Barbara Walters once famously asked Katherine Hepburn, “what kind of tree are you,” in an interview. Hepburn decided she would want to be an oak. Many have found it an amusing question over the years. But, if someone were to be interviewing Christians, a fair question to ask might be, “what kind of fruit are you?” It is a question that the Bible prompts us to examine concerning ourselves.
Following the exile of some of the Jews to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah was shown a vision of fruit by the Lord: two baskets of figs placed before the Temple. Jeremiah writes, “One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten. And the LORD said to me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ I said, ‘Figs, the good figs very good, and the bad figs very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten. (Jeremiah 24:2-3; ESV)’” The good figs represented the exiles, whom God would save, and the bad figs represented the wicked who had been left behind, and who were destined for destruction.
There are those who are, in the eyes of God, rotten fruit. Sin has rotted them to the core, and they are detestable in the sight of God. Proverbs teaches that, “the way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 15:9a),” and likewise, “the thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 15:26a).”
When one finds rotting fruit in the cupboard, the only sensible thing to do is to throw it out. So it is with God, when He finds sin rotting His creation.
But the sacrifices of the righteous are called, by God, a pleasing aroma (cf. Genesis 8:21, etc.) and likewise, concerning those He saves, God says, “as a pleasing aroma, I will accept you (Ezekiel 20:41).” If the righteous are a fruit, they are, in the eyes of God, a very good fruit, highly pleasing.
There is, if we wanted to carry the analogy just a step further, another possibility for fruit, though it is perhaps simply a variation on bad fruit: fruit that is tasteless. Most who have eaten much fruit have likely run across this kind of specimen… fruit, that though it might appear pleasant on the outside, when bitten proves to be utterly devoid of any pleasant sweetness. There is no pleasure to be had in such a fruit, and some might be excused if, when they take a bite of a tasteless apple, they decide it is not worth eating.
Jesus said concerning the responsibility of His followers to have “flavor,” “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Matthew 5:13; ESV)” In a similar vein, He chided the church in Laodicea, saying, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:16; ESV).” Though neither verse is specifically about fruit, there is a similar theme, and we don’t have to speculate hard concerning what Jesus would say about flavorless fruit and His disciples.
All of this is to say, Jesus does not just want His followers to not be rotten, He specifically wants us to be good fruit, and not just good fruit, but very good fruit. He came, not just to cleanse us of our sins, though He certainly does offer forgiveness from the sins that make us rotten in the sight of God (cf. Acts 2:38, 5:31, 10:43, etc.), but to impart instruction to us concerning the matter of righteousness. His word is given to us in order to instruct us in righteousness (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16), and in His word the righteousness of God is revealed so that the righteous can live in faith (cf. Romans 1:17). God wants His people to have the flavor of righteousness, and He wants them to be overflowing with it.
In a similar way, God speaks to us of the Fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23), those aspects of righteousness which will fill the lives of the ones who are listening to God and obeying His commands. If one is unsure what sort of flavor God is looking for in His people, these characteristics are a great place to start.
Are we aiming to be Christians full of the fruit of the Spirit? Are we seeking to be salt with taste? If God looks at us will He liken us to a basket of very-good fruit? Or would He say that we are tasteless, flavorless and lukewarm in our service? Even worse, would He look at us and our sin-filled lives and say that we are rotten to the core? The question is not a frivolous one, for as God made clear to Jeremiah, the ones who were inedible were destined for destruction, and as Jesus taught, those without taste, are destined to be tossed out.
If you would like to learn more concerning that Word which instructs us in righteousness, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, please share them with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.