Last weekend we celebrated my wife's birthday. More emphasis than usual was placed on this event due to it being one of those milestones in which she turned an age which ends in zero.
Although she has not been shy about acknowledging how old she is, I think it would be wise for me to leave it up to her to share that news rather than to state it here for widespread publication.
My wife received some nice gifts and cards for the occasion, but of course some of us had to give her a hard time about the situation too. One person at our church brought her a bouquet in a vase. From a distance it appeared to be an arrangement of greenery with dark flowers, or what my wife first thought were dead roses.
But upon close examination one could see that the objects at the end of the stems were not flowers at all, dead or alive. They were prunes which had been affixed to those stems. My wife was jokingly told by her benefactor that she might need the "help" those prunes can provide for people her age.
You should have seen the puzzled expressions on the faces of our young grandchildren as they examined that gift. They realized how odd and unnatural it was to see those shriveled prunes where they would normally expect to see beautiful flowers.
It reminds me of some ridiculous pictures put forth in the Bible in order to illustrate a certain truth. In Matthew 7:16 Jesus asked, "Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?" A similar question is raised in James 3:12 -- "Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?"
The obvious answer to both of those questions is "no". You don't find olives on fig trees, and neither do you see figs growing on grapevines or thistles. And you don't normally see prunes stuck on the end of flower stems.
The truth being conveyed is that we can know a tree by its fruit. Jesus was saying that we can recognize false prophets by their deeds and doctrine. James was suggesting that people's words, or the fruit of their mouths, reveals what they really are in their hearts and character.
There are times when we find ourselves puzzled and disappointed at the fruit being borne in the lives of people or the fruit coming out of their mouths. It doesn't fit with what we thought that person was or with what they professed to be as a follower of Christ.
Granted, we are all susceptible to occasional stumbling in our actions and to allowing some hurtful or corrupt words burst from our lips on the spur of the moment. But if we witness that kind of fruit consistently in someone's life, the Bible suggests it is an indication of what that person is truly like on the inside.
What should really disturb us is if we see such fruit frequently coming out in our own lives. If so, we should take it as an indication that something isn't right with our tree.
Jesus doesn't just want to forgive us for yielding bad fruit -- He wants to change us to make us into a tree that bears godly fruit, such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Lord doesn't intend for us to be prune bouquets. Let's be trees bearing good fruit to the glory of God.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.