“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder of every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”James 3:13-18
Following Christ isn’t something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side. It is not a label we can display when it is useful. It must be central to everything we do. If life is a river, the pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.
– Francis Chan, Crazy Love
16“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”Luke 8:16-18
Jesus follows through on his teaching on the sower by elaborating on those who represent the fourth soil – those with a noble and good heart that hears the word, retains it, and, by persevering, produces a crop, one-hundred times what was sown.
In this continued teaching, he brings several concepts into play concerning the fruitful life. First, the purpose of fruit in our lives is to bring glory to God. It is visible evidence that sits as a light on a stand in a dark world. Our desire to please God comes from our embrace of God’s mercy towards us – we live lives that are marked by the power of grace we have been granted by God. Grace saves us; our works of obedience follow in gratitude towards God.
Our obedient loving deeds bring glory to our Father in heaven – “A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Actions typically cast a more powerful light than words alone. Wise words, combined with sacrificial action, are more powerful still.
Second, the concepts of momentum and multiplication are implied by the idea that the person growing in fruitfulness will become increasingly fruitful: “Whoever has will be given more.”
Again, the agricultural analogy – as a vine or tree grows, there are more limbs and branches, more blossoms and ultimately larger clusters of fruit. The fruit produce more seeds that fall to the ground and reproduce.
Jesus implies that in our trajectory of spiritual growth we are either going one way or the other.
While we don’t ascend to spiritual maturity in a straight line, each day that we hear the word, meditate on it, spend time in prayer, seek to obey Jesus and have fellowship builds on the previous days. With the Spirit working in us, we are more and more conformed to the image of Christ and increasing in potential for fruitfulness. Our hearts are reshaped and our minds are renewed. Let us be encouraged by this!
Conversely, each day that we waste caught up in our selfish motives, reaction, worry, consumption, approval-seeking, absorption in pleasures, etc. at the expense of seeking to follow Jesus is contributing to negative momentum. We are becoming more and more conditioned to live in a way that is disconnected from God and centered on ourselves. This gets “burned in” and becomes harder to break free from. In this case, we are increasingly at risk of being the third soil where there is choking by life’s worries, riches and pleasures.
Lord, convict us of all the things in our lives that are choking potential fruitfulness and fill us with your Spirit and power to overcome these temptations and, instead, seek you with all of our hearts each day.
“For guidance a nation fails, but many advisers make a victory sure. A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth. A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself. The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.”Proverbs 11:14, 18, 17, 19
“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’ Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord.”Psalm 31:19-24