There I said it, and I’ll say it again. I hope I’m never known by “my fruit”.
But doesn’t the Bible say “by their fruit you will recognize them”?
Yeah, the Bible talks about fruit a lot. The writers are appealing to an agricultural society. What do you expect them to use as metaphors? Fruit, plows, fields, wheat – there’s a whole lot of farm in scripture.
Quick, imagine a fruit. Did you think of an apple or a banana? Maybe a pineapple or a mango? Something you could take a bite of and grasp in the palm of your hand?
When we talk about “fruit” within Christian culture, we have a tendency to think of visibile signs of production. Bushels of spiritual apples and oranges.
There are pastors producing tons of “fruit”. Their churches are bursting at the seams. They’ve written several books, branded their own curriculums, and have the coveted blue check mark next to their name on Twitter. Yet, they propagate hate. They push shame. They preach legalism.
There are churches producing tons of “fruit”. Their services are fantastic. Their members are satisfied, and their budgets are overflowing with funds for set designs and staff salaries. Yet, their community outreach is nonexistent. Their doors are rarely open to their neighbors. They’re the very definition of a Christian bubble.
There are people producing tons of “fruit” Their lives are full of answered prayers. They’ve seen incredible miracles, they’ve led people to Christ, and they’re confident they hear from God. Yet, their words are damaging. Their minds are closed. They never grasp the concept of grace.
When we say fruit, we think physical results. We want quality produce in mass quantities. How good is your worship service? How many people attend your church? How many miracles have you seen? How many friends do you have? How awesome is your life? Show me proof of your “fruitfulness”.
Screw that. I never want to be known by my fruit if fruit is a metaphor for measurable “spiritual” stuff associated with my life. May I never be known by the number of things I’ve published or followers I’ve accumulated or hours I’ve devoted to ministries. May my spiritual maturity never be evaluated by my theological knowledge or the elegance of my prayers or my ability to regurgitate sermons verbatim. May I never have to say how many girls I’ve mentored or people I’ve cried with or mission trip moments I’ve had. Because none of it matters (in terms of my identity and my worth).
When we start evaluating people solely by what they produce, we fail to recognize who they are and the things that bring them life. When I’m evaluated primarily by my resume, portfolio, network, achievements, education, etc, etc… I’m not actually known at all. More importantly the very thing that drives me remains unknown as well. Prime example: Christianity is well known to much of the world, but the love of God remains unknown to many.
Can we revisit the phrase by their fruit you will recognize them? When an ancient reader heard this metaphor, they likely imagined the tree or the vine. They thought of the process of bearing fruit, not just the resulting produce. If someone is connected to God, their life will yield fruit with the characteristics of God. There is an element of production, but the focus isn’t mass quantity or quality assurance. It’s an understanding of the process of the fruit coming into existence. The labor, the appropriate conditions, the waiting, the harvesting, the essence of the tree itself…