Poor Little Fig Tree

On Tuesday, I wrote a post entitled Anything, which looked at the awesome power of prayer. Yesterday, I shared a post called – A Fig Tree – which picked up that theme, and was written by the excellent blogger Bruce Cooper. Some comments on these posts highlighted to me that many do not fully understand the poor little fig tree that Jesus cursed. It is my intention to help you today to grasp why Jesus treated it so harshly.

Let’s look at Mark’s Gospel, which is the parallel account from Matthew 21. Mark splits the story in two halves; so I put the two together here.

In the morning when they were on the way out of Bethany, Jesus was hungry.

13 He saw a fig tree a little way off with leaves on it. So he went to see if it had figs. He came to the tree. There was no fruit on it, only leaves. It was not the time for figs.

14 Jesus said to the tree, `No one will ever eat a fig from you again!’ His disciples heard what he said.

Mark 11:12-14 WEB

19 In the evening Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

20 The next morning they passed the fig tree again. They saw that it had died from the roots.

21 Peter remembered about it. He said, `Look Master, you cursed the fig tree and it has died.’

22 Jesus said, `Believe in God.

23 I tell you the truth. Anyone may say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea.” He must not doubt in his heart, but he must believe that he will have the things he asks for and he will have them.

24 So I tell you, when you ask God for anything believe that you will get it and you will have it.

Mark 11:19-24 WEB

So, Jesus wants some breakfast. Seeing the fig tree (from a distance presumably), the green leaves make the promise of fresh fruit. As He examines the tree, He find not one fig. Jesus is clearly displeased and curses the tree, saying no one will ever eat of it again.

In the second half of the story, Jesus and His disciples pass the very same tree and find it withered. They are amazed, and Jesus uses it as a teaching opportunity about the power of prayer and faith.

Many people feel rather sorry for this poor little fig tree. I mean, did it really do anything wrong? Or at least, did it do anything so wrong it deserved to be cursed unto death?

If you do feel sorry for the tree, then I have to tell you that you have misunderstood the point of the text. This fig tree was a phony – worse, it was a liar. It displayed its leaves to the world, offering the promise of fruit and nourishment, but did not deliver. It said one thing, and did another.

The key to understanding this picture is to read what happens in between the two halves of the account.

15 They reached Jerusalem. Jesus went into the temple. He began to drive out the people who were buying and selling in the temple. He threw down the tables of the money changers. He pushed down the seats of those who sold doves.

16 He would not let anyone carry anything through the temple.

17 He taught the people, saying, `The holy writings say, “My house shall be called a house for all tribes and nations, where people talk with God.” But you have made it a place for people who steal!’

18 The chief priests and scribes heard what he said. They wanted to find some way to kill him. They feared Jesus because all the people were surprised at his teaching.

Mark 11:15-18 WEB

Jesus goes into the temple, and not for the first time, creates something of a disturbance. The temple – the place where people could come and approach God in prayer – has been turned into a market. Complex systems of monetary exchange, purchasing of animals for sacrifice and a general lack of respect enrage the Lord and He turfs them out.

Look at how the priests react in verse 18. They want to kill Him! Why? Because they were likely benefitting from the state of affairs in the temple. Rather than revering the temple’s holiness, they have profited from those seeking to approach God. Jesus is incredibly displeased by this.

The key is this: the priest, who display the outward appearance of holiness, have no true fruit to offer. Like the fig tree, they put out their leaves – wearing fine robes, quoting Scripture, enforcing the Law, applying human traditions to temple worship, and so on. In their hearts however, they do not keep the Law of God, and make it harder to approach God instead of serving the people. They were phonies.

So what is the lesson for us? Are we to go around cursing unfruitful trees? Or ought we to go into church and start turning over tables and chairs? Of course not!

The point is that you and I, by bearing the name of Christ, are displaying leaves to the world. We represent Jesus in our homes, places of work and community, and when people come looking for fruit, we had better make sure they find it.

Don’t carry around a Bible under your arm and be as mean as a snake to those you meet. Don’t put a fish sticker on your car, and then cut off another driver before speeding off into the sunset exceeding the limit. Don’t put “Christian” on your social profile and then share materials far less than holy.

Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5:

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT

Christ does not live on the Earth in bodily form anymore, so the only way people can see Him is in us – His church. We represent Him, and we are His ambassadors. God is making His appeal to the world through us! That is a huge responsibility, and one we must all take seriously.

That is not to say we must be perfect, or can never make mistakes, but where possible we must endeavour to back up our words with actions.

Do not feel pity for the fig tree, instead learn its lesson. Be a tree which bears good fruit, and remember the world is watching.

A Fig Tree

Today I share some further thoughts on the fig tree from a fellow blogger Bruce Cooper. He gives us some further thoughts on the power of prayer but also its limitations. We cannot, for example, pray outside of God’s will.

Anyway, I shall leave it to Bruce to explain! I hope you enjoy the post and do encourage you to check out his blog.

I was reading a post by Andy Brown this morning, where Jesus curses a fig tree, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which you can view here. These …

A Fig Tree

Rejoice, Pray and Give Thanks

I enjoyed reading this post over lunch today, so I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy it too rejoice always and give thanks! Praise the Lord!

God our Father’s will for us is that we partake in joy everlasting, pray to Him always and praise Him in thanksgiving. By doing these things, we are …

Rejoice, Pray and Give Thanks

The Berean Approach – Andy Brown

I don’t want you to just take my word for it… We take a little break from our current series on Psalm 103 to discuss something important. It is an immense privilege to share God’s Word with you through this blog, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But you, the reader, have a responsibility…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2018/04/12/the-berean-approach/

Replenish

The word “replenish “ has really struck me from this post, as does the verse from Jeremiah. Do give it a read.

Replenish…what a satisfying word just in itself. When you say that word “Replenish” it automatically has a positive influence. It’s a word with good …

Replenish

What is Prayer? – Andy Brown

Recent news has reported a big increase in the number of Google searches for the term “prayer.” The stories suggest that the increase in these searches is in step with the spread of Coronavirus and in general perhaps reflects people’s growing fears in recent times. Just yesterday I caught a video on Facebook of Russell…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/05/15/what-is-prayer/

One Thing I Ask (Re-post)

andy-brown.org/2022/01/29/one-thing-i-ask/

Just as He said He would

Happy Easter!

It was my privilege to share for a few minutes this morning at our early morning sunrise service on this Resurrection Sunday.

I share below a recording of the message which I hope you enjoy.

May you be eternally blessed this Easter weekend!

A message from Andy on Easter Sunday morningA message from Andy on Easter Sunday morning

Marriage Matters, It’s A Family Affair, S01E012

Can’t recommend this highly enough! Do give it a watch!

In this week’s Marriage Matters, Andy B and Jo talk candidly about things that cause problems in our marriages, that may lead to unfaithfulness in …

Marriage Matters, It’s A Family Affair, S01E012

Palm Sunday talk

A sermon I preached on Palm Sunday several years ago now… Hope you enjoy

Passion For His Word

I share this post from a dear friend and brother, and echoed his thoughts on the importance of God’s word.

Rhythm of The Lake, Photo courtesy of Nathan Berry,Image Copyright 2022 TakeN Photography. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on …

Passion For His Word

Work Hard

Some evenings I sit down after a hard day’s work and reflect on the day. I often ask myself how well I have represented God’s kingdom, and marking myself coming up short most of the time. Did I share my faith at any point? How much did I pray? Is God’s Kingdom any stronger because of my actions today?

These are good and important questions, and I was asking myself them only today. My answers were not so good if I am being honest. I didn’t share my faith outside of the blog. I did not pray nearly enough. I saw no impact on God’s Kingdom through any of my actions. Unsurprisingly this left me a little discouraged.

Thank the Lord that He is so kind to us though, and the very bearer of the gift of encouragement!

He reminded me that I had done a full day’s work, earning my pay which I would later receive. He then reminded me of this verse from Ephesians.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

Ephesians 4:28 (NLT)

I am blessed to be able to say that I enjoy my work. That has not always been the case, but my present employment is fulfilling and although not Christian ministry, it does serve the wider society.

At the end of the day, even if I fail in a number of ways, I can know that the day’s work will result in a payslip, and that I can use that money to give to those in need. For the most part, that may be giving to the church or ministry in order to enable others to share the Good News. If I am not in the position to share it widely myself, I can at least support others who can.

Perhaps you are in secular employment, and like me wonder how your life contributes to God’s Kingdom. Let me suggest you do not work merely for yourself and to pay your bills, but also so that you might have something to give. I have met people whose ministry it was to be successful in business and to offer their entire profit margin to the Lord. That is no small thing.

Jesus taught of the Shrewd Servant in Luke 16, who misused his master’s money on himself and came under threat of losing his job. Instead of using that money to help himself, he then began to use it to win friends of the master’s debtors. Both ways were misusing the master’s money, but Jesus praised him in the second way because at least he used the funds for a future purpose.

Jesus pointed out the lesson in verse 9:

Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

Luke 16:9 (NLT)

The lesson is clear. Use your earthly resources to benefit others and win friends. Notice that final phrase though, “to welcome you to an eternal home.” This suggests not only that we use our money to meet people’s physical needs, but their spiritual ones too. We can use our earthly money – which we cannot take with us – to fund the preaching of the Gospel, and that one day when we reach our eternal home, there will be people there to welcome us.

If you work a physical job, a secular role or something that seems disconnected to the Gospel, use the money you earn to spread God’s message throughout the world. It is not a waste of money, and rather an eternal investment. One day, someone will swing past your heavenly mansion and thank you for what you gave.

Work hard, as if working for the Lord Himself, because you are!