One of the things I love about summertime is enjoying fresh, home-grown tomatoes. Growing up, my Granddaddy always had a garden and plenty of tomatoes for me. I have been known to fill a plate completely with freshly sliced tomatoes and eat every one. So, last year I planted my very own tomato plants and had great success. I was really looking forward to the same experience this year.
I don’t know what went wrong. I’m not sure if I bought a different type of plant, or planted it too late, but my tomato plants this year are doing nothing. Well, not nothing. They have given me a whopping total of TWO tomatoes, but that was about a month ago. Since then – nothing.
I told my husband the other day that I was just going to pull them all up and be done with them. His response was “Why? They’re not dying. They’re green and growing. Give them more time.”
They may be green, but they are not doing what I bought them to do. The whole purpose of their existence in my backyard was to provide me with delicious tomatoes all summer. If they’re not doing that, I don’t want them.
This conversation with my husband reminds me so much of the parable that Jesus told in Luke 13:6-9:
A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” And he answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”
A fig tree that does not produce figs is not fulfilling its purpose. A tomato plant that produces no tomatoes is not fulfilling it’s purpose.
We see throughout the Bible that a follower of Christ who is not bearing fruit for God is not fulfilling his purpose:
“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” Titus 3:14
“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:4
“so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10
It is not enough to look pretty and green. That is not our purpose.
Look how Jesus describes the thorny soil in the parable of the sower:
“The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” Luke 8:14
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the plants die. They become unfruitful.
Why is that? Because they let other things get in the way: worries, riches, and pleasures of this life.
This is where I’ll struggle. I personally fight this all the time. There have been plenty of times in my own life when I have been unfruitful for these very reasons.
I am so very thankful that God has been like the vineyard-keeper in Luke 6. He has fertilized and cared for me when I didn’t even know it. He wants me to be fruitful, and gave me the time to become so. He has been more patient with me than I deserve. He is more patient with ALL of us than we deserve.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Look, I know how I feel about my tomato plants, and I do NOT want God to feel that way about me. I would like to be described in the same way Jesus describes the good soil in the same parable of the sower:
“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Luke 8:15
God gives us all the chance to become that good soil. As long as you’re living, it’s not too late.
I guess I’ll give my tomato plants a little more time.