What’s in your heart is more important than what you do

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We have pear trees at Safe Haven Farm, but they aren’t just any pear trees. They’re wood pears. They’re wicked hard and unbelievably stubborn. Nothing kills these things, and you have to wait until they’re on the edge of being rotten before you can get a knife into them.

I’ve always figured it’s because the trees themselves are so old. The pears are as tough as tree bark because the trees are ancient. At least, the trees are ancient by Kansas standards. Trees don’t always last long around these parts.

But in the last few years, a tree sprang up in the orchard that produced smallish round pears that you could eat straight off the branch. We’re still at a loss as to where the tree came from and why its fruit is so different, but the old trees make me a appreciate the new one.

The Bible has so many stories about farming in it, and it always makes me smile. In Galatians 6:7-8, the Bible says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

God set the Laws of Nature in motion when He created the world, and nothing (except Him) can stop them. That means if you plant a pear tree, you’ll get pears. If you plant a wheat field, you’ll get wheat. If you plant green beans, you’ll get green beans. You can’t plant green beans and expect to get strawberries. It just doesn’t work that way.

Life works exactly the same. If you do good things, you’ll receive good things. If you do bad things, you’ll receive bad things. Yes, in some cases, you can do good things and be rewarded with bad things, but the bad things are usually temporary—a preliminary bump in the road on the way to better things.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success.[/su_pullquote]

But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success. Yes, your actions play a huge role. But more important than your actions are your motivations. Why do you do what you do? What is in your heart?

I mean, look at our pear trees. Sure, they’re both pear trees, and they both produce pears. But the old trees give us big, hard, misshapen fibrous chunks of woody fruit. The new tree gives us soft, sweet, juicy fruit. The old pears are perfectly edible. They just take more work to process because you have to cut out all the bad stuff to get to the parts that actually taste like pear.

You can work with the old hard pears, but you have to dig to get to the good stuff. The same is true if you do the right thing with the wrong motivation. Maybe you do what God says is right, and that’s great, but your heart isn’t joyful about it or happy or humble. You’ll get a good result back, yes, because you planted a good seed. But that result will be tainted by your bad attitude. And if you want to do something useful with it, you’ll have to dig out the unhelpful bits.

It’s so much better to do what God says is right with a heart that’s right too. That way, the results you get won’t just be pleasant, they’ll be useful. And you can build on your results right away because you won’t be spending time separating the bad fruit from the good.

It’s important to plant good seeds, so that you’ll harvest a good crop. But even more so, it’s important to plant good seeds with an attitude that’s right. An attitude that recognizes God as Lord and not just God.

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This got published without a name . . . So I’m naming it now . . . Will it work?

Have you ever tried to tell someone who knows more than you do how to do something? And I’m not talking about a situation where the difference in intelligence/knowledge is only perceived and not actual; I’m talking about a situation where you got full of yourself and decided to tell so-and-so what to go do with himself (and exactly how to do it).

I don’t think I’ve ever done it out loud. Usually I just bottle it all up inside and lit it simmer, but it’s the same thing. If you think it, you might as well have done it.

Isn’t that kind of silly? Don’t you think it’s silly to lecture someone or get upset at someone for doing something you don’t like when they know better what they’re doing than you? (That sentence was structured terribly; forgive me, I’m having trouble waking up this morning.) I know a little bit of javascript code and I’m pretty good with computers, but does that mean I can march up to Bill Gates and tell him how computers are supposed to be? I’m an okay writer, not published yet (yet being the operative word), but does that mean I know enough that I can march up to somebody like Ted Dekker or Stephen King and tell them how to write? And I can certainly hold my own in the kitchen, whether baking or cooking, but I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but does that mean I can do Rachael Ray’s job better than she can?

You get what I’m saying. We think we’re so good at what we do that so many times we start beliving that we know everything about it. And we don’t. Let’s be real here, folks. We don’t know anything. I think about what my Pastor said at church this past weekend about how Solomon asked God for wisdom because he didn’t know how to go into a room or come out of a room. He didn’t know anything, and neither do we. So where do we get the idea that we do?

The verse for this morning is Galatians 6:7-8.

 7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

 This is one of those verses that is quoted a lot — so much that part of it has become part of popular culture. You reap what you sow. It’s one of the natural laws that God set up from the very beginning. When you plant something, it will grow (and that even stands true if you live in Kansas and a hailstorm pounds the fool out of it; it still grows; it just doesn’t grow straight). And not only will it grow, it will grow the same thing that was planted. You can’t plant a wheat seed and get corn. It doesn’t work that way (sorry to disappoint all you Hopeful Monster Theorists out there, but it works the same with biological reproduction and always has). Additionally, what you grow will always produce more than what you planted.

So if you plant wheat, you’ll grow a lot of wheat (again, unless you live in Kansas, and then it’s more likely you’ll grow a lot of wheat that you end up using as insulation in the barn because it’s been beaten to a pulp–but it will still be wheat and a lot of it).

It works the same way with life, folks. If you plant seeds of bitterness in your life by allowing yourself to resent other people, you’ll harvest bitterness. If you plant seeds of anger, you’ll harvest rage. Whatever you plant, you’ll get more of the same in abundance later on in your life. And you can’t escape it. Fortunately, it works the other way around too. If you plant kindness, that’s what you’ll get in abundance. Same with faith and joy and love and mercy. But those are harder to invest in other people because you have to look at somebody other than yourself.

I remember a quote from the show House, M.D. (which is one of my favorites but I never get time to watch it). It was in one of the earlier seasons, and I don’t remember which episode it was. But Dr. Wilson is on the roof talking to Dr. House, and this is what he says: “You don’t like yourself. But you do admire yourself. It’s all you’ve got so you cling to it. You’re so afraid if you change, you’ll lose what makes you special. Being miserable doesn’t make you better than anybody else, House. It just makes you miserable.”

It’s common sense.

And what’s even more common sense is that fact that you can’t hide it from God. If you think you can just slip your thoughts or your actions or your behavior under a rug and God won’t noticed, you’re wrong. God’s God. He knows everything, sees everything. Everything. He knows more about computers than Bill Gates. He knows more about writing than the most prolific authors in the world. And, yes, He even knows more about cooking than any cook on the Food Network. He knows more than anybody anywhere anytime.  So where do we get the idea we can tell Him how to live our lives?

My Pastor has another saying which I love: You can’t flip God off and win.

And you can’t. Sooner or later, what you’ve planted will catch up with you; it’s only a matter of time. And when it does, it isn’t God’s fault because He isn’t the one who did the planting. We start the process by putting the seeds in the ground, and then we’re surprised when it produces a harvest? Humans are funny people.

I don’t know about you guys, but I think I’m going to go plant some good seeds today.