What is the purpose of an apple tree? To produce apples, right?
Actually, no. The purpose of an apple tree is to produce more apple trees.
People think apples are the plant’s reason for being, because apples are delicious, and we cultivate the trees to get their fruit. But the tree thinks differently about its fruit. An apple is a delivery system for its seeds.
Our lives bear fruit as well, but we lack the clarity of apple trees. Our apples might be money or recognition, or fancy homes and fancy toys, or you name it. With hard work and good fortune, our lives produce all sorts of things that are wonderful and valuable.
But these things are not why we’re here. They are gifts, to be sure, but they are a means for delivering the seeds we have to plant.
If your life is a tree, you have much to contribute to the world. You have natural talents, and hard-earned expertise. When you use your gifts, you hopefully earn income, the admiration of others, and different kinds of opportunities. The fruit of your labor.
But a question each of us should ask is, am I multiplying the life God has given me?
This is not about whether or not you have kids. It’s about whether you use your gifts to increase those gifts in the world. Is your goal to stop at fruit, or to actually plant seeds that will grow?
A seamstress, for example, may make beautiful clothes that everyone loves, but she also makes others afraid to sew, because she’s so great at it they feel disempowered when they’re around her. Her life will be truly fruitful when she not only makes beautiful clothing herself, but also teaches others to do what she does.
This is the way of the apple tree, and the way of Jesus. Jesus wowed a lot of people with his personal wisdom and power and sense of hope. People were impressed. But if Jesus’ ambition was merely to be impressive, he would have been forgotten, erased from history the moment the last one of his personal friends died.
Think of the seedless grapes you buy – they’ll never produce a vine.
Jesus is remembered because he empowered people to do what he did. He didn’t hold his power over people or make his greatness about himself. Instead, he showed people how the grace embodied in his life could be embodied in theirs, as well.
His call to justice became their call to justice.
His healing work became their healing work.
His resurrection became their resurrection.
People empowered by Jesus have been sharing what they learned from him ever since.
The purpose of an apple tree is to produce more apple trees. How are you doing, planting the seeds that are yours to plant?
The Table is a Christian community of transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith