I think a lot about fruit. I like fruit. It’s good for me. There’s a tremendous variety available. It usually even looks beautiful and has been the subject of thousands of still life paintings and drawings. I also think a lot about it because it is one of the most colorful and striking metaphors used in the New Testament to describe how we live, how we should live and how we shouldn’t live.
Jesus sets us off down this path of fruit-talk when he says, in Luke 6:43–45:
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
But he doesn’t give us much to go on here. He doesn’t describe the fruit or give us categories for good or bad fruit. Thankfully, Paul and the Holy Spirit pick the topic back up in Galatians chapter five. Paul gives us a whole bunch of concrete examples of good and bad fruit:
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
In the context of this letter, Paul ties the production of good and bad fruit to the presence or absence of the Holy Spirit in us. By implication and teaching he shows us that good life fruit cannot be manufactured, manipulated or made to grow by sheer effort. Instead, it is the ultimate organic — produced purely and exclusively by the work of the Holy Spirit in us as he tills the soil of our hearts, sows the seeds, waters them and prunes the resulting plants.
The fruit metaphor is not meant to be a helpful tool for us to identify who is good or bad, though it might lend some insights. Instead, it is an incredible window into our own hearts and a grace of the Spirit to help us evaluate at any given time, “am I bearing the good fruit Jesus desires of me?” And when we see the bad fruit growing in our lives, we can ask God to help.
As we examine our lives each day, may we be ever-mindful of our own fruit and desperate for the powerful, organic presence of the Holy Spirit to bear in us the good fruit He desires. We want this not just for ourselves, but to fulfill our calling s— that others may eat that fruit, enjoy it, be blessed by it and ultimately taste and see that the Lord is good.