“DEAD LEAVES” —“You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues. Do not think of your faults; still less of others’ faults; in every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong: honor that; rejoice in it; and as you can, try to imitate it; and your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.” Ruskin 1
A season has ended and a new one has come: summer has made way for autumn’s breathtaking beauty—trees made glorious with God’s creative plan of multi-colored leaves, the reds and oranges especially striking. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with His glory!” Isaiah 6:3 Indeed, all creation shouts God’s glory! And I begin to look around at God’s creation.
I do see the leaves of my trees turning color, some already fallen to the ground. I turn from looking up to looking at my home’s borders where I find the lavish colors of my mums and other autumn flowering plants refreshing to my soul; and I also note that some ground cover newly planted during summer, has done an excellent job of spreading and chocking out weeds that had previously resided there. Next spring they will flower. What joy!
I believe God’s creation provides an excellent analogy of what Ruskin wrote: choke out faults by gaining virtues. That’s what my ground cover did! Moreover, Ruskin advised not dwelling on our faults or the faults of others but to look for the good in others. Great advice! Perhaps Ruskin read Scripture before writing those words. I hope so!
So what is it that we need to choke out, anyway? What is a fault? In the Bible, fault implies a defect, of less moral weight than a crime or sin.2 Such might be impatience, rudeness, not listening well to others, being a user, not a giver, etc. Rather than focus on these shortcomings, however, we need to focus on Jesus’ teachings, considering others more important than ourselves.
Paul wrote, “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from His love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:1-4 Jesus summed this all up when He said, “’A second (commandment) is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:39 When we follow Jesus’ teaching, we become less and less self-absorbed—a great cause of fault; and when we place others’ needs before our own, selflessness replaces selfishness, and we become the servants Christ so very much desired us to be.
Jesus also taught the importance of our words. “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” James 3:2 Rather than using words rashly without thought, the cause of being rude, insensitive, condemning, etc., we are to use words to encourage one another and build one another up, to be good and helpful to others (1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Ephesians 4:29). “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 Again, Jesus taught us that we are to humble ourselves in placing others’ needs before our own, and the fault of selfishness grows less and less.
Jesus also said, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 Although when Jesus said these words He was talking to men who were using excuses not to follow Him immediately, I believe this verse can also be applied to our lives today. By not looking back at the errors of our ways, but by studying God’s Word so that we may become imitators of Christ, our faults will drop off like dead leaves and be replaced by the green leaves of godliness that edify our Lord and Savior and prayerfully will touch the lives of others drawing them to the light of salvation in Him.
Paul wrote, “. . . but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 Our past equals dead leaves; let us not wallow in it! Let us focus on our future in Christ which promises a brilliant, joyful life in eternity! Let us run our race with vigor and follow Jesus’ command: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Faults . . . dead leaves . . . have you let yours fall from your tree of life, or do you focus on your past and feel overwhelmed? I would urge you, as I am doing for myself, to look forward, not back; to focus on who you can be in Christ and how others’ lives can be touched for Him when you act as His hands and feet. When you pass your goal line, how wonderful it will be if you then watch others following on the path to life in Jesus because of how you lived your life.
1. Leaves of Gold, edited by Clyde Francis Lytle, Gossett Publishing Company, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1948.
2. https://www.biblestudytools.com › dictionary › fault
Genesis 19:26 “But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.”
Romans 12:10 “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
Proverbs 15:4 “Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Philippians 4:8 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
PRAYER: Dear Father, I would ask that you would help me to remove all dead leaves from my life and continue to learn from Your Holy Word who and what you desire me to be and do. Rather than focus on my faults or the faults of others, let me always focus on Your life and how you placed the welfare of others before your own and imitate You. Turn what is dead in me into life, and help me always focus on the hope that lies before me—the knowledge that when this race has been run, I will live with you in incomprehensible joy. Thank You, Father, for continuing to teach me and lead me on the path that leads to You, and help me guide others in Your footsteps. Amen.
DISCLAIMER: I am just an ordinary woman who loves Jesus, accepting Him as Savior at the age of thirty-two and digging into the Bible ever since. How could I possibly hope to develop a heart relationship with God and trust Him with my life if I didn't know who He is?!
These devotionals are written to help you journey with Christ and grow in your heart relationship with Him. However, it is essential that you examine my words, and those of all other "teachers," with God's Holy Word. Therein lies the source of all truth!
Candice Mary Thomas writes about loving God and loving people! Coming to Christ at age 32 and now in her 70's, Candice knows what a difference it makes living with or without Christ as one's personal Savior.