August 27, 2013
The debate rages: is it quality, or quantity? What’s the objective?
If you live in the “developing world” (our euphemism for billions whose needs are great, and whose supplies are minimal), quantity is the hands-down winner. If you live on one meal a day, anything that fills your stomach and satisfies your hunger pangs is welcomed. If you reside in one of the Top-10 zip codes in America, waiting weeks for a reservation in a 5-Star restaurant featuring a famous chef is the quality answer to “what’s for dinner?”
Food is a pretty effective metaphor; among 7+ billion people on the planet, it’s a great equalizer.
Bizarre foods or Whole Foods: the details may vary, but protein/carbohydrate/fat are the common denominators of human existence. If you want to make a point, paint the conceptuals with imagery from consumables.
It’s not surprising to see how often Jesus uses a food term to paint a spiritual picture: “ This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you,”(John 15:8, 16).
That’s a pretty powerful pronouncement, at the center of what’s often called the Upper Room Discourse. Two TED Talks – the modern conference phenom featuring speakers who make power points without PowerPoint, in less than 18 minutes – are archived in the Gospels: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Upper Room Discourse (John 15:13-16). In both of these banquets of eternal truth, fruit is on the menu.
A little agricultural common sense for people who – for the most part – are far from the farm: the only reason you have a pear tree is for the pears. Decorative gardens don’t feature banzai Bartletts; they are planted for the purpose of producing fruit. Farmers nurture orchards for something other than reducing carbon footprints: they’re looking to put 53 pounds of fruit in a bushel and go to market.
Paul used the fruit term as well, writing to his friends in the church in Galatia. He referred to the character qualities cultivated by God in the believer as the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Why take five minutes out of your busy day to play word games? What am I trying to get you to think differently about? What’s the bottom line?
You’ll say – or, hear – that today, undoubtedly. In a work week jammed with activity and chatter, you’ll probably need to cut to the chase and make your time count. That’s what Jesus did…
Bottom line: you’ve got a life; it’s one per customer. One time on the Earth track, and then you’re done. Once you’ve come on the team – through your redemptive surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ – you’re given a jersey, and a place on the field. It’s the final contest; how do you score?
Fruit. Produce fruit: fruit that will last. Fruit that will glorify God. It’s why He chose you. It’s what He appointed you to do. It’s the bottom line of life. Fruit.
Quality fruit, or quantity fruit?
The Fruit of the Spirit is all about quality (Galatians 5); you’re the tree, and the Spirit produces character in you that makes your productivity – as a tree – world-class. Who gets the credit for the cultivation of love/joy/peace in the life of the Christian? God does…
The Fruit of the Spiritual is all about quantity (Matthew 13:23). The believer who has been transformed by God is now appointed to bear fruit. In God’s orchard, that’s measured in people. “Go… make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19). Who gets the credit for the production of disciples? You do…
Bottom line: God does the quality, in us; we do the quantity, in others.
How’s it going in your part of the orchard?