You Either Sink Or Swim


Hearts Full Of Gratitude Rarely Feel Unproductive

by Eric Elkin

Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives.
— Luke 3:7ff

“Eric, in this business you either sink or swim! And right now you are…blub, blub, blub.” Of course, when he got to the “blub, blub, blub…” part, he was throwing his hands up in the air like I was drowning. This is how I was greeted every day for weeks at one of my first jobs. The person sharing this observation was the camp’s head cook. We needed to work together on ordering food for camper groups living on the land.

The head cook was serious, and his observation was not too far off. I found myself in a job I was ill-prepared to handle and was really struggling to make it work. His criticism, though, was too far over the top to be taken seriously. It made me laugh then, and it makes me laugh now. But, then again, I did figure out a way to swim. Maybe it would be different if I had not.

I hear that cook speaking to me (and to the world) in John’s call to repentance this morning. “Eric, in this business you either produce fruit or do not produce fruit…” I just can’t think of a sound or a motion to communicate a dormant branch.

Who determines if we are producing fruit or swimming? Too often we think it is someone else; a boss, the world, our parents, etc. I would like to propose to you, people tend to judge themselves harsher than even their critics. They will blame some outside force for the lack of acceptance, but deep down, the negative feelings are coming from within.

Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.
— Fred DeWitt Van Amburgh

When I hear these words at this time, I also think of several young people in my life. They enter the workforce with years of education, training, and expectation only to discover fruit production is hard. They are willing to work but struggle to find fulfillment in their job. This lack of fulfillment leads to a sense of barrenness, as though they are not being productive.

Thoughts also turn to older people who are no longer able to produce like they once did. For them, the only consistency is the constant flow of physical challenges in life. Some young parents struggle emotionally to cope with what the future will hold for their children. These parents wonder as they raise children, “Am I helping them bear fruit?”

Thankfully, John provides some instruction to fruit production. He says, “A person with two shirts should share one with a person without a shirt.” I think John is suggesting something more than just sharing possessions. He, like Jesus, pushes those who hear his words to engage with their neighbors. John is instructing us to discover that our own sense of value rests in our relationship with others. 

If you are struggling to satisfy your own inner production manager, then find time to engage with other people. Consider volunteering your time in an organization or church. In some situations, allow people in to help you. The more contact we have sharing our lives and possessions with others, the more likely we are to be thankful. Thankful hearts are full of gratitude and rarely consider themselves unproductive. 


Click to read: Luke 3:7-18

Reflection Questions:

  • How productive do you feel at this moment?

  • Whose voice is most influential in determining your sense of production?

  • Where are you sharing possessions - time, talent treasure?

  • What are you grateful for at this time?

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