“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, [Jesus] came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.”
(Mark 11:12-14a, 20)
I remember (many!) years ago when I was in grade 6, our school handed out small, red, Gideon New Testaments to all of the students. I didn’t bother reading mine but my twin brother leafed through his. “Wow!” I remember him saying after he read today’s verse passage, “You don’t want to make Jesus mad!” All these years later I understand that the Lord wasn’t actually angry at a plant for not having fruit on it. This whole episode in the ministry life of Jesus was calculated to teach us something important; it was inscripturated for our learning (Romans 15:4). The Lord did not curse the fig tree simply because it hadn’t produced any figs (Mark makes it clear that it was too early in the season to reasonably expect them). Rather, He cursed the tree because it “pretended” to be something it was not. That is, its unseasonable display of leaves gave it a show of maturity, a kind of false promise to have figs available for a hungry traveler to enjoy. In reality, it had nothing to offer. The world is full of people like this. These are the play actors who pretend to be better than they really are. We expect this from the unregenerate, those who are still in darkness and taking their cues from the fallen world around us. Sadly, this kind of thing occurs even in the church. Ananias and Sapphira are tragic, early examples (Acts 5:1-10). God has granted to all of us rational faculties and moral sensibilities (Job 38:36; Psalm 94:8-11). He continually reveals Himself and His righteous requirements to saint and sinner alike (Romans 2:14-15). Those who persist in denying and suppressing the truth in unrighteousness God will give over to a reprobate mind, a mind void of right judgment (Romans 1:28). Those who profess to be wise while making dishonest use of their God-given intellects will find themselves stripped of that intellect. Even in the household of faith, where our salvation is secure (Romans 4:5; 1 Corinthians 3:13-15), God will deal with hypocrites who are far less fruitful than they pretend to be (2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 4:13). It is very important, however, that we understand fruitfulness properly. Because we are unique individuals with different challenges, ministries, and mission fields under God, two equally fruitful Christian lives often look very different. In all seasons of life, real fruit involves an abiding love for God and for others. It involves trusting and obeying God, even when it is most difficult. Whatever that looks like in our own lives, may God help us to be faithful, fruitful Christians, for His glory and the good of others.
God bless you,