“You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.
Luke 6: 43-45 The Message
Our church used to have a large tree out on the lawn behind the fellowship hall. It was originally planted as a memorial tree. Through the years, we have watched it grow into a tall tree, large enough for kids to climb on it. It would also provide some shade during our outdoor worship services.
Last fall, we had to have it removed because it had become diseased. An arborist told us that though it looked healthy on the outside, from a distance, a close inspection revealed that it was not doing well. Rather than have it hit the church in one of our wind storms, the wisest course of action was to have it removed.
Jesus spoke about good apples and healthy trees, and about wormy apples and diseased trees. His point is that health begins from the inside, and then proceeds out. Jesus instructs us to begin to work on our inner lives, before we spend time working on someone else's life. We can attend to our inner spiritual life best with His help.
As our experience with the tree at church illustrates, some trees with healthy bark are rotting on the inside. Unfortunately, we can be the same way. We may look good to the world, but God knows our inner health. When parts of our lives need to be pruned, or nourished, God is already there with his gardening gloves on. It is our job to admit we need help, and then to reach out and accept it.
Christ looks past the surface. Sadly, many in the world focus only on what is superficial. Someone once said, “Everyone wants to fix the world, but no one wants to fix themselves.” Here, Jesus encourages us to first focus upon our own spiritual lives.
Peter Scazzero wrote an influential book entitled “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” He spoke at our most recent ECO National Gathering, sharing some excerpts from his book. Yet more importantly, he shared with us his own personal story. He was a workaholic pastor, whose marriage and family began falling apart. It was only when he began to work on becoming healthier emotionally, spiritually, and physically, that he discovered his true calling.
Peter realized that in order for the other things in his life to heal, he needed first to begin his own path towards spiritual healing. Today, he is in a much healthier place, mentally, physically, and spiritually. That is because he discovered Jesus’ truth: we must begin with our own life-giving lives.
As we continue to move through this Lenten season, may we look deeper into our own lives. We need the Lord to help us grow and heal. It is only with His help that we can produce the healthy fruits of the Spirit…
Lord, I thank You for Your blessings, and Your work in my life. Truly You are the Master Gardener! You see every part of me, from my roots to my leaves and my fruit. Help me to realize my need, and accept Your help in the areas where only You can aid me. I want to turn those problem areas over to You. Forgive me when I think I can do it alone, or try to fix someone else rather than myself. I pray this prayer in Your Holy name. Amen