“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 NKJV).
There are many standards by which worthiness or value might be measured. As applied to individuals, one thinks of physical attributes like strength, speed, intelligence, or beauty. Our societies also place a high priority on accomplishments and status. VIP (Very Important Person) honors go to those who hold high office, acquire great wealth, or possess rare and desirable attributes.
Unfortunately, and inappropriately, those same standards are sometimes used to assign position within the church. Leaders in the church are not always those with highest spiritual character but rather those with the most wealth or prestige in the secular community. The most popular preacher may not be one with great Bible knowledge, or one who is dedicated to ministry among God’s people, but rather the one with more compelling presence and speaking ability.
The Bible reveals a simple and basic standard of worth – that of fruitfulness. Good soil produces fruit, whether 30 fold, 60 fold, or 100 fold (Matthew 13:23). It is not “good” because of its color, or its composition (loam or clay). If it produces a decent crop it is good soil.
The Hebrew writer makes it even clearer:
“For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:7-8).
Productive soil is good and is blessed. Non-productive ground is rejected and useful only for burning trash.
The Holy Spirit here is using ground as an illustration of human value. In the next verse he encourages the readers, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner” (Hebrews 6:9). In other words, the writer was saying, “I don’t think you are like that bad ground – you can be fruitful yet.” This passage is not an agricultural lesson – it has to do with the value God places on his people. And the lesson is very plain; he expects them to be productive.
On God’s scales, a good person is one who bears fruit. That fruit includes spiritual characteristics such as love, joy, peace, “and such like” (Galatians 5:22-23). It also includes good works resulting from those characteristics (Hebrews 13:16; James 1:27), and “the sacrifice of praise” which is “the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
For too many nominal Christians today, their faith is a source of blessing and benefit to themselves. They show little recognition of any personal responsibility of service to God and Christ. People leave the church because “I wasn’t getting anything out of it.” One is compelled to ask, “What were you putting into it?” The truth is that if Hebrews 6 is taken seriously, by the time such selfish members decide to leave the church God has already dismissed them by placing them under a curse – that is, under condemnation of judgment.
Fruitfulness is not the only standard by which goodness is measured, but it is one biblical standard which is given much emphasis. We ignore it at our own risk.