First the apple trees died, then the peaches. "Too close to oak trees," the county agent said. Now the blueberries have stopped bearing, and yes, they are right next to what used to be a small oak—but that was three decades ago. It now towers over them. And the pecans? They might be six feet tall after all these years, and we haven't had the first pecan. "Too close to the pine trees," we were told, pines that at the time were hardly more than fat sticks in the ground, but are now well over forty feet tall. "They have ruined the soil for pecans."
So what can we glean from this? What are we surrounding ourselves with? What has "ruined our soil?" What has made us completely unfit for the kingdom?
The first thing that comes to mind is, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, you make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves. (Matt 23:15). If we aren't careful, we can stunt the growth of new Christians. Barnes says they Jews did this by converting for the sole purpose of inflating their numbers and then not teaching the former pagans how to live by God's law. Add to that, when a hypocrite converts someone, just exactly what does he probably teach them to be? Another hypocrite just like he was. So in either case, we have left them as weak pecan trees in the midst of stronger pines who ruin the soil in which they have been planted.
But let's not forget the obvious application. Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals. (1Cor 15:33)
This is not about whether or not you should go out into the world to make contacts and teach. Of course you should. But soil is where a tree gains its nutrients and its life-giving water. When I talk to my neighbors, when I work with my colleagues, where do I go for sustenance? Do I stay with them and imbibe their values, or do I return to my core group, to my support system, to regain my strength? Am I careful to monitor myself for signs that I may be taking in the wrong kind of nutrition and passing it off as "seeking the lost?"
The area in which we plant ourselves should have access to light, not be dwarfed by taller, stronger trees who smother us in their own values. WE need to be the oaks, not the pecans, the ones who influence the weak, not the other way around. Just who is influencing whom in your case?
Stop and check yourself today. It did not take us thirty years to know we had a problem with these trees. When a five foot tall tree has not grown an inch in a year, something is amiss. Have you grown? Have I? Are we better than we were five years ago? Or do we still fight the same battles in the same way with the same meager results—or even fail?
So ask yourself, who had you rather spend time with? Who do you go to for advice? Who influences your behavior more than anyone else? If the answer is NOT "godly brothers and sisters," maybe you are nothing more than a stunted pecan tree. If you think those towering pines and oaks who are affecting your growth have any real respect for you, you are sadly mistaken. They see you for what you are—a weak, scrawny pecan tree. So does God.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1Cor 3:18)