Sometimes my obedience to God comes with a side of pride.
For example, if I speak graciously when angry words are at the tip of my tongue or get out of bed to spend time in the Word even when 6:30am seems much too early for anything, instead of praising God for giving me the strength to do those things, I give myself a pat on the back.
Thinking this way flows so easily into comparison. As I creep out of bed and grab my Bible from my shelf, I can’t help but think of my sister who’s still fast asleep. I’m much more spiritual than her. The thought runs through my head, unchecked. And so, filled with pride and self-righteousness, I go to spend time with the Lord.
This is a ridiculous way to live! And yet I see myself falling into these same patterns daily. Whether it’s waking up to spend time with the Lord, speaking kindly, or obeying unspoken rules that could easily be broken, I find hope in doing what is right and find worth in being the only one to do so.
What is the answer to this sin? The diligence, the gentleness, the obedience themselves aren’t wrong. But how do I quench the prideful response that follows those things so naturally?
A few weeks ago, during one of those pride-filled mornings with Jesus, I found some answers. My devotion that morning was on John 15, where Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. A few things about pride stuck out to me in these verses. They answered the question of how to humbly obey and do good.
So, how can we do good and produce fruit without pride?
Remember, You’re Not The Vine
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.“(John 15:4-5)
Like the verse says, a branch can’t produce fruit without the vine. In the same way, without Christ, we can’t produce any spiritual fruit. When we’re tempted to try to be enough in our own strength, we need to come back to this truth that we can’t be enough without Christ.When we're tempted to try to be enough in our own strength, we need to come back to the truth that we can't be enough without Christ. Click To Tweet
But there’s more here than just that. Not only are we fruitless without Jesus, but He is also the source of our fruit.
It’s tempting to feel good about ourselves when we see spiritual fruit in our lives. Rather than being a branch on the vine, we pridefully believe that we’re our own vine plant. Sure, God may be the gardener, but our fruit is still the result of us, our goodness.
But that’s not how this works! These verses are clear: we are not the vine. We’re simply branches on the vine, which is Christ. A branch bears fruit because it’s attached to the vine. In the same way, any goodness in our lives is only there because of Christ, and He deserves the praise.
When you have patience with that person who always gets on your nerves, when you sacrifice your time to volunteer even though you’d rather be watching Netflix, when you’re generous with your money and see the blessing that you’ve been, don’t succumb to pride. Remember that the fruit in your life is a direct result of the vine, that any goodness in your life is a result of Christ in you. Instead of taking pride in yourself, boast in His goodness.
We’re All Branches Of The Same Vine
Even as we start to believe that the fruit produced in our lives is Christ’s work, not ours, it’s still easy to compare ourselves to other believers. “Well, I’m more spiritual than them.” “They have so many more spiritual gifts than me!” For good or for bad, we like to see how we measure up. The truth is, though, we’re all just branches on the same vine.For good or for bad, we like to see how we measure up. The truth is, though, we're all just branches on the same vine. Click To Tweet
If as believers we were individual plants, there would be something worth comparing. Some would be more expensive varieties, or have more full and flourishing vines, while others might be cheap and dying.
In Christ, though, we’re all part of the same vine. The newest, weakest believer grows right alongside the most seasoned, diligent one. Sure, some branches will bear more fruit than others. But the worth of the plant isn’t in its individual branches but in the vine as a whole. Regardless of the amount of fruit we produce, we are all children of God. That’s where our worth comes from.
This also means we don’t need to compete to be better than other believers. We can grow together, encouraging and blessing each other, without the pressure of being the best, because whether we’re a luscious branch abundantly full of fruit for the Lord, or one wilting slightly, we are loved equally and our Gardner will gently prune us so that we become healthier and produce the fruit He desires us to have.
We don’t need to compare ourselves to others, because our worth comes from Christ, the vine, not our fruit.
Abide In The Vine
Are you tired of comparing yourself to others or of striving to be good enough? Abide instead.
We weren’t created to be self-sufficient vines or to compare ourselves to other branches. We simply must abide in Christ.
To abide in Christ is to have Him as the center of your life. When He is our identity, our foundation, our greatest desire and peace, we will produce fruit. So, instead of striving, comparing or judging–abide.
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
Just as a gardener prunes the branches of a vine, God shapes us so that we will produce more fruit. As we abide in Christ, He does the work.
It is only through Christ that you have life and produce fruit. Rest in His care for you, and watch your spiritual life flourish. When it does, boast in Him alone, because it’s His work, not yours.