Matthew 7:18-20 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Most of us live in our emotions. We evaluate our Christian walk, relationships, career, a particular day, by how we feel. If we feel glum, hungry, angry, defensive, guilty or hopeless we will do whatever it takes to feel better. My wife and I used to laugh about how bad our diet was. My heart skipped beats, her throat hurt, I could not concentrate as well, she could not remember things, and one of the biggest culprits was the fact that we just did not eat well. Let’s back up a little. Food is a mood elevator. When you do not feel good, eat something! Almost anything, but preferably chocolate. But the more you eat, the more you need to eat to maintain food’s mood enhancing qualities. Overeating leads to physical and emotional stress and even disease, creating a new kind of anxiety which cannot be overcome with food. What to do, what to do? I feel so baaaaad.
Here is what my wife and I found humorous: our response to the dilemma. First, we acknowledged the problem, then we discussed solutions. Eat less, eat healthier. Okay, what specifically. Hmmm, how about more carrots and celery, more leafy greens. Check. And what about less sugar and less, dare I say it, chocolate? Okay, if we must. Done. The next day we had eggs with vegetables for breakfast, tuna on sprouted bread for lunch and a delicious stir fry vegetable platter with garden burgers for dinner. All better.
The problem is that our conviction rarely lasted more than a few days or weeks. Why? Because we felt better, first by talking, then by a few actions, but nothing really changed in our core. We solved the problem, but it was the wrong problem. What problem did we solve? The problem of emotional pain. By mere talk and minimal action we eliminated guilty emotion, enabling ourselves to continue with the poor diet. This approach to life is nothing short of juvenile infatuation with self, with how I feel in the moment, rather than with what I do in the long term.
Many Christians fool themselves, like the leafy tree Jesus cursed because He was hungry and found no fruit. Leafiness is talk without genuine conviction, love without practical application, peace purchased by the alleviation of noxious emotion but NOT by lifestyle of determined action. Oh, we feel good as we sit on the couch and talk of plans to move forward, relieved of the burden of guilt-ridden laziness and overindulgence. But to rise from the couch and take action, to get genuine results by determined effort, despite the ballast of crippling emotion, is to at last fully embrace Christ and to leave childhood in the crib where it belongs. Oh God help us! Discern our true motivations, the true intents our deceitful hearts, so that we may envision ourselves as overwhelming conquerors, then actually live in the light of that reality.