But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
I was recently struck at just how fruitful the faithful in and through Jesus actually are, as is evident in the parable of the sower from which the above quote is taken. Bearing fruit is an important theme in scripture, picked up by Jesus in the gospel acounts and in the rest of the New Testament. It is God who gives the fruit, who actually makes the tree which bears fruit, or makes a tree fruitful. That is not something we can work up on our own. It is up to us to be faithful with what God gives us, but we can no more come up with what is good in and of ourselves, anymore than be born in the first place. That is none of our doing whatsoever. But what we are responsible for is the stewardship of the gift and fruit which God gives us.
I should venture to say what fruit is. Of course it’s all from God, but fruit is essentially good works which come from a good heart. It involves giftedness in terms of both the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12, etc.). And so it’s a matter of character, as well as what one does.
There may be seasons in one’s life which seem largely unfruitful. The fault may lie with us, even though fruit is given by God. We may fail to live and act according to the fruit given. Instead of living by grace and by the Spirit, we may be living as those under the law as if Christ has not come, and therefore by the flesh in an existence not dependent on the Spirit, but of this world, as if we don’t belong to Christ at all. But simply being “in Christ” makes all the difference in the world from God by the Spirit.
And notice too, God’s patience as evident in this parable of Jesus:
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
This is encouraging. Perhaps the fruit is slow in coming. As Father Michael Cupp told us yesterday, God does everything he can to make the tree, that is us, fruitful. It is up to us, then to bear that fruit. We can see something of that in the well known vine and branches passage of John 15. We have our part, even though the fruit that we bear is completely from God. By faith we have to venture forth both in terms of living a new life, and doing good works. And we do this not only as individuals, but as those living in community in Jesus, as part of the Jesus community, the church.
I often feel like I’m at a loss for anything at all. But I need to remind myself that it is God who gives what is good, and keeps on giving to us in and through Jesus by the Spirit. So that we as Christ’s body might live fruitful lives given to good works for God’s glory and for the good of others.