The term usufruct is so difficult to define, but as I have come to understand it (or at least, as it is in my head), usufruct is the productivity of a parcel of land.
President Jefferson often was found to defend a citizen's use of private property so long as that citizen does not hinder or lessen the usufruct (fruitfulness) of the land. So, the president's belief was that we as 'landowners' have the right to use the land as we desire so long as our use of it does not injure future users/owners of that land. President Jefferson would at times even go further and say that our responsibility as 'landowners' were not only to prevent lessening the fruitfulness of the land (by overgrazing, over-harvesting, striping the land of resources, or toxify-ing the land by dumping or other means), but to actually increase the productivity...fruit bearing, of the land.
When I first heard the concepts that President Jefferson pressed about usufruct, I immediately processed them in terms of 'spiritual fruit'. And it is these concepts of spiritual usufruct, and spiritual fruit that I hope to share with you today...along with encouragement to you that you may be highly productive with the opportunities that God has given you.
So first, a definition:
Fruit, is anything being produced or accrued; it is a product, a result, or an effect. Fruit is the return of labor. Fruit serves as the evidence of one's intentions and claims.
So often when we hear of fruit in a Christian context we think of the 'Fruit of the Spirit' (Gal. 5:22) which refer to specific qualities that are possessed by a believer. Those qualities being: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.
It seems so easy to instantly jump to this list of qualities anytime we hear any scripture that speaks of fruit...or the product that we as believers yield.
"You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?"Matthew 7:16
For us to quickly fast-forward to these 'fruits of the spirit' when we hear of the scriptures is not a bad thing at all, however, to stop there and not progress any further would be amiss. Because as we stated earlier, fruit is anything that is being produced or accrued, anything that is a result of our labor. The labor of Christ in us does not only produce works in our character and within ourself, but also produces effects in those around us.
The labor of Christ in us also produces disciples! Disciples! The labor that we undergo everyday, the fight that we fight everyday, the race that we run everyday, as a Christian, that laboring, fighting, running, living, has a result of fruit, good fruit! Fruit of the Spirit? YES! Fruit of disciples? YES!
Now that we have made sure that we understand the fruits we produce as Christians, let us apply Jefferson's concept of usufruct to our 'spiritual field'.
And as such we 'children of God', 'heirs', we have the responsibility to build, plow, fertilize, (DISCIPLE) those around us in a way that not only prevents smaller fruit harvests but actually increases those harvests! Our responsibility as believers and disciples is to build other disciples and increase their harvests.
By not overgrazing, over-harvesting, stripping the land, toxify-ing...
in other words: By love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.
In all these things enter in prayer.
Bountiful harvests await!