Fruit vs. Self-Help

Read: John 15:1-8

But the fruit of the Spirit . . . (Gal. 5:22)

Most bookstores that are divided into subject areas will have a decent amount of shelf space devoted to the section called “Self-Help.” Designed to help us tackle our bad habits or dysfunctional relationships, these books appeal to our desire for self-improvement. Such desires aren’t bad, of course, but if we fall prey to the idea that we can fix ourselves by our own power, we take on a burden that is too great for us to bear. Most of us have learned in one way or another that self-help alone isn’t enough. We need the help of others—especially God—to change our ways and heal from hurtful behaviors. And we need others to forgive us, and show us how to forgive ourselves, when we inevitably stumble along the way.

The fruit of the Spirit offers a stark contrast to the self-help movement. We don’t conjure up love, joy, or peace by our own willpower. The fruit that blossoms in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit is pure grace. It’s not a trophy of our achievements or a measure of our hard work, but a budding of God’s actions. It’s a function of union with Christ. We are set free from having to earn fruits; instead, we are shaped and pruned by God’s loving action. On our own, we can’t produce good fruit. Through the Spirit’s power we bloom into the restored vision of what God designed us to be.

As you pray, ask God to set you free to become the person you were created to be.

About the Author

Jessica Bratt Carle lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has served as a chaplain and more recently as a clinical ethicist at Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health) since 2017. She is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She and her husband have two young sons.

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Fruit of the Spirit