Wasted Fruit: How to Claim Our Inheritance in Christ
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
I saw a sad sight the other day. As I walked along the sidewalk, I passed a bald pear tree. Though there was nothing left on its branches, at least four dozen nasty, squished fruit covered the ground, having fallen from the tree unpicked. All of a sudden I had a craving for fruit, specifically pears.
I really like pears. I had forgotten how wonderful they tasted until I saw their discarded squishy masses junking up my pathway. All that sweet goodness had been there, fully developed and ripe for the picking, for months. Yet there they remained. Eventual even the tree itself rejected them in preparation for the winter season. What a waste!
I had walked by that same tree at least once a week for some time. Once or twice I felt the desire to reach out and pick its produce. Good sense stopped me, as it was not my fruit to pick. But it was someone's fruit. What's more, the tree stood in the middle of an area that the USDA refers to as a "food dessert," with limited access to such healthy whole foods within a several mile radius. Why didn't these people appreciate and take what was right there in front of them?
As I pondered how blockheaded these anonymous owners seemed, God reminded me of my own spiritual nutrition. According to Paul's New Testament letter to the churches of Galatia, those of us who live for Christ have the access to cultivate and harvest some pretty sweet fruit of our own. Specifically, :
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." -Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)
In writing to the various churches throughout the region of Galatia, Paul addressed two equal but opposite mistakes of "the flesh". On one hand, followers of a form of self-indulgent hedonism called "Nicolaitanism" ignored the leading and love of the Holy Spirit in surrender to the pleasures of "the flesh". On the opposite extreme, a form of Gnostic "works righteousness" that later became know as Pelagianism taught people that they were both responsible and capable of mastering of their own flesh, which in a way set the people up as their own gods. Both heresies promoted fruit robbing lifestyles that took the focus off of the power and payouts of living by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 offers the antidote to both mistakes:
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."
How many times have I absolutely forfeited the deep growth and benefits of God by either trying to do things in my own strength or giving up altogether in favor of the seemingly easier and better path? This never ends well. In fact, following any desires, or passions, or even perceived obligations that fall outside of the empowerment and leading of God's Spirit always leaves me feeling first uncomfortably bloated, then inevitably hungry for something more. I am grateful that unlike those seasonal pears, spiritual blessings are always available for those of us who are willing to submit, cultivate and receive from God's gracious hand. And what's more, they never need run out or fall to the ground. The more I receive and live by them, the greater they grow!
What spiritual fruits have you been ignoring or forfeiting by focusing on lesser things?