I love this old saying:
“It is the laden bough that hangs low, and the most fruitful Christian who is the most humble.”
In other words, the more fruit a tree branch has on it, the lower it will bend toward the ground from the weight of the fruit. Similarly, when the fruit of the Spirit grows in our lives, it should make us humble.
Naturally, as you grow in Christ, you may begin to recognize in yourself some of the characteristics described in Galatians 5:22-23a—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” In fact, you should see these traits in your life, as should those around you.
What we all need to guard ourselves from is the temptation to compare ourselves to others: “Hmm, she’s really impatient and rude. She’s not a very good Christian! And he has absolutely no self-control. God should discipline him. And that whole family is so miserable all the time—how ungrateful!”
If the good that people see in our lives doesn’t come from a humble heart that recognizes it has nothing to offer except what God Himself puts there, then it’s not genuine. It’s like taking a hot glue gun and attaching store-bought plastic pears and apples to a tree. Deceivingly attractive perhaps (though sometimes very obviously fake), but horrible—if not dangerous—to eat!
You know what makes a low-bending branch full of fruit so wonderful? Its fruit can nourish and delight those who come across it! What would be the point of being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled… if it didn’t benefit and bless the people around you?
I’ve always found it curious that humility isn’t listed among the fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps this concept of the “laden bough” has something to do with it. We can be intentional about developing the nine characteristics Paul listed in Galatians. However, I’m not sure we can make an intellectual decision to be humble. That must come as a result of maturing, of being so unwaveringly connected to Christ that we produce spiritual fruit as easily as we breathe.
At that point, I believe, we truly understand that the “fruit of Ann” or “fruit of Jimmy” or “fruit of Jane” is useless and undesirable, but the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit living in us is what really transforms lives. The humility must then come naturally—unrehearsed, unplanned and without any conceit.
May God bless you fruitful branches this summer!
P.S. A shorter version of this devotion is found in my colouring book Restore My Soul. Check it out!