Pruning Shears

The Wisdom of Cutting Back

Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.  –Pete Seeger, folk singer

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. Matthew 14:22-23 (NASB)


People like Tim, the mechanic, are a rarity these days. An older guy with a kind, humble heart, Tim won’t tackle anything that’s very complicated, choosing to limit his work to routine types of automotive maintenance. The operation is relatively low-tech, but his prices are reasonable.

Not long ago, I called Tim for an oil change. My schedule was busy and so I was thankful that Tim could take the car in immediately. As I pulled into the parking lot, a lack of other vehicles caught my attention. A little concerned that his business was floundering, I asked Tim how it was going. That particular summer day was indeed slow, but he assured me that overall his business was steady. Tim explained that he didn’t have a huge clientele because he preferred not to attempt to tackle too many repairs on a given day. In other words, Tim is quite content with a steady but consistent income—even though it might not be all that large.

Our bigger, better, more culture would despise Tim’s modest approach. I suspect, however, that the humble mechanic has something up on the rest of the world. Day-to-day peace is as big a part of Tim’s quality of life as is the ability to grow his business, or to buy (and accumulate) possessions. Sadly, the bigger, better, more mentality is now ingrained in our society to the point that anything less seems odd.

The Drawbacks of Prosperity

A significant drawback of prosperity is the amount of unnecessary stuff that people tend to accumulate. More stuff means more time, effort, and money to care for what we own, often at the expense of our spiritual vitality. No rule states that material and spiritual prosperity must conflict with one another, but they often do because hardly any of us are able to navigate both worlds effectively. The result is that many who prosper financially suffer from the disease of chronic spiritual dryness. Their wilderness may be beautifully decorated, but it is spiritually parched nonetheless.

Over the years, I have noticed a ministry trend toward more activity and less prayer. This tendency seems to be as true for Christian leaders as for the average believer. Is it because we don’t care? Not at all. Simply put, prayer takes time and a certain measure of stillness. When life is busy, prayer is one of the first activities to be neglected.

Cutting Back

Pruning is a concept that doesn’t make a lot of natural sense apart from an agricultural perspective. Yes, we understand about cutting back the dead wood—those activities that take away from the quality of our lives. Watching long hours of television, for example, has never done much good for anybody.

Further still, even an overabundance of good can be bad. My blueberry bushes provide an excellent example. When the branches become too numerous, the size and quality of the berries suffer. I have learned firsthand the importance of trudging out to the garden in the dead of winter and cutting back not only the dead branches but some living ones as well. Sweet, beautiful berries are the result; and, trust me, they aren’t lacking in number!

Connected to God

There are times when cutting back our service to God isn’t conscience-friendly. There are so many needs across the globe that we often feel obligated to try to meet them all. Isn’t that, after all, what good Christians do? Such a mindset either paralyzes us because we are overwhelmed by the many needs we can’t possibly meet, or burns us out through our attempts to do too much.

The truth be told—the burdens of this world fall on Christ’s shoulders and not ours. Our call is to walk with Him, staying closely connected to our Lord and Savior in an abiding relationship. As the head of the church, He will direct the various expressions of His body to meet the needs that surround us. If all professing Christians stayed connected to God and submitted to His will, our world would be a much better place.

When it comes to simplicity, I don’t think we can find a better example than Jesus. He voluntarily limited His possessions, He pruned His following when false disciples began to gather, and He persistently went off by Himself to spend time with the Father. May our Lord give us the wisdom and courage to follow in His steps!