In our backyard is a fig tree that was here when we bought our house. The original homeowners brought the young fig tree here from New Jersey 20 years ago. When we moved in my family was delighted at the prospect of picking fruit out of our own tree. It’s a sprawling tree that the previous owners would cut back in late fall, and by summer it would grow back bigger than the previous year. We decided we wanted to continue picking and sharing the fruit of this tree. This summer, however, we’ve had personal setbacks that have barely left time to mow the grass, let alone pick the fruit on the tree.
As I was mowing the grass recently, I felt drawn to the fig tree, as if God were saying, “Stop a moment and look at the fruit.” Green pieces of fruit emerged and reddish-purplish ripe fruit burst from the branches. What caught my eye even more were shriveled pieces dangling between the leaves, new fruit, and ripe figs. What caused them to dry up while still hanging on the branch?
When fruit is not picked from the tree, it stays on the tree and completes its life cycle naturally, or gets plucked by animals. The ones still left on the branch after picking time shrivel up and attract insects. While swatting the flies, I moved closer to the still-growing and ready-to-pick fruit. After snapping a few pictures of the fruit in all its cycles, I picked all the ripe fruit and brought it inside to share with the family and possibly coworkers the next day.
Our fig tree is a reminder of what happens when there’s good fruit in our lives, and also what happens when our fruit is not shared with others. Sure, we need to eat some fruit for ourselves so we can be healthy. However, we are not meant to store all the fruit for ourselves. If we do, it becomes a clump of shriveled, rotten fruit, and that doesn’t benefit anyone.
So what is holding us back from sharing? Business? Apathy? Sickness? Something else? Or do we not recognize what season of life we’re in? We may not see fruit because we are in a winter season, but every season contributes to growth and fruitfulness. During the winter, the tree is persevering (extending deep roots), and it grows back even stronger in the spring and summer months.
Perhaps we haven’t even stepped on the back porch to notice the fruit in our lives.
Jesus said that we would know people by their fruits.
“You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.” Matthew 7:17-20
He was talking about how to recognize false prophets. We can discern them to be true or false because we see their fruit- whether good or bad. But how will we or others know about the good fruit God produces in us if we never share it? It will look like the figs in my backyard that beg to be shared with others so they don’t have to endure rotting on the branches. That tree didn’t ask to be ignored. God provided it to nourishment for our family and enough to share with neighbors and friends. I need to be more intentional about sharing.
What if your neighbor could use some fruit?
Go ahead. Stop the mower, walk over to the tree, and pick some fruit. Then walk over to your neighbor and offer some figs. They may turn you down, but you will have done your part to share the fruit. And don’t stop there. Continue to prune the tree and pick the fruit regularly. It will grow stronger every year as its roots grow deeper in the relationship with Jesus Christ. Share God’s love with others. Help your neighbor in a time of need. Be kind and patient when the grocery store line wraps into the cereal aisle. Exercise self-control when circumstances make you angry- don’t let the anger lead you to sin. Ephesians 4:26 Remain faithful even when others don’t. Allow God’s spirit to work good fruit in your life, and be intentional in sharing it.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22