Have you ever had that conversation with a friend about whether something was a fruit or a vegetable? We commonly think that anything with a seed is a fruit. But when we are presumptuously asked about a tomato or avocado, our usual response is that in our minds those are vegetables.
There has been a long-standing debate on the differences. Botanically speaking, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant. Whereas, vegetables are all other plant parts such as roots, leaves and steams. By those standards, seedy outgrowths such as apples, squash, and, yes, tomatoes are all fruits. Roots, leaves, and stems of plants such as beets, potatoes, turnips, spinach, kale, celery and broccoli are all labeled as vegetables.
In culinary terms, however, they can look quite different. Fruits which are savory rather than sweet are typically considered vegetables by chefs. This includes such botanical fruits as eggplants, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
The fruit vs. vegetable debate can sometimes reach such a fever pitch that the law must step in. In the 1893 US Supreme Court case Nix. V. Hedden, the court ruled unanimously that an imported tomato should be taxed as a vegetable rather than as a less-taxed fruit.
Have you ever wondered why God commanded us to have the “Fruits of the Spirit” and not the “Vegetables of the Spirit”? It may seem like a silly question, but the thought is worth pondering even to a novice gardener (and believe me, I am a novice) and inquisitive Christian like myself.
Ellen White states,
“In His teaching from nature, Christ was speaking of the things which His own hands made, and which had qualities and powers that He Himself had imparted. In their original perfection, all created things were an expression of the thought of God. To Adam and Eve in their Eden home, nature was full of the knowledge of God, teeming with divine instruction” (COL 18.1).
Jesus often used nature to teach a concept or impress upon the mind a more complex issue.
Because of sin and the fall, vegetables are annual plants which must be planted each season. They bear one crop and then die. Their roots are shallow compared with a fruit tree. Many of the seeds when planted are trampled on, fall on rocky soil, or are choked by other plants. They are easily damaged by lack of or too much water or sun, poor maintenance, or disease.
Fruits (such as apples, pears, peaches, bananas, dates, and figs), on the other hand, take several years to mature. Most trees don’t even bear fruit for three years or more after the tree has been planted. Their roots are as deep and wide in the ground as the tree is high above the surface. Most survive through seasons of snow, ice, and bitter temperatures. With the seeds from the fruits, additional trees can be planted and grown. Grafting can even be done to produce other trees.
I can see why God wants us to be fruit! He doesn’t want our walk to be seasonal. He doesn’t want us to produce one crop and then die. When we first come to a newly created life in Christ, we are but mere saplings. But as we grow, we become more grounded in God’s Word and our prayer life. It takes time to bear fruit. We learn to withstand great trials and circumstances because we are grounded deeply in our relationship with Him. We trust that the Lord will see us through, strengthen us, and teach us valuable lessons along the way. As we bear fruit, seeds are planted in others. The Holy Spirit then can work powerfully in them to become strong trees of their own and bear additional fruit.
Just as with vegetables, fruit trees can be in danger of not producing, of disease, and of drought. The Bible says,
“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).
When he was traveling with his disciples, Jesus was hungry and wanted food from a fig tree. However, the mature tree yielded nothing but leaves. He condemned it by stating, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away (Matthew 21:18). The disciples were astonished especially as our Lord related this to Pharisaical practices of the time.
Yes, Jesus’ desire for us is to bear fruit. He created us for that purpose! Fruit in the Bible is defined in Galatians 5:22-23 as,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
As you and I know, these are not easy attributes to obtain. However, with the Master Gardener’s hand caring for us, we can bear on our tree all nine of these fruits. The first fruit is love. We begin with the amazing love of God in our hearts and minds as the Holy Spirit imparts it to us. Then we receive the joy and peace that surpasses all understanding. With these fruits, longsuffering and patience is achieved. We are then able to witness to others with kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control showing them the expression of the thoughts of God.
Ellen White writes in Testimonies 8:200,
“This world is a training school for the higher school, this life a preparation for the life to come. Here we are to be prepared for entrance into the heavenly courts. Here we are to receive and believe and practice the truth, until we are made ready for a home with the saints in light.”
Do we take this training seriously? Do we want to be that fruit-bearing tree for Jesus or be as the non-bearing fig tree that He condemned? Again, she states,
“The Bible is God’s voice speaking to us, just as surely as if we could hear it with our ears. If we realized this, with what awe we would open God’s Word and with what earnestness we would search its precepts. The reading and contemplation of the Scriptures would be regarded as an audience with the Infinite One” (CSA 69:5).
How do we bear fruit? By immersing ourselves in the Scriptures and applying it to our lives.
“The search for truth will reward the seeker at every turn, and each discovery will open up richer fields for his investigation” (CSA 69:2).
In our eternal audience with Jesus, He promises to provide this heavenly fruit,
“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).
As we prepare to eat of this fruit in our heavenly home, let us ever be reminded that we must first bear it here on earth. Let no one mistakenly identify us as bearing “vegetables” and not FRUIT!
Karen M. Phillips is happily remarried to her husband, John, and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She is a Human Resources Manager, an ASI Mid-America Officer, and a Bible teacher. Together they support their world-wide ministry – HeReturns. She writes from Omaha, Nebraska, USA.