Comparing Apples to Oranges: Character Matters
by Dale Reeves
Have you ever heard the phrase, “That’s like comparing apples to oranges”? That phrase is sometimes used when a person is comparing two items that are thought to be so different as to make any comparison invalid. What you might not know is that, according to theidioms.com, that phrase was first known as “apples to oysters” in John Ray’s proverb collection in 1670. The form of the idiom “apples to oranges” has been in use since about 1889.
The apostle Paul talks about two kinds of fruit-bearing that we can produce in our lives. Essentially, he says that the two are so different it’s like comparing apples to oranges. In his book, Character Matters, pastor and author Aaron Menikoff says, “Every person on the planet is bearing fruit. The only question is whether it’s fruit that leads to life or fruit that leads to death.”
Which kind of fruit are you bearing in your life today? This includes the things you say, the things you do, the things you post on Facebook or Instagram, the things you tweet, the things that you spend your time on, the things you spend your money on.
Fruit That Leads to Death
The apostle Paul enumerates lots of things that are part of the fruit that leads to death in Galatians 5:19-21, which our lead pastor preached on yesterday as being the complete opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. Take a look at the list: it includes words like sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, strife, envy, drunkenness, and it spirals down from there. Sounds like the news we hear every day, doesn’t it? Satan has been working overtime in our lives, our nation, and the world to get people to bear this kind of fruit that Paul calls “works of the flesh.”
Paul also says in Romans 7:5, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death” (ESV). Jesus said in Matthew 12:33 that a tree is known by its fruit. When I think of the fruit exemplified in a person’s life, it helps me define that person’s character. Just a few weeks ago former Cincinnati Reds announcer Thom Brennaman discovered just how much “words matter.” He uttered something about the gay community in a particular city while he thought his microphone was not hot. Turns out, his mic was hot, and the video was widely circulated on social media. Words matter—and so does character.
Over the next two months we cannot escape the political firestorm that exists in our country. I will not get into political platforms in this blog, or give you my opinion on how to vote in November, except to say that I wish all of our politicians—from national, to state, to local—realized how much character really matters. I remember my mom telling me years ago, just before a presidential election, “I don’t think it really matters. You can’t believe any of the candidates. It’s just a matter of who’s worse.” What a sad commentary of our political system.
Fruit That Leads to Life
What I do know for sure is that no human being, no political candidate, no professional athlete, no CEO of a nonprofit business, no pastor is perfect, and no one besides Jesus ever has been! That’s why we have to rely on the power of God’s Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out.
Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (NIV). That word “remain” can be translated “abide.” I have a good friend who talks about the difference between “abiding” and “striving.” Believers abide in Christ, they rest in him, the vine. They get their nourishment from him, just as grapes do from the grapevine. We don’t need to fret and worry and strive because we can rest in the finished work Jesus did on the cross that allows us to walk in victory—even when things seem to not be going our way. We rest, knowing God has it all under control. Striving does nothing but create stress, worry, jealousy, and other works of the flesh.
As we remain a part of the vine, it is natural then for us to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Like fruit on a tree, evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the fruit of the Spirit. Those in whom the Spirit of God dwells manifest and display a Spirit-directed, Christ-glorifying character. And, it is essential for our survival as Christians in our world today. Aaron Menikoff says, “A ministry not marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is like a ticking time bomb—it’s set to explode.”
Paul told his son in the faith Timothy to keep a close watch on his life and his teaching (see 1 Timothy 4:16). In other words, character matters. Like Timothy, we all have to watch not only what we say, but how we live. We all do things from time to time that don’t match the words we claim to believe. No one is perfect, but we seem to forget that all the time. What would happen in our country if people on both sides of the political fence spent more of their time trying to bear good fruit rather than spending all their time pointing out the hypocrisy and inconsistencies of the other side?
Producing Good Fruit
Eugene Peterson paraphrases Galatians 5:22, 23 in The Message this way:
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
It’s interesting in Galatians 5 that “fruit of the Spirit” is singular, not plural. The fruit of the Spirit is not like a basket filled with different fruits around the holidays that we get to choose from . . . “I can choose to show joy to people, but don’t ask me to be patient with annoying people.” Or, “I can be faithful to God, but I’m just not a very gentle person.” No, these are all pieces of one singular fruit of the Holy Spirit. In my own life, I may love kiwi, strawberries, bananas, and pineapples, but not care so much for honeydew; but as a follower of God, I don’t get to pick and choose based on my own tastes and moods.
Character matters. It really does. People are watching. That’s why the apostle Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:10 that our goal as followers of God should be to, “always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit” (NLT).
What kind of fruit are you offering today?