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The Parable of
A TREE AND ITS FRUIT
Eric and Russ were next-door neighbors who lived on Appletree Lane. Like everyone on their block, they had apple trees in their back yards. But what happened behind closed doors was as different as what happened to the apple trees behind closed fences.
The two boys went to school together. In kindergarten, they both came home with their artwork to show their parents. Eric’s mother loudly admired his work, and put each drawing on the refrigerator for all to see. Russ’ mother smiled at him, but by the end of the day, his work would find its way into the trashcan.
In elementary school, both boys were allowed to play together after school, until dinnertime. Eric had to do his homework at his desk in his room, right after dinner. His father always checked it before he was allowed to watch TV. He was also restricted as to which shows he could watch. Russ’ parents watched TV during dinner and for the rest of the evening. Russ did his homework while lying in front of the TV, watching whatever shows his parents wanted to see.
One summer, both families had a backyard picnic. While their fathers were outside at the barbeque, the boys made the unwise decision to play ball in the house. A loud crash was heard from inside the house, and all four parents rushed in to see what happened. A glass vase lay scattered on the floor with a ball in the middle of the shards. The boys stood over the mess, their faces, a mixture of fear and guilt.
Russ’ mother was angry. “See what you’ve done?” she yelled. “Just look at this mess! Come with me, young man”, she said, as she led Russ away roughly by the arm.
In contrast, Eric’s mother’s first response was “Are you two okay? Is anyone hurt?”
“No, Mom”, said Eric. “I’m sorry. I know that was your favorite vase.”
“You know the rules”, said his father. “No TV for a week.” Eric nodded, and together they showed Eric how to safely clean up the mess without getting cut.
Meanwhile, the apple trees in their back yards were also growing in different ways. Eric’s tree was being watered, trimmed, and treated with the appropriate pesticide. It received some shade from the front porch, and it was checked often. Russ’ tree had been planted in a far corner of the yard, where it bore the heat of every day. Moreover, it grew up against the fence, which gave various pests easier access to the tree. It was not within reach of the lawn sprinklers, and was often neglected.
By Junior High School, the boys’ personalities started to grow in different directions. Russ was coming home with D’s on his report card, and was labeled a poor student. His parents didn’t expect him to be able to go to college, and they were just hoping that he would finish high school.
Eric, on the other hand, had mostly A’s and B’s on his report card. His parents grew concerned when he came home with an occasional “C”. He continued with his good study habits, and was trying to decide what he wanted to major in at college.
When the school Science Fair was scheduled, Eric’s father was delighted to help him. Science was the favorite subject of both of them. His father took Eric to the library, where they poured over books of ideas. Eric decided to build a model of an active volcano. His father served as his audience when he practiced his oral presentation. Russ didn’t even think to mention the event to his parents. He just plagiarized his project directly from a book he found at home.
By Senior High School, Russ’ thoughts had turned to getting his own car. He fantasized about leaving home when he was 18, and going on a tour of the United States. Eric decided to major in science in college and planned to go to medical school.
Their apple tress also reflected a difference. Russ’ tree produced small, tasteless fruit, which fell to the ground, unwanted. It became riddled with insects. Eric’s tree blossomed with large, ripe fruit, which was routinely gathered, washed, and placed in a bowl for all to partake.
Both boys were basically happy, but within ten years, Russ found himself working for minimum wage at a factory, while Eric realized his dream of becoming a doctor, and served his community with love.
A TREE AND ITS FRUIT (Matthew 7:16-20)
“You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you shall know them.”