Day 72: March 13, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

Matthew 7:13–29 Read Online
Matthew 8:1 Read Online
Luke 6:43-49 Read Online


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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.

—Matthew 7:18

Have You Ever Had a Tangequat?
by Darrell Gwaltney,

Some years ago I lived on the east coast of south Florida and enjoyed the great coastal breezes, warm winter weather, and the luxury of my own citrus trees. I had five citrus trees in all, and the first four were Tangelo, Valencia Orange, Kumquat, and Ponderosa Lemon.

The Lemon tree was interesting because it grew lemons the size of small watermelons. They were good for making lemonade but for not much else. The Kumquats were good for marmalade. The Tangelo and Orange trees gave us more citrus than we could eat or drink in a year. It was a great small orchard.

Then there was the fifth tree.

At some time before we bought the house, the Tangelo and the Kumquat tree developed a relationship that created a hybrid tree. It was growing right up out of the middle of the Kumquat tree, and it produced fruit that looked like small tangerines.

One bite belied their true identity. Kumquats are pretty sour. Tangelos aren’t. When Kumquat and Tangelo trees make a hybrid, they make a very, very sour tangerine-looking fruit. I called it a “tangequat.”

I would have hundreds that were inedible. My Tangequat tree bore bad fruit.

Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke record several teachings Jesus delivered during the course of His ministry. None of His teachings are perhaps as well known as Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” and Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain.”

Our scriptures for today touch on the endings of both of those teachings. In each sermon, Jesus turned His focus on our outward lives. Earlier parts address our inner lives and religious practices. But the focus turns to the product of our decisions and lifestyles.

Jesus used vivid, effective images. He reminded listeners then—and even us today—that the broadest road and easiest decisions often clear the way to destruction (Matthew 7:13). He warned against people who peddle easy truths, and He compared them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In a land where many homes were built of clay and brick, He used a powerful analogy about building a home on sand. Even today, this makes sense because we’d never engage a poor builder nor approve of building a home on unstable land.

The truth of what Jesus teaches in these sermons stares us plainly in the face. The choices we make matter. Who we listen to and what we do bear fruit in our lives. If we build our lives on unstable ground, then everything important will be washed away.

None of this should be new to us. However, we only have to make one bad choice in life, bear one unfortunate fruit, or build our lives on one unfortunate foundation to wish for a rewind button.

Trust me, if I shared one of my tangequats with you, every tangerine in your future would be suspect! You could never eat another tangerine without fearing the sourest taste imaginable.

The teachings of Jesus help us avoid making tangequats with our lives. He tells us plain and simple that poor choices can have devastating consequences. Even today, you’ll face choices that have the potential to bear fruit in your life. Make good choices and avoid the tangequats!

Reflection Questions

  1. Of the three analogies Jesus uses—narrow gates and roads, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and poor foundations—which one most connects with your life? Which one makes the most sense to you and best helps you understand the seriousness of the choices you make each day?
  2. How many choices do you make each day that have the potential to change the relationships in your life? Pay attention to your choices today and see if you can identify two or three of them that had the potential to change a relationship. What would you do differently about the choices you made?
  3. Look carefully at your life. Honestly evaluate what bad fruit, or “tangequats,” you have in your life. What kind of choices can you make now to bring restoration in your life?

About the Author

Darrell Gwaltney
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Darrell comes from St. Louis, Missouri, so it makes sense that he’s an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. For the last 33 years, he’s served in pastoral and teaching ministry. Since May 2004, he’s been the Dean for the School of Religion at Belmont University and continues to serve churches in the area as interim pastor. He’s married to Donna and has three adult children. You can find him online at DarrellGwaltney.com and follow him on Twitter @DarrellGwaltney.