enormous abundance is standard to the point of wastefulness. It is not this way in all parts of our world, and one day, it may not be that way here. However, the point is, that whether you grow or buy your broccoli, whether or not you are aware of the labor and planning involved, the fruit of that plant did not come about any other way: fruit takes effort and fruit takes time.
“Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.” If you read that line and remember it, I’m on to your age. Six to eight weeks used to be standard shipping time for most deliveries. Today, our modern society is so used to instant gratification that most people wouldn’t wait a third of that time. We have one-hour photo, fast-food, internet access to opposite points on the globe, instant messaging, you name it. We have a warped sense of time in comparison to most societies that ever walked this same earth ahead of us. And yet, in God’s creation, fruit cannot be produced in even the “long” 6-8 week period. Furthermore, it cannot be produced without diligent, applied effort.
(15) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
(16) By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
(17) Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
(18) A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
(19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
(20) Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
These verses are being used to point out a simple, yet powerful, concept. Jesus used grapes to illustrate. He said, putting it in the negative, “People do not pick grapes from a thorn bush.” We would agree emphatically. The concept is that what was planted and tended is what grew. “Yes,” we say. But was Jesus teaching a workshop on grape-growing, or was he attempting an analogy between a law established in the physical and spiritual realms by God in the beginning? We concur in the physical (“Of course you get apples from an apple tree.”), but we argue and appear confused in the spiritual realm (“I’m in debt again. I need to pray that God will deliver me and send me a check in the mail”—when all the while we eat out, have cable, a cell phone, we shop on credit, and all beyond our means).
(18) “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:
(19) When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
(20) The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.
(21) But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
(22) The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
(23) But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
What a great section of Scripture, just bursting with deep truths! Fruit begins way back with the seed. Seed needs the right conditions to grow. After coming to fruition, the crop will reproduce exponentially. While Jesus did not mention the details of the gardening process as they are mentioned in the beginning of this article, he didn’t have to; the society to which he spoke understood it. It was their way of life. My farming mentor has many friends who come to her, exclaiming that their gardens just don’t look like hers. “Of course not,” she comments. “Turn off the television! Pull yourself away from the computer! Get out there and weed!”
Your life is your garden, evincing fruit left and right. Look closely at it. Do you like what you see? I’m sure we all have areas we’re proud of, where the paths are well-mulched, and the beds are filled to the brim and producing, free from weeds and ripe with fruit. But what about the rest?
From a practical standpoint, let’s take one area of life and examine how it might look to cultivate negative fruit in the spiritual realm. Let’s look at loneliness, otherwise defined as feeling out of place and misunderstood. We all deal with feelings of loneliness from time to time, but when one plants and nurtures the seed of loneliness, it begins to take root in his life. Planting would occur when the person confesses repeatedly, “I am lonely.” This would be in opposition to pursuing others through giving, praying, and seeking out fellowship with an attitude of giving. Instead, the person who cultivates loneliness begins to blame others in his mind (“Don’t they see that I am lonely?”). The fruit of this would be bitterness, hurt, and anger. These would manifest as excuses for why the person won’t participate, often accompanied by distrust, easily seeing in others their sin nature, faults and shortcomings. A lonely person does not forgive easily, and over time begins to use the offences of others as solid “reasons” for keeping them at arm’s length, by proxy, excusing himself. Further cultivation leads to gossip, which separates people and causes division. Envy and jealousy join in.
But as solid as it looks on the outside, the lonely person hates being lonely, wants to join in the fun, and wants to be free of the awful burden of the prison of fear. To start, he must be honest and see the weeds. To pull the weeds he must replace the ungodly thoughts with the Word of God, verses such as: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31 and 32). To continue to weed and mulch, the lonely person needs to pray for those he feels offended by, perhaps setting his mind to go out of the way to give to them. This takes daily practice, constant awareness of one’s thoughts, and grabbing each one that is contrary to sound thinking and pulling it out. And this takes time. Every night, the person who wishes to cultivate new fruit must evaluate his day honestly before God, asking for forgiveness where he strayed. Perhaps the lonely person could privately ask a brother or sister in Christ to pray for him daily, asking for their support, helping to make him accountable.
The amount of work it takes to produce food is hard to calculate—who would pursue such a mammoth undertaking were it not for the harvest. Fruit is what draws us to do the work ahead of us. In any area of our life where we are lacking positive fruit, the following principles could be applied:
1. Seed: Be specific in what it is you hope to gain (grapes come from grape seeds). Is it patience you hope to acquire? More hope? Mercy? Like looking through a seed catalog, lay out your desire specifically before the Lord.
2. Plant the seed in a prepared bed: Find verses that apply to your desired fruit and memorize them. Lay out a game plan that helps you cultivate the ground. Do you want to quit drinking alcohol? Stay away from places and people that encourage drinking, and hang with people and in places that encourage the opposite.
3. Weed, weed, weed: Every time a situation presents itself that would hinder you from your desired fruit, avoid it. Want to stop gossiping? Tell your old gossip buddies you need to get off the phone now! Grab the old thoughts and plant verses in your old habit’s spots, and repeat them to yourself. Perhaps put verses up around your home to help remind you.
4. Mulch and water: If you merely pull weeds but don’t mulch, the weeds will come right back and choke your efforts. Lay on a thick layer of mulch to protect your barren soil. Bible studies or verses that apply to your goal are imperative. Take action that is the opposite of what you used to do. If you used to hoard things for yourself, GIVE! If it’s fear of speaking to strangers, start with saying “Hi, how are you today?” to passers-by.
5. Fertilize: Fish emulsion and compost support root growth, and the deeper the roots, the bigger the fruit! Employ a trusted friend to help you obtain your goal. Listen to teachings applicable to your goal. Read the Word of God daily, and pray, pray, pray.
6. Watch the weather: Don’t be surprised by sudden storms and obstacles that get in your way. It’s by the sweat of your brow that fruit will appear in your life.
7. Be patient and stick with it: This is where most gardens fail. There’s an old saying that everyone’s “winter” garden looks great; that’s the one we plan and see in our mind’s eye when the snow still seals the earth. The garden that produces real abundance in real measurable fruit is the one where the gardener applied all of the above principles daily for months. Some fruit just takes a long time; onions are started from seed in February, but are not harvested until late September. What about forgiveness? You’ll never know if you don’t stick with it. Ahh, but fresh, crisp, pungent onions, loaded into a tomato sauce, piled raw on a roast beef sandwich, sautéed to heap upon a grilled steak or soft and warm in French onion soup…well, it was worth the wait.
(1) Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
(2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
(3) He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.