“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23)
I grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere Louisiana called Pine Grove. The town got its name for obvious reasons. Much of the publicly available land was owned by the local paper mill. The home I grew up in was surrounded by a forest of pine trees, great oaks, sweet gums, black walnut, dogwoods. All of these trees bore some kind of fruit: pine cones, sweet gum balls, acorns, black shelled walnuts, dogwood pods. Pine cones were sharp and woody. Acorns were left for the squirrels. Sweet gum balls and black walnuts were better used as propellants to hit my brothers in the shins.
I remember when growing up, my parents planted a couple of plum trees and and a peach tree that may have produce a couple of fruit here and there over the years, but we didn’t really take proper care of them and they eventually died.
My grandmother and my brothers and I would often spend the summers picking up fallen pecans in 5 gallon buckets from beneath the row of pecan trees that were in the field surrounding her home. We would then spend the next few days and weekends shelling those pecans and filling her freezer. She would then use those pecans in baking pecan pies and her famous chocolate pecan sheet cake.
We also would go over to a friend’s home and pick some mayhaw fruit that she would process into the most amazing jelly – subtle flavor, but sweet and delicious. To this day, that jelly is my favorite, but living in Texas I rarely see it anywhere.
While most trees bear some sort of fruit for the sake of reproduction into other trees of their kind, not all fruit produced by those trees are fit for consumption. That begs the question, if you were a tree, what kind of fruit would you bear? What kind of “trees” do you surround yourself with? Whatever fruit you produce is always going to be designed to reproduce in others around you. Whatever fruit you consume from the “trees” surrounding you, will reproduce within you soon enough.
Do you produce edible fruit in your life – fruit worthy of consumption? Or do you produce poisonous fruit that leads to death? Do you produce succulent fruit but leave it languishing on the branches, not pruning the tree until it eventually withers and dies from neglect? Or do you produce fruit that is transformative and sweet to the taste, reproducing into other trees that also bear good fruit?
The fruit you bear not only indicates what kind of tree you are, but also what kind of seed you spread. If you cross-pollinate with trees that are not compatible with your fruit, then it will produce fruit that is not edible. If you surround yourself with incompatible trees, you will find yourself not producing much fruit at all until you wither away. But if you bear good fruit, take care of the tree from which that fruit grows; then it will produce a reproducible harvest in the appropriate time.
The fruit of sin has a natural consequence of poisoning the relationships around you and destroying yourself in the process. Sin leads to death. It’s inevitable. But the fruit of righteousness “leads to sanctification, and its end, eternal life” – a life that is sweet and characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
So again, I ask you, what kind of fruit are you producing in your life? Is it worth reproducing? What kind of “trees” are you surrounding yourself with on a consistent basis? Is their fruit worth consuming into your life? I encourage you, be intentional about the relationships you build. Such cross-pollination can enrich the fruit you produce, or it can corrupt and choke it out. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)