I’m not the best gardener, but I know it stems more from my laziness than it does lack of a green thumb. When I take the time to tend and care for my plants, and read up on how to take care of my African violet, my effort proves faithful in time.
As I’ve learned about gardening, it’s given me new eyes for certain parts of scripture, particularly John 15:
I know that pruning is a vital part of gardening, one that is often overlooked by inexperienced gardeners. This year, I pruned the rose bush that has seen better days, only to realize that the pruning was what made it look as beautiful as ever. My African violet which I adopted from the abandoned clearance bin at Walmart gave double blooms after I pruned its leaves. In the year that I attempted growing tomatoes, I read that in order to have better fruit, I should be pruning the leaves. When done correctly, pruning enhances the whole plant…and it does require some knowledge and knowhow on what cuts to make, what kind of cuts, how much, and when.
A little gardening book lists a few reasons to prune, including
-To train the plant
-To improve the fruit, flowers, leaves, etc
-To restrict growth
-To maintain the plants health
The word “prune” in Greek is καθαίρει which means “to cleanse, of filth impurity”. God is certainly the most qualified gardener to tend to His garden and we all need pruning, despite the discomfort. I just love that and find so much encouragement in that knowledge!
I’m sure that this correlation from John 15 to gardening has been said before, which is why I’ll pause the plant analogies. My true purpose of this post was to pick at a particular verse…or phrase…within this chapter.
I’ve found that when truly studying a part of scripture, including the knowledge of the Greek or Hebrew words elevate my understanding of God’s Word. Why leave that knowledge only to those pursuing seminary? We are all God’s children who are led by the Holy Spirit to know Him more and to become more like Jesus, it’s just as important for us be as knowledgable as we can about the Bible. That was among the reasoning to why I started digging into Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon.
“The Strong’s concordance is a very useful tool for studying the scriptures. It takes every single word of the Bible and lists where each word can be found in the scriptures. It is useful for locating scripture verses that you know the words to, but don’t know the book, chapter and verse. For example, let’s say that you know of a verse that says our hairs are numbered. You could look up the word “numbered” in a Strong’s Concordance and it would give you a listing of all the verses that contain the word “numbered“. Also beside each verse reference there is a number. That number represents a Hebrew word (if in the Old Testament) or Greek word (if in the New Testament). In the back of the book it lists Hebrew and Greek words used to translate the bible into English. Each has a a number beside them so that we may only need to know the number to locate a Greek or Hebrew word. Then we can do a word study by reading the meaning of the original word.“
Certain words, when translated, can lose their meaning in a different language. Like the word ‘love’, which I studied in-depth in 2015. In English, when we say the word ‘love’, we can mean it to be “I love pizza” to “I love my son”. One word, many meanings. In the Greek language, there are a several words that are used to describe the different types of love…so when Jesus uses the word love, it’s not the same word in English. The comparison is more difficult. Hence why, a little digging can be helpful. I’ll show you how using John 15 (The NIV version is not used in the Concordance, only NASB and NKJV, that’s what I’ll be referencing moving ahead):
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
I always interpreted “takes away” (or cuts off in NIV) as literally lobbing off the bad fruit or the bad branches, the people who fall away from Christianity…but my opinion has been proven to be false.
Now like I said, in the concordance, you can break down every single word and find verses that share the same Greek word. The greek word for “takes away” (or “cuts off” in NIV) is αἴρει . I’ve come to understand that both versions have a hard time explaining the meaning from Greek.
The most common Biblical usage of αἴρει is “to raise up, elevate, lift up”, “to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear”, “to bear away what has been raised”.
If we apply the same meaning to John 15, it could be “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He lifts up every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.“
I’ll jump back to the gardening analogies for a minute now…
The art of pruning means the gardener uses a shears to trim and cut branches and leaves. A gardener may choose to prune, but they also need to lift up plants for more support. A tomato plant or wall shrubs are commonly known for needing tending to in this way. The gardener needing to train the branches to grow a certain way, or hold up until it’s strong enough to stay upright on its own.
Our God is our gardener, He holds us up when we don’t bear fruit and He prunes us when He wants us to be more fruitful. And one day, we won’t need to be pruned or lifted up anymore. What a beautiful thought!