Abundant Harvest from the Compost Pile
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a–NIV).
Paul didn’t write here, “The fruits of the Spirit…” but rather “The fruit…” Singular. But when counted, aren’t there nine?
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8… Yep, nine!
Why, I wonder, does Paul not say “fruits” of the Spirit?
The other day, we discovered three fruits in our compost pile–a zucchini and two squash. They were tucked into the green vines growing from the caged compost area where we toss egg shells, coffee grounds and miscellaneous other non-meat perishables. Evidently, seeds from past produce had sprouted, springing forth new fruit in this unlikely garden.
Later today, I’ll shred the zucchini and freeze the fruit for zucchini bread. I’m not honestly sure what I’ll do with the squash. (Any ideas? Please write them in COMMENTS at the end of this post!)
But this produce has left me pondering–marveling even–at the goodness of God to bring forth fruit from a trash heap. In my thinking, I’ve turned to Paul’s words to the church in Galatia–reading again his message to these believers.
This letter is a Back-to-Basics reminder, encouraging readers to remember in whom we have salvation and for what purpose Jesus came–that we might live in freedom from sin by faith, demonstrated in obedience. As we’re guided by the Holy Spirit while yet in a sinful world, we’re to grow and scatter seed that others, too, might believe.
If one reads the verses prior to Paul’s list of fruit produced by the Holy Spirit, it is obvious that he is referring to a trash heap of immortality–listing sexual sin, debauchery, idolatry, and witchcraft; hatred, jealousy, anger, envy, and selfish ambition, among others. (See Gal. 5:19-21.)
As he transitions into verse 22, however, he uses the conjunction “but” to deliberately show the difference the Holy Spirit makes in ones life–a life no longer guided by the immorality of the sinful nature but by the presence of Jesus who chose to come to the trash heap and dwell with sinners there (John 1:14a), leaving his Spirit with us when he returned to his Father (John 16:5-15).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is...” (v. 22a).
Without Jesus, my life in this world would be persuaded by and actively persuasive toward the trashiness (sinful circumstances) all around me, BUT with Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit…
Without Jesus, my flesh would prevail and my sinful self would, no doubt, be susceptible to all sorts of sad choices–breaking the heart of a loving God who calls us to something far better. BUT with Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit…
This world is not yet as it shall one day be, and sin breeds in a garbage bin–a far cry from what God ever intended when He created the perfect Garden. Still, we’re called and fully equipped to live according to the Spirit while in the compost pile, and the fruit of the Spirit is…
With Jesus’ Spirit as our Guide, we have the privilege of producing an abundant harvest while living in the trash heap–each of these a “fruit” of abiding in Jesus’ presence even while we wait for the day when our flesh won’t desire to feast on the filth that too often looks delicious.
The fruit of our faithful obedience to Him will surprise us sometimes–as it spills out and over and is discovered in the most unlikely places, perhaps by just the person who needs to be fed. Furthermore, the seed we’ve been given to scatter propagates more fruit, even when we’ve perhaps served ourselves selfishly for a season–depicting beautifully how the Gardener can work all things together for our good, as we love Him and are called out of sin and according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28).
So… why does Paul not say “fruits of the Spirit“? Honestly, I’m still not sure.
Perhaps because each “fruit” is directly produced from a life lived with God. Thus, it’s not so much about the plural produce but rather the singular purpose for which we’re called–to live in faithful obedience to the One who, despite its rotting stench, loves the trash heap… came for the compost pile and everyone still dwelling in it. And yes–that’s me, you… everyone!
Father, each day we’re called to spring up toward Your Son–to bear much fruit for Your glory and the good of those with whom we dwell. Thank you for loving us, even while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). Help us to produce an abundant harvest in the compost pile while we wait for the day when You’ll come and make all things new.
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