Meditation: Why does Jesus set figs and grapes over
against thorns and brambles? The fig tree was the favorite of all trees
for the people of Palestine. It symbolized fertility, peace, and
prosperity. Grapes, likewise, produced wine, the symbol of joy. Thorns
and brambles were only good for burning as fuel for the fire. There's a
proverbial saying that you know a tree by its fruit. Likewise a person
will produce good or bad fruit depending on what is sown in the heart.
Charles Read said: "Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit
and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny."
Character, like fruit, doesn't grow overnight. It takes a lifetime.
A healthy and sound mind produces good fruit
Jesus connects soundness with good fruit. Something is sound when it is free from defect, decay, or disease and is healthy. Good fruit is the result of sound living - living according to moral truth and upright character. The prophet Isaiah warned against the dangers of falsehood: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20). The fruits of falsehood produce an easy religion which takes the iron out of religion, the cross out of Christianity, and any teaching which eliminates the hard sayings of Jesus, and which push the judgments of God into the background and makes us think lightly of sin.
How do we avoid falsehood and bad fruit in our lives? By being true
- true to God, his word, and the grace and help he gives us so we can
turn away from evil and wrongdoing. And that takes character! Those who
are true to God know that their strength lies not in themselves but in
God who supplies everything we need to live as his disciples. The Lord
strengthens us with the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit - with
faith, hope and love, justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance. And
we grow in godly character through exercising the gifts and strength
which God supplies. Do you want to bear good fruit in your daily life?
Allow the Holy Spirit to train you in godliness and the wisdom to
distinguish good fruit from bad fruit (1 Timothy 4:7-8, Hebrews 5:14).
What kind of foundation are you building your life?
Jesus told another story about the importance of building on the right foundation to reinforce his lesson about sound living. When Jesus told the story of the builders he likely had the following proverb in mind: When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm for ever (Proverbs 10:25). What's the significance of the story for us? The kind of foundation we build our lives upon will determine whether we can survive the storms that are sure to come. Builders usually lay their foundations when the weather and soil conditions are at their best. It takes foresight to know how a foundation will stand up against adverse conditions. Building a house on a flood plain, such as a dry river-bed, is a sure bet for disaster!
Our character is revealed in the choices we make
Jesus prefaced his story with a warning: We may fool other people with our speech and gestures, but God cannot be deceived. He sees the heart as it truly is - with its motives, intentions, desires, and choices (Psalm 139:2). There is only one way in which a person's sincerity can be proved, and that is by one's practice. Fine words can never replace good deeds. Our character is revealed in the choices we make, especially when we are tested. Do you cheat on an exam or on your income taxes, especially when it will cost you? Do you lie, or cover-up, when disclosing the truth will cause you injury or embarrassment? A true person is honest and reliable before God, themselves, and their neighbor. Their word can be counted on. What foundation is your life built upon?
"Lord Jesus, you are the sure foundation and source of life and strength for us. Give me wisdom and strength to live according to your truth and to reject every false way. May I be a doer of your word and not a hearer only."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/