The island of Barbados is breathtakingly beautiful. My Barbadian friend, Endomo, a graphic artist who loves outdoor photography, recently sent me a picture of a tree he spotted on a road trip. Here’s the picture:
Do you recognize it? I couldn’t figure out what this tree was! Growing up in Jamaica I had never encountered anything that looked like this. Although both countries are located in the Caribbean, in some ways our flora and fauna are different. At first, I thought it was mango tree but these were the funniest looking mangoes I’d ever seen. How oddly shaped, I thought. Maybe a strange type of breadfruit?
I asked another Barbadian friend, if she knew what it was. She looked at the picture, made a face and shook her head. I asked Endomo and he was as clueless as I was. He asked another friend who finally provided the answer: a calabash tree.
Thinking about this tree made me realize that we don’t categorise fruit-trees based on their leaf-type, bark, trunk width, height, thickness of foliage, greenness or other characteristics, although these traits vary in trees. We give trees names based on the type of fruit they produce. A mango tree bears mangoes. We expect to find oranges on an orange tree. Apple trees don’t give us cherries.
It’s the same for Christians. If we don’t show any evidence of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians chapter 5 verses 22-23), are we really a Christian tree?
In warning people about false prophets, Jesus gave his audience a test to apply to distinguish the real from a fake. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7 verses 16-19:
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
I don’t know about you but that last part is pretty scary. I don’t want to end up like a tree bearing bad fruit. But answering the question of what type of tree you are requires you to be self-aware. Self-awareness is about being mindful and conscious of: what am I producing to the world? How am I being perceived (despite what I may think about how and what I’m doing)? Are there blind-spots I am not seeing but others see? What kind of feedback and response do they give me? You can call yourself an apple tree all you want but are people getting cherries?
As a potential guide to get you started, here are some questions to ask yourself based on an eye-opening message from Reverend Adrian Best, a Barbadian pastor at New Birth Apostolic Deliverance Ministries:
- Are you a “24 hour” Christian? Or are you a Christian only Sundays 11am- 2pm, or at Wednesday night Bible study and prayer meeting from 7-9pm? God doesn't give you power to move mountains if you're a part-time Christian. The devil doesn't take an off-day.
- Do your co-workers know you are a brother/sister/elder/leader in your church? Or would they be shocked to find out based on your behavior at work?
- Do your conversations at work mention Jesus?
- Do you love office gossip or do you encourage forgiveness, understanding, prayer?
- When is your family prayer time and worship time? Do you devote time to do this together? Assign bible reading? Time with God as a family helps overcome the devil's challenges to the marriage and helps the kids’ spiritual growth. Make God the centre of your household.
- Do you set the bar for your family members who are not believers? Do you “infect the house” with Jesus? Do they see you worship and pray? Does your Christian lifestyle say “this is who I am”? Do you set the example in your house? Do you speak to your parents, siblings and tell them that you love them with the love of Jesus and pray blessings on them? Do you give them an encouraging word from the Bible, read a couple chapters together, send them worship songs? Pray at dinner time?
- Do you consult God before your decisions? Including about: modest dress, what to do on your day-off from work? How to spend your money after bills paid, that is, who should I bless financially ? Do you ask “Lord, how would you have me spend this money?” Do you support/ buy products and services from Christian-owned businesses or do you opt for cheaper items from non-Christians to save money?
- Do you look at the world through spiritual eyes and not worldly ones? Can you discern the spirit- what people think about you sometimes before they even open their mouth?
- Do you follow the Holy Spirit’s lead?
The above questions are food for thought. Consider your fruit!
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. This year, she is committed to believing for bigger things. She was the 2017 Basil Sellers International Young Writers winner in the young writer program. The young writer program is coordinated by Press Service International (PSI) in conjunction with Christian Today with over 80 young writers from Australia, New Zealand and around the world.
Sharma Taylor previous articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html