Excerpt from Economics of Neighborly Love
Napa, California, is one of my favorite places to visit. I love feeling the temperate warmth of its Mediterranean-style climate, taking in its lush valleys and deep blue skies, and enjoying the laid back lifestyle. Napa is not only a beautiful place to visit; it is also a great place to grow things—especially grapes. Some of the finest wines in the world come from the Napa Valley region. Every wine tasting I’ve experienced there only solidifies that conclusion. The farmers who grow the many varieties of grapes in Napa Valley inevitably talk in detail about the importance of each microclimate’s unique soil composition. Different soils produce different grapes, and different grapes make different wines. Though I have never grown grapes, I know if you are going to get really good wine, it is imperative to have really good soil. Good soil produces good fruit.
The Napa Valley farmers’ knowledge about making wine and Jesus’ knowledge about human flourishing have striking similarities. Jesus asserted that what is true of the soils beneath us is true of the soul within us. When it comes to living a fruitful life, the condition of the human soul matters. Like good soils, good souls yield fruitful lives.
Throughout His teaching ministry Jesus emphasized the undeniable reality that those who embrace Him, who faithfully obey His teaching and apprentice their lives to Him, will bear much fruit. He spoke often of the goodness of fruitfulness and said His followers’ fruit would distinguish them as true disciples. So often, we are encouraged in our personal journeys of discipleship to lead more faithful lives marked by obedience and trust. And certainly faithfulness is an essential component of true discipleship. Without faith, we cannot know God or please God. Our enduring, trusting, persevering faithfulness matters.
Yet, in our pursuit of faithfulness, I wonder if we might not have unintentionally overlooked the high importance of fruitfulness, missing the comprehensive fullness of what God desires for us. In fact, I’d go so far as to ask, Is it possible to lead a faithful life without leading a fruitful life? Can we be faithful without being fruitful?
For Jesus, evidence of authentic followership manifested itself in authenticating fruitfulness. And our fruitfulness is of such importance to Jesus that He shed his innocent blood so that we might lead fruitful lives. Indeed, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus came not only to save our souls but to redeem His broken creation and to transform all aspects of human existence. The gospel shines the light of grace and truth into every nook and cranny of life. It is the good and powerful news of the gospel that makes human flourishing possible. The gospel empowers us to rightly love God and our neighbor, and makes us into new persons who foster virtuous and vibrant social ecosystems, with moral and innovative economies (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus came not only to save us from our lives of sin but also to save us for lives of flourishing and fruitfulness.
Tom Nelson will be one of the featured speakers at the Made to Flourish CG2017 Conference on Friday, October 13. The conference will be live streamed to local sites throughout the United States. The theme for this year’s conference is churches for the common good, and features other speakers such as Andy Crouch and Amy Sherman.
To hear more from Tom, and find out about this upcoming conference, visit Made to Floursh.org.