“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
These words from Jesus provide us with some very important insight. This verse comes from Jesus’ famous “I am the vine,” teaching. He says that He is the vine, that we are the branches, and that God is the gardener. With that context in mind, let’s look at what this verse has to say.
First, the obvious. Those branches that bear no fruit are cut off. They’re not useful because they produce no fruit, so the gardener gets rid of them. Those who claim to be in Christ but do not live as he commands and do not produce fruit, meaning that they do no good work for the Kingdom of God, are cut off from the vine. These people are removed because they do nothing productive, they live off of the nutrition of the vine, but produce no fruit in return. There is no use for them.
Next, the branches that bear fruit. This is the part that is important to true Christ followers. The verse doesn’t say that the branches that bear fruit will be left alone to keep doing what they’re doing, or that they’ll be rewarded for their fruit, or that they’ll be watered and fertilized even more than the rest. It says that the fruit bearing branches will be pruned.
For those of you who don’t know much about gardening, to prune a plant is to cut off the pieces that are not productive in order to make the plant more fruitful. For this analogy to make sense, I want you to imagine a tree branch. Off of that branch, there are several smaller branches. Some have leaves. Some are broken stumps. Some have fruit hanging from them. When a gardener comes and cuts off all of those smaller shoot offs without fruit, he is pruning the branch.
If you’re a fruit bearing branch, expect to be pruned. God sees your good work, and he’s helping you to be even more fruitful by removing the parts that don’t produce fruit. Think of the little broken branches as pieces left over from hard times and storms in your life. Think of the leafy branches as other parts of your life that you put energy and effort and time into, but aren’t producing fruit for the Kingdom of God. Things that may distract you from God. Things that take away from your true purpose.
It may hurt at times, but when God prunes those excess branches, he’s investing in you. He’s taking care of you. He’s removing the parts that don’t work as well to make way for the parts that do. Pruning may not feel good, but it’s for our good in the long run. So if you feel like you’re doing good work for God, but things aren’t turning up in your favor, just remember that God may be pruning you, preparing you for the good works to come.
Thank you for pruning us and preparing us to bear fruit through Jesus. I pray that you would help us to realize that sometimes the pain of losing some of those smaller branches is just a small setback on the way to producing good and plentiful fruit for your Kingdom.
In Jesus’ Name,