I was conducting a home Bible study in Bedford, Texas, in 1986. During our share time we would talk about things going on in our lives. On one occasion, one individual shared that they had a fruit tree in their back yard that they were considering cutting down. Having worked in orchards for several years, I asked him why he wanted to take such action. He said that he had done everything that he knew to do but for some reason it just wouldn’t produce any fruit. That tree is pictured above and was quite healthy. I knew immediately what the problem was and I proposed this proposition to him. If he would let me care for the tree for one year and do whatever I wanted to do to it that I would cut it down for him if it didn’t produce any fruit. He asked me what I would do differently and I said I would rather show him than to tell him, and he agreed.
This tree is a perfect parable of churches and Christians today. Here is a tree that has been given all that it could need or want by way of space, water, fertilizer, bug protection, etc. to be able to grow to maturity. The only thing was that the purpose of this tree was to produce fruit (peaches in this case) and it was doing everything but producing fruit. It would produce fine limbs and plenty of leaves but it didn’t do the one thing it was suppose to do and that was produce fruit.
I immediately thought of John 15:1-11 focusing in on verse 8 which says, “herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” We can get so busy doing the things that we think are important and forget about our real purpose in being here.
I waited for a three months before I did anything and when the leaves were almost gone I went over to work on the tree and took the picture below. Notice that there isn’t a dead limb in the tree. It seems that all the limbs are healthy and the tree is well shaped.
Appearances can be deceiving. A well trained eye will notice that the tree is doing what a tree does best. It produces limbs and leaves, which is its nature when left to itself. Even a fruit tree will miss its greatest opportunity without a caretaker. The one thing that had not happened to the tree is that it had not been pruned. There is a very important thing you need to know about producing fruit and that is that fruit only grows on new wood. This is the only place on a fruit tree that can produce fruit. Fruit never grows on last year’s wood. The purpose of fruit bearing was being blocked as all of the resources were being used up in limb and leaf production and there wasn’t any room in the tree’s agenda to produce fruit. Space for new wood was taken up in leaf production. You do not hurt the tree by pruning it, but rather you increase fruit production (v 2). We need to examine whether our primary objective is producing fruit or is it in our looking good or trying hard. Now for the harder question, “Are you willing for the Lord to prune you life as He sees fit?”
After a couple hours of pruning the tree looked like this. Actually, I would normally have removed more limbs than this but I didn’t want the tree to go into shock and die so I left more limbs than I normally would have. After this I went home and forgot about the tree. I didn’t change anything else on the tree or it’s care. About late August I got a knock at my front door and when I answered it, it was this same man from the Bible Study with three or four boxes of peaches. I asked him where he got them and he said, “all of these are from that tree that you pruned.” I started to protest that I didn’t want to take the harvest but he interrupted me as though he knew what I was going to say and he added, “This is just some of the fruit. In fact I have already given others fruit as well and we have had more fruit that we can use.”
I will close with what Jesus said to his disciples as he shared this lesson with them. John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
To contact the author, email Vernon Ball at email@example.com. Ball is available for pulpit supply and conferences.