The Bible uses a lot of natural imagery to explain to us our existence. We often hear about vines and branches, roots, and fruits. Even Isaiah has something to say about this, as the prophet reminds us that we were meant to grow roots downward and bear fruit upward (Isaiah 37).
On the surface, we already know this. This is how plants work. They put roots down into the soil and grow upward into the sky. If it grows under the surface, it's not a fruit; it's a vegetable. And the Bible never commands us to go forth and bear vegetable. So it only makes sense that our roots go down and our fruits go up.
But if we're being honest with ourselves, our practice is just the opposite. Most of us are trying to put roots upward and bear fruit underground.
Here's what I mean:
The things that are supposed to be roots in our lives - our spiritual practices, our faith, our disciplines - these are the things that we're living on full display. We read our Bibles in front of others, or we read them so that we can tell others that we do. We pray when we'll be noticed praying. We go to church so that we can say that we go to church. Our exterior is Christian, through and through, but these things aren't actually putting down any roots in our lives; they are just things a lot of us are doing for show. So that others can see that we are Christian. Because it seems the most important thing about being a Christian these days is making sure you get credit for it.
At the same time, whatever fruit we bear in our lives, we try to hide and tuck away for ourselves. Every good and beautiful thing, we want it to serve our own needs. We store away our money and protect our time. We take our blessings and swim in them privately. If it's good, it's ours, and we take it to make our own lives better, more comfortable, more eased. We hoard all the good in the world as though it's scarce and we're in famine, and we're taking our own fruit and using it to maximize our own living.
What ought to be anchoring our life is floating free and our fruit is rotting under our own roofs.
That's exactly what Isaiah was trying to warn against when he talks about this. That's exactly what he was trying to remind us of. Our faith is meant to ground us. It's meant to be lived out in the depths of our hearts, in the hidden places, in the places where it can set us firmly into something. A solid foundation. A good place to grow.
The good stuff in our life, our fruit, is meant to be shared. It's not for our comfort or ease; it's for blessing the world around us. We're afraid that if we give away our fruit, there won't be any of it left, but just the opposite is true - the more fruit that is consumed around us, the more seeds that are exposed. The more we share our blessings and our good things, the more good things and blessings there seem to be in the world.
We know that's true - we see it in our headlines and our social media feeds every day. One person does something for someone else and then it sets off a chain reaction of neighbors loving neighbors. We talk about these stories like they're rare, but the truth is these little things are happening every day, and they ought to be. That's what fruit is for.
But fruit doesn't come without roots. Which brings us right back to where we started and having that firm, solid foundation from which to grow fruit to begin with.
A lot of us have our lives backward, trying to show off our roots and hide our fruit, but the faithful life doesn't work like that. Actually, nothing works like that.
Roots grow downward; fruit grows up.
So get growin'.