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Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit

Many if not most of those who know my wife and I, are aware that we moved to Northwest Louisiana in October of 2022.  In August of 2023 we were able, through God’s and the brethren in Bossier City’s generosity, to buy a home.  It’s a lovely place that was previously owned by a feisty but precious elderly widow who loved flowers.  So, there are huge raised beds everywhere, and tons of perennials that fill them.  There are also lots of annuals that came with specific “instructions” from her about how to harvest the seeds (last Fall) and plant them (this Spring).  She sold her beloved home and “garden” to us primarily because she had become too ill and infirmed to keep up with it.  Though nowhere stated in the documentation of sale, we understood and felt an obligation as the new owners to do the best we could to get things back in order and maintain her legacy as the “flower lady” of the neighborhood!   So, we’ve done the best we could to reclaim the former glory of the place since acquiring it. But all the cutting, trimming, weeding, tilling, and planting have also provided much thinking time, since such activities require a lot of “sweat equity,” but not much brainpower.  Therefore…

Some plants are propagated and maintained for their foliageWhether it's their unique shape, color, patterns, or abundance, the leaves themselves are the attraction.  But for other flora, obviously the flowers, or blooms, are the objective.  Their brilliant tints and subtle hues, intricate shapes, and seemingly endless abundance provide great pleasure and a sense of accomplishment to their propagators, especially when the particular plant is difficult to grow and/or maintain. Still others, while possessing at least a partial interest in foliage and flowers, do so primarily because the foliage and flowers are necessary precursors to the plant’s fruit.  Although they enjoy noting and observing the species’ maturation from foliage to flowers, those pale in comparison to its productivityIf fruit is not born, their efforts are considered by them to have been wasted.  (As a side note, the previous owner also cultivated a Peach, Pear, Plum, Pecan, and Apricot trees, though the Apricot didn’t survive last year’s dry period. My wife quipped that it just quit because it felt like an outsider since its name didn’t start with “P”!)  So, some plants are cultivated for their foliage, some for their flowers, and still others for their fruit.  Now…

If you’ve read this far, thank-you for your dedication and patience-  hopefully I can reward them.  Think carefully about the desires and objectives that folks have for plants regarding their foliage, flowers, or fruit as such relates to us as Christians.  After all, we are “born… of seed…the living and abiding word of God,” 1Pet.1:23; and, we were/are “planted” and “watered” that we might “grow” into God’s “field” (or “cultivated land” as per the marginal reading), 1Cor.3:6-9.  As such, we have:

  • Foliage- the “green leaves” that must absorb “light” for the plant to survive and thrive.  Jesus is “the light of the world” and following Him (some botanicals turn and follow the light) provides “the light of life,” John 8:12.  Without the “light” absorbed by and through the foliage, the plant will die.  This is also true of spiritual “plants.”  But in spiritual horticulture, is “foliage” the objective of our cultivation… just to absorb light and thus allow the plant to live, or is there more that is desired by our Cultivator?  Many Christians are content with foliage and just being, at least in their minds, spiritually “alive.”  Is God equally pleased?
  • Flowers- the “showy part” of the plant.  Though botanically, most flowers play an active role in reproduction, gardeners typically plant and cultivate “flowering plants” specifically for the beauty, transient as it is, of their blooms. But spiritually speaking, “flowers” are the part of ourselves we most often like to display.  After all, though “roots”- botanically and spiritually, are necessary and foundational to everything else (cf. Matt.13:20-21), they aren’t very attractive.  Ah but “flowers” are the glory of the plant as they not only attract desired attention, but also distract it away from less admirable parts of the “plant.”  Such should remind us of the Pharisaical affinity “to be seen” and admired by others, cf. Matt.6:1-2,5,16; 23:5-7.  By Jesus’ condemnation of such motivations and desires, it is obvious that such spiritual “flowers” were neither His nor His Father’s purpose in planting, watering, and growing spiritual plants, Matt.15:12-13!  Instead, the divine prerogative was spiritual
  • Fruit!  We plant and cultivate herbs, vegetables, and trees usually for a very simple reason:  we want to be able to eat and enjoy their fruit!   And while there is no doubt that God is also pleased with and enjoys the “fruit” of His spiritual field (cf. 2Cor.2:14; Eph.5:2,10), He desires… no, “demands” it of His “plants” for other reasons also.  Such as: He identifies by “fruit” rather than mere foliage or flowers, Matt.7:16,20;  He measures by “fruit” rather than foliage or flowers, Matt.13:23; 21:34;  and He ultimately judges by “fruit” rather than foliage or flowers, Luke 13:6-9

Now, what’s the point of all this?  Don’t delude yourself about what pleases God.  It isn’t spiritual “foliage” or “flowers” that He desires/demands from us in His field/vineyard, it’s fruit!  Likewise and very much related, neither should we deceive ourselves about what God means by “fruit.”  Yes, of course, our obedient works are included, as per Matt.7:20ff and Gal.5:22ff.  But God also uses “fruit” to refer to its reproductive potential. You see “fruit” (botanically and spiritually) contains “seed,” and therefore in it resides the ability, and in this case, the expectation of the reproduction of additional plants.  Note, “And the things you have heard from me” Paul wrote to Timothy, “these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” 2Tim.2:2.  Consider also Jesus’ plain words to His disciples in John 15:2, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.”  Surely spiritual reproduction is at least part of if not His point!  Think about it: A plant germinates from a seed; each year it grows, matures, flowers, and then produces fruit; and in that fruit, seed that reproduces several if not hundreds of new plants! 

So why are so many churches shrinking and dying instead of growing and thriving?  Aren’t we living plants rather than dead ones?  Perhaps they’re just spiritually immature and need to grow some to become reproductive (be careful: there is no such thing as “perpetual spiritual infancy”- if we don’t grow, we die spiritually too!).  Then too or instead, perhaps they’re full of “hybrid” plants- you know, those that only grow by being “grafted on” to another plant?  Or maybe they’re full of plants that are “fruitless”- having mistakenly thought “foliage” or “flowers” were “good enough” substitutes for “fruit,” or even that were unaware fruit-bearing productivity was expected. Or to put slight twist on the metaphor, perhaps they’re full of members who have contented themselves with just eating the seed rather than sowing/planting it.  Whatever the cause(s), know and remember this: “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11), but the “fruit” each plant of God bears is supposed to reproduce and multiply the seed for sowing.  If our congregations are full of mere hybrid plants, or contain too many non-fruit-bearing varieties, or never mature spiritually enough to reproduce, or content themselves with just eating the seed rather than sowing it, they will either die of themselves, or the Lord will, according to His promise, “cut and burn” them.  Think about it, won’t you- your and potentially hundreds of others’ eternity is at stake.

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