Pruning helps us bear fruit

By Seth Carter
Posted 7/1/21

Pruning is the art of removing parts of a plant — sometimes drastically enough to make passersby weep — in order for the plant to be healthier and bear more fruit.

To the uninitiated, …

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Pruning helps us bear fruit


Pruning is the art of removing parts of a plant — sometimes drastically enough to make passersby weep — in order for the plant to be healthier and bear more fruit.

To the uninitiated, pruning fruit-bearing trees in particular, seems barbaric. I know some people that would sooner let trees encroach on their patio space or begin tearing apart their house than cut healthy, green branches from a living tree!

“But it’s alive!” they’ll say. “How would you like it if someone pruned off your arm?”

Trust me, it’s different.

Believe it or not, this process of cutting back healthy growth actually has good reason and is done with vision; arborists prune for shape and health. Left to itself, a tree or bush will send out as many branches in as many directions as possible, attempting to reach every spot of sun or compensating for an injury, perhaps caused by disease or falling branches from nearby trees.

Over time, these many branches may end up being a detriment as they crowd each other, preventing good air flow through the tree and keeping pollinators from being able to easily move to the blossoms. Therefore, the process of reducing the branches on a plant to create a more desirable shape may also create healthier flora.

If the trees are desirable for fruit, the keeper may also decide to prune for size. Early every spring, I radically reduce the crown of my pear tree because I don’t intend for it to be tall. I don’t want to have to rent a bucket truck just to harvest pears. (Actually, I would probably end up doing something way sketchier, like precariously balancing a stepladder on the picnic table that I moved next to the tree and put up on scraps of wood to gain a few extra inches.)

Really though, if you happen by old orchards that are being kept up, you will probably find that the fruiting branches are not very high from the ground. This protects the fruit if it falls and also the harvester. 

Let me cut to the chase: Jesus spoke of pruning as well, and it’s important that we begin to understand the process of an orchardist with their beloved plants. We’ve only just nipped the bud of this topic, but, if we can establish that pruning is done intentionally, for the purpose of improved health and fruit-bearing by someone who is caring for the plants, we begin to have some context for Jesus’ words in John 15. Please find a New Testament and read the first 17 verses of John chapter 15 because we won’t have the space to reproduce it all here. 

Jesus explains that God is the gardener and will be tending his plants for the purpose of bringing him glory. Perhaps you have a friend or relative who has an amazing garden space. When you visit their garden, you probably give them praise for the job they’ve done, right? Their care for their garden brings them glory.

God’s creation also brings him glory. His people are to bear fruit and thus to bring him glory. Just as the plants in your friends’ beautiful garden are healthy and beautiful, God’s intention is that his people will be healthy too, and the natural result of healthy plants will be fruit!

What good would it do for my pear tree to rebel against my pruning and fertilizing and “refuse” to bear fruit because it thought I was taking advantage of it for my own purposes? Well, it would do no good at all! If any of the branches could remove themselves from the tree, they would die quickly. If the branches stay connected but only wish to grow their own way and not produce fruit, they will be cleaned up, the leaves and twigs that are taking energy away from the plant removed in order that the branch can be fruitful. 

Jesus says, “Remain in me and I in you. As a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself … neither can you unless you remain in me. You can do nothing without me.” (John 15:4-5 CSB) 

What is fruit in this example? Botanically speaking, it is the seed-bearing structure of a plant. In other words, the vehicle for reproducing more of the same. Since Jesus is using a botanical example, we can safely assume he is urging us to stay connected with him in order to reproduce more of what is growing connected to the vine, to himself: more Christ-followers.

If you are truly a Christian, Jesus is telling you that as you stay connected to him, you will be experiencing his love and you will be ultimately fulfilled, living your purpose! If you sense that you are not fulfilled, perhaps ask him if you are trying to sustain life without being connected to him. Our life should be bearing fruit and when we live connected to Jesus, people around you will want what you have and will come into their own relationship with Jesus Christ! In his words, “My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) 

If you are not a Christian, you are already attempting a life without really being connected to your true purpose. Jesus is inviting you to enter into a relationship with the most adept and loving gardener and to really be shaped into your true potential. Trust him to prune and shape you into a most beautiful and fruitful creation.


(Seth Carter is the director of Campus Ventures in Powell.)