The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV)
At the age of 20 Benjamin Franklin created a system for developing in his character 13 virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. (See note below for Franklin’s description of these virtues.)
He focused on one virtue each week, marking his progress on a chart in a little book he carried with him. At the end of each day he’d put a dot next to the virtue for each fault committed that day with respect to that virtue. After 13 weeks he’d start all over again, completing the course a total of 4 times in one year.
His goal, of course, was to conduct himself in such a way he wouldn’t have to put any marks on his chart. Imagine his dismay when he saw more than he wanted.
I can identify with Ben and his need to organize and schedule and chart. I can’t live without my lists. In fact, I schedule my week using an Excel document on my computer and refer to it often throughout the day. There’s something satisfying about crossing out items as I complete them.
Call me OCD.
So Ben Franklin’s chart of virtues intrigued me—even tempted me to try this on my own.
But I know me. I didn’t want to have to face all those dots at the end of the day.
But not to worry.
My character is being developed anyway—by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
You see, God too has a list of virtues He wants to develop in our characters. They’re called “The Fruit of the Spirit.”
Think of a fruit tree. What does the tree do to produce the fruit?
It produces fruit not because of what it does but because of what it is.
So it is with us. We don’t produce the Fruit of the Spirit because of what we do, but because of what we are.
That sure takes a lot of pressure off, doesn’t it?
So why do we still think we can develop these virtues on our own?
In Galatians 5:16–25, the apostle Paul describes two approaches to life: doing things (or trying to) on our own strength or allowing the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer, to work in and through us.
We’re a much too independent society—we think we can do anything and everything on our own.
The problem is we can’t.
When we try to develop the fruit (which is singular, by the way, not plural—think of an orange, one fruit with many segments) on our own, we’ll only meet with failure.
But when we submit to and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, He develops this fruit in us. We mature as believers.
What about you? Are you feeling frustrated because you don’t see the Fruit of the Spirit in your character—because you’re trying to mature on your own?
Think of the fruit tree and remember—you don’t produce fruit because of what you do, but because of what you are—a beloved, chosen child of God in whom His Spirit dwells.
Remind me, Lord, that I can do nothing on my own strength, but everything through yours (Philippians 4:13). Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on Galatians 5:16–25
Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues:
1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.
2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.
11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.