We are living in a world of competition, achievement, target and accomplishment. If we are not able to arrive there set goals by ourselves or by others, we are dejected or disappointed. The drive for accomplishment or obsession with achievement makes us value ourselves and others on the basis of how one is productive. This achievement mentality is so insidious that it could ruin us and others with the sense of failure in life, low self esteem and inferiority complex. For example, the parents of a certain boy would like to educate their son as a doctor but the boy did not get the required marks in the NEET examination. Both the parents and their son must accept the reality and the capability of the boy. They should not become discouraged and the boy should not be considered as useless.
This unhealthy achievement attitude is prevalent even in the religious life. There are people who pretend to be very clever and able person but it is a kind of self-glorification. There are others who know their capability which is limited and also their weakness but still they would like to occupy big positions and show to others that they are to be counted as somebody important and indispensable.
What is important in life is to be fruitful which gives us satisfaction and fulfillment. We should seek to be to be persons of fruitfulness rather than achievers and accomplishers. Being fruitful is one of the basic concepts of the kingdom of God. This is clearly seen in the preaching of Jesus. The kingdom of God is compared to a mustard seed. “It is the smallest of all the seeds but when it grows it is the greatest of all shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nest in its branches” (Mt 13/32). Again Jesus speaks of the relation between Jesus and his disciples through an allegory of Vine and branches.
The fruitfulness of the branches completely depends on the living connection between the stem and the branches (Jn 15/1-17). In these two imageries what we understand is that we need to be productive for which we need to depend on God. Our productivity is not merely ours but God’s gift to us. Hence there is no reason to be proud but we need to be thankful to God and to be humble in relation with others. Secondly our fruitfulness or our production must be useful others like the mustard tree is useful for the birds of the air.
Both fruitfulness and achievements demand effort, discipline and hard work but there is thin line of difference. In fruitfulness, there is room for mystery to which we surrender. We learn to wait for God’s intervention and set time. But, the achiever wants accomplish things too quickly and never let things go.
The people who are fruitful accept their successes or failures with the peaceful mind but the achievers cannot accept failures and they become sad and discouraged. The people who are fruitful are able to work with others with their shortcomings but the achievers cannot tolerate the shortcomings of others. The achievers always preoccupied and God is not focus of their work but those who are fruitful see God’s action in their work. For the achievers, the self glory is the focus of their work but those who are fruitful the focus is God and others. The achievers make use others for their own ends but those who are fruitful build up relationship and cultivate the habit of cooperation and collaboration.
The fruitfulness cannot be measured and quantified but the achievements can be tangible and measured. There may be cases that those who are fruitful are not recognized and appreciated and they go into oblivion but the achievers are reorganized and rewarded. As we grow old, the accomplishments diminish and fruitfulness can increase. This spirituality of fruitfulness can release us from anxiety and worry and be content with what we have been with God and with others. The spirituality of fruitfulness is a Biblical spirituality and the spirituality of the kingdom which Jesus came to establish. Though Jesus is a failure in human terms but he is fruitful because of his death on the cross we are saved.
Most Rev. Dr. M. Devadass Ambrose
Bishop of Thanjavur