Fruit Vs. Works: What is the Difference?
Updated: Apr 19
“Faith without works is dead.” – James 2:26 (KJV). Based on this verse, it appears that works are a great thing, and that our works ignite the manifestation of what we have faith to see God do for us. So, when the Lord revealed to me that He operates and delights in my fruit, not in my works, I did what my father always taught me to do: I interrogated the scriptures. In doing so, God began to break down exactly what He meant when He spoke that into my Spirit.
“For just as the [human] body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [of obedience] is also dead.” – James 2:26 (AMP)
James 15:1-2 says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
Have you ever encountered someone is who always doing something? Every time you talk to them, they are in the process of accomplishing tasks, or they are tired because they have so much on their plate? Some of these people will even be sick, ill, or depressed often because there is no time for their physical body to recuperate from all the busyness happening in their world. This is never what God desires or intends for our lives.
“It really is senseless to work so hard from early morning till late at night, toiling to make a living for fear of not having enough. God can provide for his devoted lovers even while they sleep!” – Psalm 127:2 (TPT)
So, works of obedience go together with our faith, but how do we know which works are done in obedience and which works are not? What is the difference between Fruit and Works?
Fruit is Spirit-cultivated, and it is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Our fruit benefits the Body of Christ. Fruit is what manifests when our heart and our actions are in alignment with what God has called us to do. When we bear fruit, the Lord prunes us, so we can bear even more fruit. In the physical world, pruning is a process that allows air and sunlight to reach inside of a vine to provide the sunlight, air flow and nutrition needed for the vine to grow and thrive. So spiritually, when we are pruned by the Lord, He trims away the things in our lives that hinder us from receiving His life-giving breath so we can grow, thrive, and produce what’s glorifying to Him. Fruit becomes evident in the lives of those who are not only in right relationship with Christ, but whose hearts are positioned to hear direction from Him and whose response to that direction is obedience.
Works are self-cultivated & self-focused. Works point the attention to us and serves to edify ourselves… not the Body of Christ. Works are driven by the desires of our flesh, which is why it depletes our energy and causes us to constantly strive for more, want more, and look for more. Works can cause us to miss the move of God and what He has anointed and called us to do for His glory. The constant doing, moving, and striving prohibits us from BEING who God created us to be and accomplishing what He desires us to do by keeping us focused on doing what makes us comfortable.
Fruit is evidence; works are baseless. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us how fruit shows up as evidence of the Power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. “But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these.”
Fruit is a heart position; works are a head position. “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 (MEV)
Fruit comes through surrender; works comes through striving.
Isaiah 30:15 in the Message version puts it this way:
“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.”
Fruit values rest; works value busyness. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-29 (MSG)
“As Jesus and the disciples continued their journey, they came to a village where a woman welcomed Jesus into her home. Her name was Martha, and she had a sister named Mary. Mary sat down attentively before the Master, absorbing every revelation he shared. But Martha became exasperated with finishing the numerous household chores in preparation for her guests, so she interrupted Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.” – Luke 10:48-32
Fruit Pleases God; Works please the Flesh. “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.” – Galatians 6:8 (MSG)
Fruit Causes Replenishment; Works cause depletion.
“I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish.” – Jeremiah 31:25 (NRSV)
Fruit Brings Strength; Works bring weariness.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)
“For I can do everything through Christ, Who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
God will add His super to our natural when we choose to surrender to allowing the Holy Spirit cultivate fruit in our lives. What God requires of us may not be easy, but He will give us all we need to accomplish what He has called us to do. Today, let us choose to cultivate and operate in God-pleasing fruit and lay down self-serving works.