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  • Writer's pictureAustyn Kunz

Tomato Plants and Christians

A Potted Plant and A Picture of Faith

Imagine for a moment spring is just beginning. The grass is green, the trees have leaves, and warmth fills the air. It is planting time! You start by collecting supplies: a flowerpot, a cherry tomato plant, potting soil, and water with added nutrients. Once collected, you pot your plant, water it, and set it in the sun. Now, all that is left is to care for it daily and reap the fruit of your labor. Yet the care that your plant gets will dramatically affect its productivity. Let me illustrate. As I write this, it is 100 degrees with an estimated heat index of 113. If I neglect to water my plant it will quickly be scorched by the heat. Likewise, if I do not feed my plant the appropriate nutrients, it will be too sick to produce. If a storm shatters the pot and I don’t quickly transplant it, my plant will die. Inversely, if I care diligently for my plant, it should produce bountifully (assuming you had a healthy plant).

So why have I spent so much time talking about a plant? The answer is simple. Our tomato plant provides a helpful picture of the Christian life. Moreover, it vividly illustrates the teaching of our August memory verses from 2 Peter 1:5-10. When we are diligent in faith, we establish our calling and produce fruit.

Nourish Your Soul (vv. 5-7)

In the verses preceding vv. 5-10, Peter emphasized the sufficiency of God’s provision to every believer through Jesus Christ. Through knowledge of him, election by him, and access to His promises, we have all we need to persevere in this life with godliness and holiness. It is for that very reason we should strive with every effort to supplement our faith (v. 5). The sense of the original language is that we are working hastily and tirelessly to accomplish that purpose. So, what does it mean to supplement our faith? That we are adding things to increase our faithfulness.

We must be careful not to misunderstand the sense of this passage. One may easily read of these supplementing virtues and picture the construction of a block archway. Each supplement is another block stacked up, but if I miss one, the whole thing crashes down! Instead, we should return to the picture of our tomato plant. Our faith is like the pot that holds all the soil in place. Each successive supplement is like Miracle-Gro-enhanced water sprinkled onto our potted plant. Thus, each quality serves to invigorate the plant’s health, but they are nothing without the faith that holds the soil, nutrients, and roots in place.

That brings us to the Miracle-Gro. Peter lists seven qualities that Christians should be striving to harness as supplements to their faith. First is virtue. Christians should possess a character of unwavering moral excellence. Right living matters to them, and they live by it! Next is knowledge. We should be people filled with wisdom and awareness about who Christ is and why it matters. Third is self-control. As an athlete curbs their desires and appetite to focus with discipline upon their training, so too should we contain our desires for the sake of serving Christ. Fourth is steadfastness. What is our melting point? How long can we endure the fiery furnace and stand firm in our testimony and commitment to Jesus? Fifth is godliness. In other words, where does God come into play in our lifestyle and decision-making? Is he the chief motivator or a casual afterthought? Finally, the last two are brotherly affection and love. What do our interactions with others (especially Christian brothers and sisters) look like? If sinful conflict, critique, and cruelty are commonplace, we lack brotherly affection and love.

Produce the Fruit of Faith (v. 8)

Verse 8 continues the picture. If, by faith, these qualities are present in our lives and we are growing in them, we will produce fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ. We will be like the ideally nourished tomato plant that yields numerous sweet, crisp, and juicy tomatoes. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. What more motivation do we need? If growing in our knowledge of Jesus Christ and bringing him more honor does not motivate us, we must examine our flowerpot (faith) for cracks.

Don’t Forget to Water (v. 9)

Verse 9 looks at the other side of the picture. Peter refers to anyone lacking those qualities as nearsighted to the point of functional blindness. Their vision is so skewed and blurry that, though their eyes register light, they may as well not see anything. The culprit is either unbelief or negligence. In either case, they must make urgent changes! In the flowerpot analogy, their plant is either dead or dying. Fruit production is the last of its concerns. Lack of adequate care and nutrition has left it in survival mode. Such is the believer who has forgotten to water the plant of his faith. Peter states he has forgotten he was cleansed from his former sins. He has overlooked the infinite value of his forgiveness by Jesus Christ. Left to himself, he has become a worthless fruit plant. He is as the man Paul refers to as “saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). May it never be for us!

Establish the Roots of Assurance (v. 10)

Finally, Peter brings things back around in verse 10. He gives the brothers another exhortation to diligence in their walk of faith. Doing such confirms their calling and election and testifies to their conversion. It is not a works-based salvation, for the scriptures are clear that God’s call and election is irrevocable. Yet Peter approaches the issue from the Christian’s perspective. Diligence in supplementing our faith testifies to the position of our roots. We have a spirit-motivated longing to do what Christ has called us to. When we do, we establish and assure ourselves that God has indeed called us. Is your Christian testimony more like the dying, malnourished tomato plant or the thriving and bountiful one?

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