The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. (Mark 11:12-14)
This is known as Jesus’ “cursing of the fig tree.” When Jesus and His disciples returned to Bethany that night, the tree was dead.
Some have criticized Jesus for killing a fig tree during a season when fig trees did not normally bear figs. Why would he punish a fig tree for not doing something it was incapable of doing? Now, I love trees. In fact, my yard is precariously covered with a canopy of trees, which is homeowner’s suicide in a hurricane zone like mine. But seriously folks: the fact that Jesus would kill a single fig tree to make a point doesn’t bother me in the least. He created them all. Who knows…maybe he raised one up somewhere else in the desert to make things right…sort of like a fig tree mitigation program.
The point of Jesus’ illustration is this: just as fig trees were created to bear figs, people were created to bear good works. This doesn’t mean good works save us, but rather that good works are an indication of the heart. They are also our purpose for being.
What we may not know for sure is who Jesus had in mind when he struck the fig tree. He may have been thinking of the bad fruit of the Pharisees, or the self-absorbed fruit of the disciples. Maybe it was a general statement meant for all.
Some people use the term “fruit inspection” to describe how God examines our lives. I like the phrase. Like a farmer carefully tending his crop, God wants to know how we are using the abilities He has invested in us and the opportunities He has placed before us.
God is likely to walk into His field at any moment, any time of the day, and under any circumstance. He inspects before, during and after the storms of life. He inspects in dry and wet seasons. In short, we are always in His presence and under His scrutiny.
This doesn’t mean God stands ready to zap us if we fail in some way to be the producers we should be. But He wants us to be growing, producing, bearing and if possible, overflowing. He knows growth takes time, and production increases with growth.
God is actually an easy farmer to please. He realizes every tree is different (after all…He made us), and not all fruit is the same. He just wants us to live with purpose and bear fruit. Without fruit we are just wasting good soil that could be used by someone who knows what to do with it.
Dear God, help me get ready for inspection. In Jesus’ name, Amen.