There is no telling how many times I have seen "sale" signs and noticed almost no discount from the price I had checked a few days before the sale. Life is a little like that. There are very few bargains when everything is figured into the mix of things.
Several years ago, an author penned, "Christianity is not a hot house religion." By that he meant that those coming to the church expecting to be pampered are likely to be disappointed. While I have to agree to a degree, I also believe that a Christian fellowship should be a place of refuge. While it is not intended to be a way to a cheap religion or a watered-down faith, it must be a place where the weak are protected, mutual burdens are shared, and the strong are sacrificial. After all, "the great invitation" promises that burdens are lifted, yokes are made easy, and above all else, rest is provided for the weary. (Mathew 11:30)
A hot house may not be a bad description for some in the church. A hot house is a place where the young and struggling receive tender care until they mature. That distinction, however, is the secret! We expect maturity do we not?
What do you do with a plant which never becomes what it is expected to be? Jesus had a comment on this as well. It is the story of the tree which produced no fruit. In real life experience, and in his parable, there is a recognition of the need for time and effort to help the tree produce. However, if it does not respond to such care, it is to be cut down and thrown into the fire. I rather suspect he is referring to the Judgement Day rather than placing the judgement in our hands, but the seriousness of fruitlessness can not be denied.
So the devil continues to place "on sale" signs on fake, bargain priced Christianity. Sadly, there are many unsuspecting souls who are fooled by this. It is bad to make a purchase, believing it is a bargain, only to find that it was not. How much more costly to find that the product that promised eternity was a fake!
The "cutting down" or the "throwing out on the dirt pile" is reserved for the Father and the Son. However, it seems to me that there are at least two things which are appropriate to us to do.
First, we must do everything we can to bring those who are young, weak, or unfruitful to productivity.
Second, we must also recognize when all our efforts have failed and turn to more productive work. It was Jesus who warned us about "casting our pearls before swine." (Matthew 7:6) Isn't this exactly what concerned him when he spoke the message — that we continue to pour our efforts into those who demand attention but resist any challenge to grow, mature, or commit to live for the Lord? If you find the term "swine" offensive, then let's return to the unfruitful tree. It may be less offensive in sound, but the end is the same. A faith that offers us a bargain, simply isn't. Jesus offered us his everything and he asks us to return that grace by offering ourselves to him daily, following the way of the Cross.
What are you doing with your life? Are you dedicated to the "cross daily"? (Luke 9:23) Are you willing to live a life of service and sacrifice or are you one who is constantly in need of maintenance yourself? It is a thought worth considering. Eternity, not mere pearls, rests on you answer.