“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which ringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” (Luke 3:9-11)
“The axe” is something that no one wants to face. It seems to be something that we are eager to administer though. There is something “not all bad” in a little change, maybe alot of change, or even a revolution. I am sure that there are a number of things that each of us have been in persistent prayer for some time that we get excited about when someone shows up with an axe. Maybe we want the tree “trimmed up” a little. Maybe we want the thing cut down all together. Yet the real question is how did the tree get in a state where this type of decision even has to be made? There was no good fruit to be found on it! The sad part is that after the tree is cut down, there is no chance for good fruit to show up on that tree again. It is one thing to be excited about getting rid of a dead tree among the orchard, but what if that tree is our entire nation or even us? John’s answer in preparing the hearts of the people to receive Jesus makes very real sense. Give! Even if your neighbor is rotten and the good fruit which you should be giving away may be discarded without regard for it’s value, we need the practice of giving. Do not be caught building your tree house in a tree that bears no fruit. Our job is to practice obedience and surrender and love. Let the Lord develop the quality of the fruit and the willingness to produce it and deal with those who eat of it. (Remember Genesis 2:16, 17? There are regulations on which trees may be eaten of by whom.) Our goal is not to be caught without fruit when the guy with the axe shows up, as good fruit appears to be the only thing stopping him.
Some may dislike this analogy, as it appears to compel the individual to serve based on fear. Sometimes that fear can be a healthy reminder of the reality of the situation (see Psalm 2:11). Yet, as you begin to produce a harvest of fruit you quickly realize that a tree can produce more than enough for everyone around it and there are new crops each season because the Lord is faithful to provide. The fruit is not only the item that keeps you from being cut down, but also it adds to your beauty and keeps you healthy and your system full of life. As we practice producing what God tells us to, we also develop a real love and a sense of the real value of what He provides for us. The process of bearing fruit distinguishes between genuine fruit and artificial fruit. One is produced by the surrender and obedience to God; whereas the hypocrite or the actor attempts to manage what he will produce and when. When one is eaten of it has more than the proper look; it has the proper flavor and texture. It adds life and nutrition. It comes in its season and there is abundance. No matter how good managed fruit looks, it never really tastes the same and is seldom any good for you. Many times, artificial fruit is only on the tree as a decoy while something else is attempting to devour the tree. Notice the tree that we see at the end is full of life and has not been cut down. “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2 KJV)
Finally, do you remember this verse? “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 KJV) The interesting thing about fruit is that the seed is inside it. If there is no fruit, there will be no new trees, and even the tree that exists without fruit will be cut down. “For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.” (Luke 19:26 KJV)