For years one of my “pet peeves” theologically has been how much I hear kids being taught to “work on the Fruit of the Spirit.” There are countless kids church series that go through each fruit helping kids to work on them, one by one. I’ve even seen sermons to adults admonishing Christians to work on being more kind or gentle or self-controlled.
But there is a serious flaw in this approach!
Fruit produced by our effort, isn’t Fruit of the Spirit – it is fruit of the flesh, even if the end result is good.
Stick with me for a moment before you start yelling at me! I know the Bible says to produce good fruit – we should! But too often our approach is backwards.
In our church’s scripture reading plan, I find my self in the book of Matthew, and was struck with this truth again as I read the following passages:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit… Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16-18,20)
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit…. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (Matthew 12:33,35)
Do you see it? If we want to bear fruit – and we should – the key is not working on fruit, it is working on the tree!
When I teach this to kids I like to say, “An apple tree doesn’t say to itself, ‘OK, I need to produce apples. No more bananas! I repent of my grapes, I need APPLES this time!’ No! An apple tree just produces apples. A banana tree simply produces bananas.
Of course, James said this first!
My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? (James 3:12)
So, if we want to produce good fruit – we want to see people saved, lives transformed, ministry grow and those we serve growing in the walk with Christ – we need to stop trying to produce fruit and instead start working on the tree!
And we all know how to do that – we just must be dedicated to that pursuit!
If you want some help guiding kids toward producing fruit and growing closer to God, consider teaching one of these series:
- How to Grow Spiritual Fruit
- How to Walk in the Spirit
- How to Make Good Choices
- How to Use My Bible
- How to Meet with God
- How to Pray
- How to Love God
- How to Walk in Victory