But if some of the branches of the tree have been broken off, while you, like shoots of wild-olive, have been grafted in, and don’t share like a natural branch the rich nourishment of the root, don’t let yourself feel superior to those former branches. (If you feel inclined that way, remind yourself that you do not support the root, the root supports you.) You may make the natural retort, “But the branches were broken off to make room for my grafting!” It wasn’t quite like that. They lost their position because they failed to believe; you only maintain yours because you do believe. The situation does not call for conceit but for a certain wholesome fear. If God removed the natural branches for a good reason, take care that you don’t give him the same reason for removing you.
But you must be careful not to brag about being put in to replace the branches that were broken off. Remember that you are important only because you are now a part of God’s tree; you are just a branch, not a root.
Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.
It doesn’t give you license to become proud and self-righteous about the fact that you’ve been grafted in. If you do boast, remember that the branches do not sustain the root—it is the system of roots that nourishes and supports you.
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