A few weeks ago my wife informed me that we were going to be eating healthier. I asked, “by we you just mean you right?” She indeed did not. And its for the best. That woman keeps me healthy.
Nonetheless I was making one of our newfound healthy receipies yesterday and it involves cutting a lot of vegetables. I say again, a lot of vegetables. We love peppers, and they are in this particular dish in plenty.
I should say I used to love peppers.
I had gone to the store earlier the week and hand picked these particular peppers (say that five times fast). I trusted their quality and looked foreword to experiencing their deliciousness.
Yet as I cut into this pepper and saw the seeds, what I discovered was mold all over the inside. I looked back at the outside, it looked perfect. When i was at the store it had seemed that this would make a perfect addition to our dinner. But I couldn’t see the inside.
When I got the ingredients out to start making dinner I has only assumed this pepper would make it into the final product, but I hadn’t seen the inside.
The ancient Near east was not a desser in the first century, how many of us might imagine it today. It was filled with forestry, crops, fields, and fruit producing trees. When Jesus used metaphors, likening things to seeds, and trees, and plants, and fruit, he did so because everyone would have known what he was talking about. Matthew, one of Jesus’ early followers, wrote about how Jesus instructed people to “bear good fruit.” he actually said any tree that doesn’t bear good fruit will be cut down.
Which leads to the questions: what constitutes good? what if I have a lot of it? Is this national competition good or just Brennan family pasta good? can I make up for the quality of the fruit with the quantity?
When we think of good fruit, we get an eternal image. How does it look? Does it have the right texture, color, shape? But fruit is no good if it isn’t ripe outside and in. Yes, by the way, a pepper is a fruit, and this one gave me nightmares. It may look good, but if it doesn’t taste good, if it is moldy, or expired, or compromised in some way, then no amount of looking the part will help it make the transition from bad to good.
On a trip to Costa Rica, I was encouraged to try this new fruit that our partners discovered. It was called Alien Fruit. It was spiky and red and rough on the outside. It was hardly an appetizing look. It wasn’t even sold in the USA (which also gave me pause). But when I pulled back the outside and ate the contents, it was incredible. We bought them by the pound the rest of the trip. I didn’t care how the outside looked. I didn’t have to eat it. The inside is what mattered.
At the end of the day, we know the inside is harder to get right, so we try to compensate with having a pristine outside.
There are plenty of ways we do this. We check our church box on Sunday and then do what we want Monday through Saturday. We say things like, well I am a good person. I do enough good things.
We get so caught up with looking the part, with checking the boxes, with making sure that people think we are “bearing fruit,” because wt think quantity is the goal. Even when Jesus speaks about bearing much fruit in in the good of John, he does it with the presupposition that the fruit will be good.
I know for myself, I could spend a lot more time working on the quality and content of my heart than the content of my calendar.
So what did I do with the pepper? I threw it away. It was no good. it couldn’t be used. Can you imagine if I added it to the pasta but then I told my wife, don’t worry, the outside looked good! It would have ruined the dish.
What about you? Would you rather bear fruit that looks good, or fruit that tastes good? God would rather have us look less than perfect on the outside, than have mold all over the inside.