Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. and seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And his disciples heard it. Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. and Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which you cursed has withered away.” Mark 11:12-14, 20-21 (NKJV))
I have always wondered about this story and thought that (dare I say it!) the Lord was just a teensy bit harsh with regards to this fig tree. After all, was it the tree’s fault that it was not the season for figs, and it did not have any fruit? However, I read this again recently and decided to dig a bit deeper. My study Bible noted that the reason the tree got into trouble was because the fruit on a fig tree is formed first, then the leaves. Therefore, when you see a tree in full leaf, it is perfectly legitimate to expect fruit. The notes went further to say this was used to highlight the disparity between the profession of righteousness and the maintenance of external forms of godliness by the nation of Israel in Jesus’ time, when they were in fact rejecting the Son of God!
As I reflected on this, I drew an analogy to the present-day church. Many Christians (as individuals) as well as churches have a lot of leaves, but little or no fruit. The ability to quote scripture copiously at every turn, pray long and eloquent fire-breathing prayers, be a great “worker” in the church, preach rousing sermons and recount the many mighty works God has done through you can often simply be leaves in today’s Christendom. Often-times, brushing aside these leaves reveals (as Jesus found on the fig tree) that there is no fruit either displayed or even developing!
So, what is the fruit we are supposed to be growing? Well Galatians 5:22-23 (AMPC) says this — but the fruit of the [Holy] spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].
So, no matter how good we appear or sound, to ourselves and others, if we are not actively developing the above, then we are a lot like the fig tree, all leaf and no fruit.
Another thing I realized was that I tend to examine other people’s trees (particularly my spouse’s) to assess how their fruit is growing — or not as the case may be. When really, my own tree needs urgent attention. Another verse which uncomfortably comes to mind here is:
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 (NKJV)
So, what do we do? Well firstly, spend time looking after your own tree and its fruit — pay more attention to what you should be doing. I find that if you honestly ask the Lord to show you areas you need to address, He will. We can pray these verses from Psalms:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24
Secondly, have a plan as to how you are going to do this. Gardeners do not plant seeds any old time or water, feed and tend their gardens now and then, or only when they feel like it. They follow a system and do what is required at the set times. So, we need to have a plan for reading and studying the Word, being consistent in prayer and possibly fasting (as the Lord leads), listening to the Lord and controlling what we think and say.
Finally, and most importantly, we need to stick with it. If we slip up, get up and continue. If we abandon our trees, they will end up like the fig tree in Mark 11 — dried up from the roots. But if we stick with it, then we can hope to be a tree laden with God-honoring fruit. What will Jesus and our spouses find when they brush our leaves aside?
Tending my garden,
Yinka in England