You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles (Matthew 7:16, NLT)?
In the produce department of the grocery store the other day, I saw an elderly woman inspecting a cantaloupe, trying to decide which one to buy. She rolls the cantaloupe around in her palms in a circular motion, as if she was looking for the three holes of a bowling ball. She does more inspecting of this cantaloupe in ten seconds than I have done with a cantaloupe in a lifetime. She holds it to the light and checks it even more carefully. She pokes it, prods it, and examines every bump and crevice. As if her life depended on it, she checked for firmness yet again before she finally makes her decision. Not wanting to seem I was not an equipped “inspector-o’-cantaloupe” myself, I stood alongside the mystery shopper. I picked up what I thought was a very good cantaloupe prospect. I pretend to do the same kind of careful inspecting as she. “There must be a good reason for all of this due diligence,” I thought. Therefore, I follow the woman’s routine, (without a clue regarding what I was supposed to be inspecting).
Quite unexpectedly I hear, “I just felt that one (pointing to the cantaloupe in my cart)….it’s too hard…you won’t be able to eat it for a week”. “Oh,” I respond. “Yes, you are right” (silly me). I gingerly put mine back on the pile of cantaloupes, praying the pyramid will stay intact and my placement won’t be the catalyst causing a cantaloupe avalanche. (That is all I needed… fruit rolling all over the floor calling for a possible “clean up in produce” to be announced over the loud speaker). Right when I thought our fruit conversation was over, the woman handed a cantaloupe to me and said, “here…try this one…It looks and feels a lot better”. I took her for her word. She smiled as if she just presented me with the prize-winning-blue-ribbon cantaloupe from the state fair. To me it looked and felt the same as the other cantaloupe I had just put back on display. To her it was the “perfect cantaloupe.” I thanked her kindly and went on my way with my Grade “A” stamped cantaloupe (thoroughly inspected, elderly woman approved). What Martha Stewart brings to home improvements, this prudent woman brought to fruit inspecting!
In Christianity, good fruit is the product which comes from living a good Christian life. If there is bad fruit in your life, it is from living a life less favorable. A good fruit inspector knows his/her fruit. He/she knows to dispose of quickly the bad fruit so it does not “infect” the good fruit. She knows how to care for the valuable fruit so even more fruit can grow.
What if we were as prudent as the woman was in the story regarding scrutinizing the fruit in our lives? Sometimes we are better at inspecting others’ fruit. Are we not?
It is important to note, there is a difference in judging and “inspecting”. In Luke 6:37 he specifically says, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you”. I’ve heard it said, however, it is important to be a good fruit inspector.” To be a good fruit inspector, I believe it is mandatory to start with yourself first. If you do not start with yourself, we run the risk of being overly critical or condescending of others. The only healthy comparison is weighing our actions and behaviors against God’s standard, not against your neighbor. Are we living up to His model of living?
The Bible says we will know others “by their fruit” (Matt 7:16). God also refers to the “Fruits of the Spirit…”Love”, “joy”, “peace”, “patience”, “longsuffering”, “gentleness”, “goodness”, “faith”, and “self-control” (See Gal 5:22-23). You may look at this list and think of all the times you have not adequately displayed these characteristics. (Or, you may be like me and realize the ones you are not displaying today!)
I do not think God expects us to have all of these qualities every second of the day. There are times we are going to lose our self-control, or not have peace in our hearts. However, we need to examine our hearts daily, introspectively gauging which trait(s) are missing. Is one of these characteristics out of order in our life, causing an imbalance? We know the effects when one of these areas is missing. We also know the difference in our lives when one of these qualities is present. What a difference! Inspection of our fruit is key if we are to live fruit-filled lives!
Four Tips to Inspecting your Fruit:
Time for Fresh Fruit:
One way to inspect our fruit is to compare ourselves, not against a standard of others, but against time. Ask yourself this challenging question, “Am I where I was spiritually a year ago? Am I still working on the same fruit I was working on a year ago with no progress? If your answer is “yes,” you may want to go back and see why there has been stagnant growth.
Nothing is worse than reaching down into your refrigerator and realizing you forgot to dispose of the peaches you bought two weeks ago. You have a soggy, degrading mess on your hands! What is causing your fruit to rot? Are you spending time in God’s word? Are you challenging yourself daily to inspect the fruit you have and see if you need to weed out the old fruit and start fresh? Decaying fruit will only produce more decaying fruit…it is useless, lifeless and plain….Gross! Perhaps you are not where you were a year ago and have a plethora of fruit. Praise God! Thank Him for the great produce and strive to work towards more peace, more longsuffering, more self-control. If you are meeting the standard, go beyond to make sure it’s the best (like the woman in the produce department)! We as Christians should be moving continually forward. If you are taking steps back, inspect your fruit again and see what needs changing in order to move forward again. Fresh fruit is the best!
The Golden Calf….(I mean Fruit Basket)
The second way you can be a good fruit inspector is to ask yourself, “What am I doing in God’s name”? Am I serving in God’s name? If your intention is just to “show off your fruit basket”, this kind of selfish showmanship will get you nowhere. Make sure no matter what you are doing, you are doing it for the Lord. If you are the President of a bank, make sure you are fulfilling this position “as unto the Lord.” If you clean houses, “do it as unto the Lord.” If you are giving to the church, make sure your motives are right. Do not be like those depicted in the Book of Matthew who threw coins in the coffers loudly so others standing by could hear the loud clang. Be like the widow who dropped her two copper coins only worth a few cents (See Math 12:41-43). Her offering was valued much more in the eyes of the Lord. This kind of sacrificial giving is what the Lord requires. Humility will lead to a fruitful life! What you are trying to present to the Lord as an offering may be as ineffective and unsacrificial as the golden calf the Israelites made for themselves to worship in the Old Testament (See Exodus 32: 1-14).
A Banana is a Banana…Not a Pineapple:
Do not futilely compare your fruits to others. A banana will never taste like a pineapple and vice versa. Comparing will only lead to discouragement, negativity, and cynicism. Your fruitful life is going to look and feel different from someone else’s fruitful life. We compare ourselves to other in an unhealthy way too often…these comments usually start like “I wish I (fill in the blank) like her” If you wish you had someone elses’ fruit, this is not leading to a peaceful Fruit of the Spirit. Do not subject your fruit to brutal comparison. Bruised fruit is damaged fruit. You are heading towards your fruit being rotted. Dispose of this mess….today! A banana is a banana…not a pineapple.
Fruit Roll-Ups and Kellogg’s Froot Loops
A fruit roll up and Froot Loops, despite their name are nothing but imposters posing with a good name. Neither one has anything remotely to do with fruit. Its label will have on it, “artificial.” We do not want to be artificial in our Christianity. Be 100% real fruit, not from concentrate! Be authentic! No one will mistake you for being anything else but a Christian if you advertise as such— 100% authentic Christianity. Truth is we are all advertising something. In order for others to draw closer to Him, we need to be representing Christ consistently. Do not confuse representing Christ in your life with showing off your fruit basket. There is a difference in displaying your fruit and flaunting it. We all know what happens when we take a bite of that rotten apple. Showing it off is putting the bright lights on your fruit yourself and disregarding others contributions. Furthermore, your fruit should look the same displayed in a roadside market as it does in an upscale all-organic food store.
Keep the Fruit Flies Away!
There are people in your life who may not belong in a life living for Christ. These people are like annoying fruit flies that swarm around your kitchen and linger around your hanging fruit basket. They serve no purpose but they sure are hard to eliminate. Keep them away! Pesky-little fruit flies will ruin your fruit. One fly may seem harmless enough. However, whoever sees just one fruit fly on their bananas? Where one is, more follow. No one is attracted to fruit with fruit flies. Non-Christians are not attracted to a Christian lifestyle where they see no difference in what is swarming around your crowd compared to what is swarming around their own crowd. No one is perfect but inspecting your fruit daily will allow you to see if anything could possibly be destroying your fruit (I am speaking from experience!) Fruit flies are tiny but they have a huge impact! Call the exterminator immediately!
Fruits of the Spirit and other healthy fruits that come out of living an abundant life in Christ are worth the work! He knows the right qualities, which add joy and peace in our life. Thoroughly examine your fruit today. Hold your fruit up to the Light of Our Savior Jesus Christ and ask….Is this the quality YOU want in my life? If your fruit is less than perfect, ask Him to help you live a more plentiful, fruit-filled life.
He’s waiting to make the announcement….”Clean up in the produce department….aisle seven.”
“Often times, the world looks at Christians and they are quick to criticize the ways we fall short. That is not God’s fault. That is each Christian’s fault, for not cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in their own soul. As Christians we all have a responsibility to ensure that we are always growing in our Christian walk, and that we are walking ‘worthy of our calling,’ as Paul says.” —Lisa Bedrick, Jesus, God and Us