Pruning on Purpose

All the plant people are scouring websites for seeds and watching their favorite videos on best gardening practices. On warmer days, they are outside, readying flowerbeds and garden areas. They can hardly wait to sink their fingers into the cool dirt. Spring is just around the corner.

Many trees and bushes will be in need of pruning soon. Some are carrying deadwood from a hard winter. Others have outgrown their intended shape. Blooms and foliage come into play and need to be nurtured. And sometimes limbs become hazardous due to pests or fungus.

Jesus teaches about pruning too. In verse two of John 15, he says, “Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.” Then in verse eight he follows, “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”

Just like the plants, we too are in need of pruning so that we can be fruit-bearing believers in the kingdom of God. But when and why do we need to be pruned?

Pruning for Plant Health

Diseases, Pests, and Sin

One reason plants are pruned is to cut away pest infested plant parts that could contain disease. Fungus or sickness spreads, as do pests. If left alone without pruning, a small amount of pests can increase, ultimately spreading disease and killing the plant.

Sounds like sin to me. The way sin sneaks in to the weak, unattended areas and makes a home. Sometimes completely undetected and hidden until it begins spreading to other branches in our life. If we allow sin to grow, it will completely take over. Instead, just like the pest and disease invested limb, we must cut it off completely to keep the health of the plant—and ourselves. When we see the sin in our lives and excuse it away, it’s like leaving a sick limb on a plant and allowing it to devour the rest of the tree. Pruning needs to happen.

Plants also have dead limbs or branches that need to be pruned. This can be referred to as dead wood or old wood. These limbs detract from the beauty of the plant and make it unattractive.

Ever met a spiritually unattractive Christian? Ever been one? The dead branches are dead weight. So often we are carrying around old relationships, habits, actions, feelings, or activities that we should no longer participate in. They detract from the fruit God wants to grow in our life and creates a hindrance. It’s time to prune off the dead wood and become attractive again.

Off Balance

Sometimes there are trees that receive tons of light on one side, but the other side receives very little. These plants become lopsided and an oddity to onlookers. The lushness on the one side can also be deceiving and make the gardener think the whole plant is growing well, when in reality, the backside is struggling to get the proper air flow, sunlight, water, and attention the front receives.

As Christians this can happen as well. Maybe our ministry is soaring. We are invested. Growing. On fire. But our home life, now that’s a different story. Our marriage is unhealthy and the interactions with family less than Godly. We must step back and trim the other side back enough to let the light shine on the weaker areas. Really great in one area but falling a part in another isn’t the life we are called to lead as believers. Everything should be surrendered to Christ.

Jennifer Rothschild has a teaching about balance where she compares each of the legs of a table to the areas we should tend in our own lives: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. If any of these areas are off, the table will be useless and fall. Same goes for plants that aren’t proportional. Start allowing the pruning, letting the light in, and growth will happen in the neglected areas.


There are branches that grow in weird directions and intersect with other limbs on their own trunk. These branches get in their own way and hinder growth. Pruning these wild limbs allows the plant to avoid self-wounding and harm.

Do we ever get in our own way? Jump the gun? Open our mouths before we have thought? We are so guilty of hurting ourselves and getting in the way of our own growth. That’s why we must surrender those impulsive, wild branches to the Lord, and allow his intentional pruning to get us back on track with his growth plan and not ours.

Pruning for Training

Pruning isn’t just for dead parts, but also for branches that have outgrown their intended shape. Bonsai trees are a great example of intentional, regular pruning. These tiny, shapely trees are beautifully manicured and shaped on purpose. Not to mention lush, full, balanced, and beautiful.

God created each of us to fill certain roles and gave us specific parts to play. But we are guilty of looking at another person’s position, gifts, and talents and yearning for that shape instead. We must stop wishing away our existence and allow God to prune us right where we are for his specific purpose and plan. If we are an oak tree, we will never look like a rose bush. Grow and bloom in the area God has planted you in and be willing to be shaped in accordance with his guiding hand. He will be the source of making us lush, full, balanced, and beautiful in all the right ways.

Pruning for Quality

Many plants are known for their lush foliage while others are applauded for their astonishing blooms. These plants must be pruned accordingly. This means there are times when that plant isn’t ready to bloom and bear fruit, so the gardener pinches off the bloom to increase the growth of the foliage for a season. But then there are other times where the blooms are the focus, and that plant is mature enough to produce much fruit. The foliage is continually trimmed back, and old growth removed so that new growth will produce an abundance of fruit.

Believers, sometimes we aren’t ready to bloom yet. We need to wait. Even though we know God is calling us to a certain place, the timing isn’t right. There are lessons to be learned and growth that still must happen in order for us to sustain the level of fruit production he desires for us in the kingdom. As a Christian writer, this continues to be true.

But then, there are times when it’s time to step out of our comfortable place of nourishment and begin putting forth the effort of blooming. We are finally mature enough. And God is ready for us to bloom and produce much fruit.

There are seasons for each. And we must abide with Christ to know when to wait and when to bloom.

Extra Stems

Sometimes plants produce stray sprigs of growth. These random branches are sucking life from the main growth of the bush. They serve no purpose and detract from the intended shape and purpose of the plant, so the gardener may choose to cut off these extra stems.

Like our best laid plans. Those ones that we create and try to write into God’s plan because we think we know better than God. We make good decisions and invest in good areas. We want to make a difference with these good things. But good things aren’t always God things. Just because a direction is good doesn’t mean it’s a direction intended for us. More often than not, we have to allow God to prune extra stems in order to help us see the intended path we should be on.

Hazards that Lead to Pruning

Large trees, especially oaks and pines, often grow wider or taller than originally intended. Oaks can have long, heavy limbs that reach out too far in a direction. Pines, on the other hand, grow too tall and their root systems don’t compare to the height. In both these situations, the trees are in jeopardy of leaning, breaking, or falling.

Makes me think of pride. We get too big for our britches, overextend, take on roles not intended for us, and consider ourselves the best or only one for a task. Soon, the whole project is leaning and the branch breaks or the entire ministry folds. If we take our eyes off God and think we can handle it, we will break. And the fall creates quite the mess, just like the collapse of a huge tree or limb. That’s why it’s so important to prune these large limbs before they lead to the demise of plant, or person.

Pruning On Purpose

God’s pruning in our lives is never accidental. He is always behind the scenes working. We just need to surrender to the hedge trimmers.

Are you willing to be pruned?

Are you ready to produce much fruit for the kingdom?

(Want more on pruning? Check out this post from last year on Inspire a Fire: Pruning from God’s Perspective – Inspire A Fire)

© Christy Bass Adams, February 2024; all images from Canva

Information about pruning retrieved from

Christy Bass Adams

Christy Bass Adams, is the Outreach and Connections Coordinator at Fellowship Baptist Church in Madison, Florida. She is also a writer and had her first devotional book published in summer of 2022 (Big Lessons from Little People) followed by a middle grades novel (Imagination Checkers) in the fall. Her most important role, however, is with her family as a wife of 18 years and mother to two busy boys. She worked in education for over 18 years at both the elementary and collegiate levels. Her favorite pastimes are fishing and sitting around a fire. For more from Christy, visit her blog at

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  1. In North Carolina, we have these beautiful flowering pear trees. The trouble is when they get to a certain height, while they look beautiful, they really don’t have the strength to hold up their branches. So after every storm you see a beautiful pear tree with broken branches – like us, they may look rock solid on the outside by the slightest storm damages that façade.

    Plants are a great analogy for our Christian life. Thanks!

    1. God knew these trees, like you shared about, would be great analogies for us. Thank you for that example. Appearances aren’t always accurate, that’s for sure.

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