“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1–4 NLT)
Even though redwoods are giants among trees – growing to be up to fifty feet tall and fifteen feet in diameter – their roots mostly extend only three feet into the ground. This web of roots still holds them upright, partly through their density and reach but also in part due to how redwoods naturally grow in proximity to one another. Rather than using their roots as the majority source of water like most other plants do, redwoods use their thick, spongey bark to soak up the mists of their natural coastal habit. Another plant, the prairie grass, has a different kind of root system. These shrub-like grasses only grow to be three to five feet tall, but they can have roots that dig eight feet deep, though most of their roots are still in the top foot of soil.
This means if a redwood were to have roots like prairie grass, they would be eighty-feet deep; conversely, a prairie grass built like a redwood would have roots less than four inches deep! This speaks to the diversity of the world God has created; some plants have a majority of their biomass underground while others store it mostly in plain sight. Similarly, different spiritual fruit manifest in different ways. If we think of the roots of a plant as the internal life rooted in the Spirit and the growth above ground as the external manifestation of the Spirit at work, then some virtues are like redwoods while others are like prairie grass, with most of them falling somewhere in the middle.
For example, kindness is akin to a redwood, mostly visible through how we interact with the people around us, and peace is more like prairie grass, the majority of the growth hidden from sight. Even so, kindness must still be rooted in the internal life, and peace must also be visible through word and deed; they both must have solid root networks or their above-ground growth will not survive, and they must also be visible to the world around them otherwise they are only so much dry brush meant only for the fire.
Every virtue must be rooted in the interior life and must also manifest in word and deed. If the “fruit” is found only in the internal life but doesn’t result in action, it might as well be as an ungerminated seed. Conversely, if the “fruit” manifests in good deeds but is not the result of an overflowing of God’s Spirit within you, it might as well be wax fruit tape to a grapevine. Both halves are needed to make the whole. That means love, joy, peace, and all the rest must become part of who are we are at the deepest levels, but they must also be visible to those around us, not because we are showing off but simply because good fruit cannot be hidden.