Stop Trying to Bear Good Fruit!

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.

handswgoodfruit450In 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:

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  1. Thank you for this post. I will be sharing this with our area children’s and CE workers. Understanding that our growth in Christ is from Christ and not our efforts any more than our faith is an act on our part is a message often lacking, especially in our work with children. Too often the default is the train up a child using guilt and even churches whose theology nails this for adults, find themselves training children in moralism rather than forming a trust in Christ in them.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! Glad it was encouraging! You are so right that too often we are telling kids to “work on being good” instead of working on allowing God to change them! I’ve actually been able to lead a kid to Christ out of a discipline situation because I go to the Fruit of the Spirit, but also read the Fruit of the Flesh (you never see a kids church unit on that!) and say, have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior? If not, no wonder you are behaving this way – you don’t have God’s help!

  3. This is so true and I agree with Dave’s comment. I have several school teachers in our department and they are awesome, however they tend to default to “behavior modification” for classroom control but the real goal is heart change and we cannot do that with any rules, rewards or coercion. Only the Holy Spirit can do it! Karl, you are my cyber mentor and I appreciate all you do. :)

  4. Cyber Mentor! Wow, thanks for the encouragement!

  5. I totally agree. To often curricula are trying to teach character instead of the risen Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

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