By Their Fruit

Those who know Jesus are known "by their fruit." What fruit in your life reveals Jesus to others? Consider ... as Catherine McNiel directs our thoughts.


By Their Fruit

By Catherine McNiel

My family's arms overflow with tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini as we walk toward the kitchen from the garden. August is nothing if not overflowing with produce.

Months ago, we knelt in the dirt forming an assembly line: my husband dug the holes, I carefully patted in seeds and seedlings, my daughter came behind with a watering can. We planted over a hundred tiny plants that day, the future hope of many summer and autumn dinners.

At the caboose end of the assembly came my sons with pen and paper. Squinting at the names scrawled on our discarded packets, they drew a diagram of our garden beds and the placement of the plants. For some reason, it seemed very important to record what was going where. Here are the tiny cherry tomatoes and there are the deliciously plump heirlooms. Here are the zucchini and there are the peppers.

The next time I saw that piece of carefully transcribed paper was today, on this late August morning - long after hundreds of vegetables had already been harvested, eaten, and enjoyed; after quarts of tomato sauce had been stored away in the basement for a winter of steamy spaghetti and oven-baked pizza. At the bottom of a pile of papers in the back of a junk drawer lay my sons' scribbled contribution. Turning it around, I realized what it was - and laughed to myself.

The label on a plant is helpful - but only if it doesn't produce any obvious fruit. Only if it doesn't thrive long enough to develop the characteristics of its family. In which case, does the label even matter?

By the time we wanted to know what was what, none of us had any doubts. Of course the fruit with dark green stripes are the green zebra tomatoes. Of course the little ones are the cherry tomatoes. We would never demand that a plant bearing green peppers comply with our expectations for zucchini, simply because the paper said that's what we wanted to grow there. By the time we need to know one from the other, we can easily tell what fruit is what. If the label says otherwise, it was either a mistake from the beginning or something went wrong along the way. But it doesn't matter now.

My sons were not happy to discover that their hard work diagramming the garden was all for naught. But even they couldn't disagree that things had turned out just fine without the chart. The fruit was all the label we needed.

Genesis 2 describes the Creator as a gardener, planting the trees and stalks that would become food for his creatures. The incredible truth is that we - you and I - are part of the world he created, the fruit of generation upon generation. The Creator has been tending to us, his creatures, all along.

Then, two thousand years ago, Jesus's life was the seed that planted a new garden, a community, a Church. He invited us to stay grafted into him, the true vine that gives life. He taught us that a plant cannot produce both good fruit and bad - that our lives will tell the truth of who we are, and where our hearts reside. Jesus didn't pass out bumper stickers, plastic bracelets, or membership cards. He placed his Spirit into our lives and said "You'll know my plants by their fruit."

My late-summer garden convicts me: whatever labels I choose, it is the fruit that tells the truth. So, as my arms overflow with zucchini abundance, I kneel before the Creator and ask:

What fruit am I allowing your Spirit to cultivate in me?

Catherine McNiel is a writer and speaker who seeks to open eyes to God's creative, redemptive work in each day - while caring for three kids, two jobs, and one enormous garden. She's on the lookout for wisdom, beauty, and iced coffee. Catherine is the author of All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God's Presence in His Messy, Abundant World (NavPress 2019) and Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline (NavPress 2017) which was an ECPA finalist for New Author. Connect with Catherine at or Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

© Elisa Morgan 2020

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