Feelings, fair, or Fruit?
”The kingdom of God will be taken from you & given to those who will produce its fruit”. (Matthew 21:43)
To Jesus finding fruit was more important than being fair.
To the Pharisees who heard Jesus speaking, they knew He was talking about them.
And in order to fully appreciate this statement, you have to read what leads up to it.
The chief priests, elders, and pharisees had approached Jesus to ask Him about His authority to do what He did and say what He said. Jesus gave them the kind of non-answer-question-answer He was famous for…and then He started to ask them a couple of HIs own questions:
1. A father asked his two sons to work in his vineyard. One son said no, but changed his mind (repented) and went to work; the other son said yes, but didn’t really lift a finger towards a harvest of fruit. Which son did what his father asked?
2. A landowner planted a vineyard and did all the work to prepare it for great fruit. Then he handed temporary stewardship of that land to some farmers and trusted them to take care of it. At harvest, he sent for the fruit. The farmer-stewards wouldn’t respond; in fact they killed everyone the landowner sent, including his son. What will that man do when he comes and sees those who so dishonored his trust?
In both cases the answer was crystal clear to everyone. In the first instance, the son who declined his fathers request but who changed his mind and went to work anyways was the one who actually did what was asked. And in the second instance, even the elders admitted that the landowner would “bring those wretches to a wretched end, and rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
And Jesus essentially said, “you’re absolutely right, and really this story is about you; in fact, prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom ahead of you religious leaders who have worked your whole life talking a good God-talk, but are not producing fruit God can collect.”
That sure didn’t seem fair to them. Prostitutes—even worse, tax collectors—entering the Kingdom ahead of those with religious authority?
You know what else doesn’t seem fair? Right before this little interaction, Jesus curses a fig tree for not having any ripe fruit “because it was not the season for figs” (Matthew 20 & Mark 11:13). What’s up with that?
From afar, the tree was in leaf and looked like it should have fruit. It looked good on the outside, but there was nothing there. The Pharisees and leaders had this same problem: They had their “act” together but there was no real fruit.
There are a number of lessons we could uncover in these stories, but my point here is this: Jesus often did and said things that simply were not fair (read Matthew 20:1-16 for an epic example). In fact, as I read the Scripture, I’m pretty convinced that Jesus never really cared about being fair. He concerned Himself with being just, but fair is apparently not in God’s vocabulary.
God is looking for fruit; He is looking for return on investment; He is looking for really good, accountable and measurable stewardship. And it seems like if someone is producing fruit, He is perfectly willing to take someone else’s little fruit and give it to the one who has a whole lot of it. That’s hard for me to accept as a human who grew up in a “fair” culture, but I didn’t make this up, it’s all over the Bible (see for example Matthew 25:14-30).
Of course, if something is taken away from me, my feelings might get hurt. But that brings me to another point: God doesn’t seem to be much concerned with my feelings, either. And if He is the same God we find in the Bible, I am certain that our feelings are not His top priority.
You see, God loves you and me very much. I have no doubt about that. But He loves other people just as much, too. His love for us is never at the expense of His love for others. If we are part of His family, but are not very fruitful, He will not disown us or reject us. But Scripture makes it abundantly clear that He is concerned with people finding the wholeness and purpose for which He created them. If we are not producing fruit, we become Pharisees who could talk a good God-talk, but who weren’t helping anyone discover God’s purpose in their lives. They were not being good stewards of God’s trust.
If I ever stop producing fruit, I pray that God cuts off the branches in me or my ministry that are keeping fruit from happening (John 15) so that I can thrive and so the people God calls me to lead can thrive as well. Because the bottom line for Kingdom leadership is that God assigns us not for our sake, but for the sake of His people and for the community we serve, so that the plentiful harvest can be gathered.