Talking about agriculture in 1st century Israel would have been like talking about radio and television or the Internet in the 21st century. It was not an uncommon topic to Jesus’ audience when he talked to them about bearing fruit. Fruit-bearing trees produce fruits several years after they have been planted and nurtured. The success of the venture – for the one who planted the tree – will be determined by the fruits that the tree would yield; whether it be sixty, eighty or a hundredfold.
Fruits are the culmination of the efforts we have put into a particular project or endeavor. No one would like to have invested so much time, money and energy into nurturing a plant that would not bear any fruit. Our Lord Jesus makes this analogy and applies it to our daily lives. We did not come into this world to showcase diplomas, certificates, our properties or ourselves. It is important to know that God never intended for us to be mere accidents – otherwise we would have been produced en masse, without any identity.
God has given to each of his creation a specific identity and a definite purpose. If it is still unclear to you why you were created, please enquire of him, and he will reveal it to you. Every human being that has trodden this earth was created for a reason and for a season. It is imperative that we accomplish that specific purpose for which we were created. This is the reason Jesus stated categorically that we must bear fruit - and not just any kind of fruit – but fruit that will last. You may be busy about what is completely irrelevant to your purpose on earth and you may be doing all right but with regards to God’s plan you are not making any headway. What a great loss that will be!
Without exception, the person who has no fruit to show for his/her existence would have been a complete failure and has no excuse. Life is not a journey in unfruitfulness or futility. We can make excuses for our immaturity as youths – as we endeavour to find our feet in a bid to assert ourselves. But we cannot walk through life going from pillar to post without any clear directions. It is time to give meaning to our lives and the kinds of fruit we produce are a vivid and tangible testimony of this experience.
Our fruits are not necessarily our academic achievements or a brilliant political career. It isn’t the number of houses we have built, the number of wives and concubines we have or the number of books we have written, but what we have done to advance the cause of humanity. What noble cause have we stood for? Where has our compassion been directed? Our fruit-bearing is not a question of our image in society. Our fruits deal with how we have impacted our world, the lives we have helped to transform, the sacrifices we have made for the betterment of society, the lives we have brought to Christ – our contribution to the erection of hospitals, clinics and schools in order to alleviate humanity’s social burden.
What have you done to advance the work of God on this planet? You may want to start thinking about your purpose, the fruit you must bear before your demise. Otherwise you would have only been like a dead leaf tossed in the autumn wind – of no significance. The point is not to seek fame or acknowledgement in the process of bearing fruit; you can be anonymous in fulfilling your purpose, and God who is all-knowing will take note.
Life is not about the number of awards and decorations in your showcase either; rather life is assessed by the unselfish deeds we have accomplished. The prophet Isaiah pops the question for those who want to go the extra mile: Is it not “… to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58: 6-7) This type of comportment is the basis for determining where we will spend eternity.
Our Lord Jesus teaches that there will be a separation between the sheep and the goats on the basis, not of merit but on our attitude - how we have interacted with humankind. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verse 34, he rewards his faithful believers not because they have been regular in church but because they have been fruitful. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” For those who would be wondering why, he pursues, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” And the believer who had been doing this out of love would be asking questions when was it that I showed such compassion? Jesus concludes, “”I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Speaking through Micah, one of the Old Testament prophets, God had thrown some light on this. “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) God loves the meek and humble. “Blessed are the poor (understand pure) in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) The very first line of the beatitudes underlines the reward for those who are humble. The purity of our hearts propels us to love unconditionally, to give without counting the cost and to show compassion. Each time Jesus healed someone, he was touched and moved by compassion.
The Ten Commandments summarise the kind of relationships believers should have with God Almighty – love him and love others. He puts us on the same plane with him. Our Lord Jesus compressed the Ten Commandments into two. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37)
Not until we realise that we are in transit in this world and that our faith in God through Christ should be marked by good deeds, we risk not finding our names in the Lamb’s book of life where all those who qualify have their names written. In God’s kingdom others come first and ourselves last. It is futile wanting to make a name for ourselves on this planet, when our love for humanity can give us a ticket to eternity.
Self has to die. Kill and bury that which is standing in the way of the demonstration of your love for your fellow men and women.