Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers
“You will know them by their fruits.” –Matthew 7:16a
Ah, the providential prowess of Peter Piper. Little did I know how scriptural this nursery rhyme was until just the other day. While picking the last of the peppers for the season, I couldn’t help but think of this tongue twister as I snipped each banana, bell, cayenne, and jalapeno pepper from its stalk. But as I picked a peck of peppers (for pepper jelly, not for pickling), I noticed something I hadn’t before. With the removal of each pepper, the stalk rose higher; it almost seemed relieved to be rid of the fruit it had gloriously produced. As I picked, the plant perked; here a pick, there a pick and everywhere a perk, perk. And that’s when the scriptural truth struck me…it is profitable to bear fruit, but it’s pointless if the fruit isn’t picked! Like I said, Peter Piper knew what he was doing because, as the rhyme goes, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. He didn’t pat them, pinch them, or pamper them. He picked them. They were ripe, they were ready, and so they were reaped.
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do with fruit? Isn’t it meant to be picked? We use the analogy of “bearing fruit” and of “being fruitful” because Jesus did…and Paul did. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” From this, we can see that the bearing of fruit is not only a natural result of our connection to God, it is a necessary outgrowth of our relationship with God. Then, in Galatians 5:22, Paul writes about the fruit we can bear when we allow the Spirit to germinate within us. He states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Again, the evidence of our faith is found in our fruit. But we would be remiss if we thought that the bearing of fruit was all God required of us; if our branches were bedecked and our boughs were bejeweled, how would that be beneficial to the kingdom? We’d look prolific, but that isn’t the point of bearing fruit. Isn’t the true value of the fruit found when it is harvested? After all, the fruit isn’t meant to feed the tree but to feed those who come to the tree.
As I noticed on the pepper plant, with the picking of each pepper, the plant’s branches rose higher. Once the fruit was removed from the stalk, the plant was able to regain its stature and once again stand erect. Odd as it may sound, the fruit that was first fed by the plant had become the fruit that now fed upon the plant. By nature’s law, unpicked fruit can actually become a burden rather than a bounty. I find that to be interesting. Being fruitful is good, but it’s only the beginning; until it’s plucked, packed, and passed out, it hasn’t become profitable…it hasn’t fulfilled its purpose. And, if the fruit isn’t removed, the plant will become burdened under the weight of its bounty.
Have you ever been weighted down? Have you ever felt as if you needed a stake or two placed beside you to support your bottom and a wire trellis around you to sustain your branches? Sometimes we can feel this way because we’re not receiving the nutrients we need…because we’re not abiding in the Branch. But sometimes we may feel burdened with a load of fruit because we haven’t allowed it to be picked from our branches. After feeding things for a while, we may have the tendency to want them to hang around; when this happens, our gifts become our guile and we exchange our harvest for a heavy burden. Jesus did call on us to be fruitful. In fact, it’s in the production of much fruit that we glorify our Father in Heaven. (John 15:8) But His intention was never for us to be productive for its own sake but for the sake of others. In this same verse (John 15:8), Jesus says that “in this”, the bearing of fruit, we will show ourselves to be His disciples. Disciples are those who bear fruit so that others may be nourished and likewise bear fruit of their own so that still others might also be nourished, and so on, and so on (2 Timothy 2:2).
It’s a natural response, this bearing of fruit. It’s evident in nature and it’s meant to be evident in the lives of those who are rooted and staked and trellised to their Heavenly Father. If a pepper plant can be fruitful, surely I can be as well. And, if a fictional character has sense enough to pick produce, then surely I can have at least as much wisdom as he. With that said, I will do a little examination on my own branches during this harvest season. First, I will see if there is any fruit that is growing (oh, I hope there is!); then, I will see if there are fruits that need to be picked. Are there any that are making me droop because they’ve reached maturity? Are they feeding on me rather than feeding from me? If so, it’s time for them to be harvested for the good of the grower and the glory of the Gardener. And, should I find myself plucked of my fruit with branches no longer bending, may I look forward to new seasons with new growth and allow my newly unencumbered limbs to give praise to the One who not only purposefully plans my proliferation but also perfectly pinpoints the picking of my propagation.
And so I say, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers; it’s scriptural, it’s spiritual, it’s script-able. May we all go and do likewise.