None of us really enjoy chores. There were many that I didn’t enjoy growing up that were very specific to me; one of those was mowing the yard. Since my grandfather had shown me how to take care of the grass at the age of eight, I was the one in charge of making sure it was cut every week. Now to be fair, I did prefer this chore over folding laundry or vacuuming (and I still do), but on our four-acre property growing up, it was a whole-day ordeal to finish. However, although I didn’t necessarily like it, and some days I protested (like all kids do), I made sure the yard was cut so that bugs and rodents were kept away from the house.
In Matthew 21, we find two sons who were supposed to go out and take care of their family vineyard. The first protested, but later regretted it and did as his father said. The second son initially said that he would go out, but wound up avoiding his chores. Jesus tells us in this story that the one who, at first, grumbled and complained about it, but still followed through, was the one who “did the father’s will”. This may seem obvious to us, but that’s the point Jesus is making; talk is cheap. Very few things are as disappointing as when someone doesn’t follow through on what they say.
This is true of our lives as Christians; we need to “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk”. The book of James tells us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). If we are not willing to do something with what we believe, it is useless. We can say that we “believe in God”, or even that we are a “Christian”, but unless that translates into action, we are only fooling ourselves. Jesus says that those who will inherit God’s Kingdom are those who “produce the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43). Does your faith stir you and make you move? Or are you just all talk?
The Christian life isn’t always exciting and can seem boring at times; there are weeks where we don’t want to go to church or read our Bibles yet again. But just like cutting the grass, unless we are willing to go out and put the work in, even if we don’t “want to”, it will get out of control. Our lives need constant, consistent maintenance, just like a garden or a lawn. Every week is not going to be exciting, but it’s still necessary; fight past your initial protest and do what you’re supposed to do anyway. It will be better for you in the long run.
Which of the two sons are you more often like? In what area(s), do you need more “walk the walk” (perhaps even without protesting first) in order to do the will of the Father?
What is the danger in not producing fruit? What fruit does God want to see you producing now?
What do we learn about God from the teachings of His Son? What does God want us to learn about His Son?
What would you do if you knew you would die in less than a week? Is there anywhere you would want to go? What changes would you make in your schedule and priorities? Less TV, pinterest or social media? More meaningful interactions with those who mean the most to you? Would your tone change? Would you give more hugs? Are there any difficult conversations you wouldn’t put off any longer? If there was anything you could do to prolong your life would you do it?
Jesus was in a very unique situation as he was coming into Jerusalem in Matthew 21. He knew he was quickly approaching both the time and place for his agonizing death by crucifixion. Many would run in the other direction. Maybe if he laid low and avoided Jerusalem longer the chief priests and leaders of the law would forget about him and find some other religious teacher to get mad at and crucify. Think of how many more people he could heal and teach if he could stay away from them just another month? Wouldn’t it be worth it?
But, Jesus didn’t hide or try to dodge the bullet. If anything he boldly intensified his work and purpose. Previously he had mostly stuck to the smaller towns and villages rather than camping out in Jerusalem – the holy city of all Jews. Often he had told those he healed to be quiet about it. He was never trying to draw a crowd – but the crowds still had a way of finding him anyways. Now, as he made preparations to enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy) he knew the crowds couldn’t be held back any longer. On this day they would shower Jesus with shouts of praise, but in a few days they will cry out for crucifixion.
We don’t know the day or hour or location of our death. We also don’t know how long the tomb will hold us. But, like Jesus – and because of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s promise to send Him to earth again – we can be sure of a resurrection to come. How will that impact the intensity of your ministry today – how you spend your time, what conversations you have, what passion you have for the Father’s work and will?
May we not be like the fig tree that had life but failed to bear fruit for Him.
May we not be like the son who said he would do the Father’s work – but then didn’t.
After Jesus had cleared the Temple of the merchants who were selling things in his Father’s house, Jesus approached a fig tree because he was hungry. Unfortunately for Jesus, the fig tree didn’t have any figs on it. At that moment, Jesus spoke to the tree and it completely withered up. His disciples were amazed by this, and were confused why this had happened. I understand the disciples’ confusion because it took me a long time to figure out why this story was in the Bible. What in the world is this talking about? Why would Jesus choose to wither a tree?
After much study, I found that this was a parable of Jesus, although one that was lived out. God’s people that were doing terrible things in God’s Temple were the same as this fig tree; they were not producing any fruit. Because the tree didn’t produce any fruit, Jesus rejected it and allowed it to crumble. The message could not be more clear: if God’s people aren’t producing good fruit, they will crumble and wither.
Jesus talked about “bearing good fruit” many different times, but I want to discuss just two. In John 15, Jesus said that we cannot bear fruit without living in communion with him. You cannot produce anything of substance if Jesus isn’t part of your daily life. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit without being attached to the trunk, we cannot produce anything if we are not constantly attached to Jesus.
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus says that we will know people by the fruit that they produce, whether good or bad. If we see an apple on a tree, we know that it is an apple tree; if we see a pear, we know that it is a pear tree. In the same way, if we see good fruit being produced, we know that person comes from Jesus. On the other hand, if bad fruit is being produced, we know that that person is from somewhere else.
So the question for you today is this: “What are you producing?”
Are you producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), or are you producing the same thing as all the sinners in this world? If you aren’t producing good fruit, it is time to reconnect with the Lord of your life, Jesus Christ. We cannot do it without him.