This year has been a bumper crop for those of us with fruit trees in the Cowichan Valley, it seems like every second person offers me plums, pears, or apples.
We gave someone some of apples from our yard in a re-usable bag and the next day received our bag back full of pears, and another bag of grapes…bounty. Thanksgiving.
This while I have been re-reading Michael Pollan’s great book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and in it he asks the question, when did we get to the point that the only attribute of food we care about is price? Our top priority in buying everything from eggs, to carrots, to beef—it seems—is how much it costs. Nothing else in life is really approached this way. We do not seek out the cheapest doctors or cars or houses, but rather we carefully balance cost and integrity of purpose. A deal is only a deal if the item is any good. We have all learned the quality over quantity lesson at some point in life. Pollan makes a wonderful case for buying more local and being far more careful about what we are willing to put in our mouths—a lesson most of our mothers taught us when we were young.
I was thinking about all of this and I started to ponder the verses found in Matthew 7 that read,
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
I realize I might just be the product of my times but I have always read this as somehow relating to how many disciples a person raises up. Bad leaders will lose their places of authority, at least in part, because a leader without followers is just a person out for a walk. Like the fruitfulness is tied to quantity rather than quality. I know this isn’t entirely true and that I have many suspicions about the celebrity culture within Christianity. Yet, it occurs to me, and maybe I am really really late to this bit of reality, that fruits can be bitter or sweet, soft or hard, sour, mushy, bland…I have always known that budget and butts and terrible ways to evaluate a church community, though they are important and as stewards we need to pay attention to such things. Quantity matters but it sure isn’t everything.
How does one evaluate the fruit of a ministry or community or even a life? I wonder if using the adjectives of fruit might help us. Sort of how we at times evaluate ourselves based on the hot-cold-lukewarm language of revelation. What if sweetness is an attribute we seek to find in our community? What would that look like? Firmness might have to do with certainty of faith, though it could also be hardness of heart…softness could be a sort of tender compassion, but it might also be wishy-washy theology. The way one uses the terms is fairly negotiable and this may prove to unhelpful upon reflection but I wonder if paying attention to such adjectives might be helpful. I intend to try.
If you already do this please let me know your thoughts on it!