KEY TEXT: Isaiah 5:1-2 My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
KEY THOT: The message here is simple: vineyards are planted to yield good grapes so that these grapes can be made into good wine. Even the wine vat is built into the vineyard so the reason for the vineyard's existence is never in doubt: the owner expects his vineyard to produce good grapes that he can make into wine. In this OT parable, the vineyard represents Israel and the grapes represent good fruits righteousness and justice. But instead, it produces bad grapes of bloodshed and moral outrage. The same is expected of God's people in the NT (church). God looks for fruitfulness: "When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit" (Matthew 21:34).
In both Old and New Testament Scriptures, fruitfulness always involves quantitative multiplication: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). and "And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'" Faithfulness will always result in fruitfulness. When we are faithfully using God's resources to accomplish His purpose, we will experience fruitfulness of multiplication--be it financial, spiritual or ministry expansion. Growth is a sign of faithfulness because growth is a consequence of God's life being released in a congregation or organization.
The Church is God's vineyard, and He is looking for fruitfulness that comes out of faithfulness to its gifts and callings. But in many unfruitful churches, faithfulness is trumped up as the better virtue. But if faithfulness means doing the same thing over and over even though it's not producing fruits, then it's not faithfulness as God's word defines it. In the parable of the talents quoted above, the "faithful" servant was the one who multiplied His master's resources. Jesus has called His church to go and make disciples. If we fail to do that, we are not being faithful. We may be faithful doing our own works, but we are not faithful in doing God's works. It's impossible to be faithful doing God's works and see no fruits. Faithfulness and fruitfulness are two sides of the same coin--you can't have one without the other.
A typical church can be very busy but barren. It has been said, "It is not busyness that produces barrenness but barrenness that produces busyness." May we be busy with God's works that leads to fruitfulness, not busy with our own works that produces barrenness.
Abba-Father, deliver us from barrenness caused by disobedience to Your commands. Help us become fruitful by being faithful in obeying Your commands. Amen.