ESSAY-LIKE SUNDAY MORNING: Today I diverge from my usual habit of reviewing the lesson from the Sunday School text. Today, in keeping with the theme of my blog for the past few days, I will tell a story about a fig tree. I’ll title this lesson THE FIGLESS FIG TREE!
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. He looked around carefully at everything and then left—for now it was late in the afternoon—and went out to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
The next morning as they left Bethany, he felt hungry. A little way off he noticed a fig tree covered with lush, green leaves. So, He went over to see if he could find any figs on it. But no! There were only leaves, for it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “You shall never bear fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it.
When they arrived back in Jerusalem, He went to the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers, and knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves, and stopped everyone from bringing in loads of merchandise. He, in essence, shut down the “stock market”. He told them, “It is written in the Scriptures, ‘My Temple is to be a place of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of robbers.”
When the chief priests and other Jewish leaders heard what he had done, they began planning how best to get rid of him. Their problem was their fear of riots because the people were so enthusiastic about Jesus’ teaching. That evening, as usual, they left the city. The next morning, as the disciples passed the fig tree Jesus had cursed, they saw that it was withered from the roots! Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Teacher! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” What was implied by Peter’s exclamation was the question, “Jesus, how can this be?”
Jesus understood the implied question and replied to it by saying to the disciples;
“If you only have Faith in God—this is the absolute truth—you can say to this Mount of Olives, ‘Rise up and fall into the Mediterranean,’ and your command will be obeyed. All that’s required is that you really believe and have no doubt! Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you have it; it’s yours! But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.” (Mark 11:11-23)
THE LESSON OF THE FIG TREE
The obvious take-away from these verses is in the words of Jesus to His disciples. He is telling them about the awesome power of Faith; Faith in God. He is explaining to them the power of prayer and the need for forgiveness. There is indeed, unlimited power in Faith, but FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD! But, there is a hidden lesson in the fig tree itself.
SOME OF US ARE LIKE THAT FIG TREE!
On the outside and from a distance, we look good. We go to church, we sing our songs, we read our Bible and we parlez fluent CHRISTIANESE, spouting time-worn idioms like; “I’m blessed and highly favored!”, “It’s my season!”, “What God has for me is for me!”, “Sow a seed!”, “I’m putting it in God’s hands”, or “Turn it over to God!” around our friends . . . But behind the nice green leaves AND upon closer inspection, there is no fruit. We are not producing the things in our lives that Jesus desires! We are not making disciples! We’re not loving our neighbors! We’re not praying for others! We’re not helping those in need! We’re not forgiving as we have been forgiven! We just don’t show the Fruit of the Spirit.
What James is telling us about Faith and works, is the natural progression from what Jesus tells His disciples about Faith. With ample Faith, one can do all things but the operative word is “DO”. The definition of “DO”, according to Merriam-Webster is: “to perform, execute, do some work.” If you are not DOING anything with your Faith, you Faith is DEAD!
James tells us that if Faith does not have works, deeds and actions of obedience to back it up, then that Faith is inoperative, for it is dead. It is a false Faith. True saving Faith will never be alone it will produce fruit to accompany it. Faith alone saves, but Faith that saves is not alone; good works always accompanies it. The new life in Christ produces a new life style, new values, and the fruit of good works. James shows us that Faith without fruit or works is false and futile.
The Amp Bible makes it very clear what James is saying. “Are you willing to be shown proof, you foolish, unproductive, spiritually-deficient fellow, that Faith apart from good works is inactive and ineffective and worthless.”
False Faith shows no Compassion. False Faith shows no fruits of Conversion. False Faith has no Communion with God. The Bible makes it clear that eloquence and ignorance can often go together. The Bible also makes it clear that empty vessels can make the greatest noise. Thus, the man, who says he has Faith, but has no fruit, is an empty, and foolish man and his Faith is dead. This kind of Faith, which is accompanied, by a lot of talking and no walking, is a dead Faith, it is FATAL! There is no CPR for a DEAD FAITH! The question that James is asking the spiritually blind soul is “Do you really want to know? Do you want evidence of what I am saying is true?”
According to Dr. John Blanchard, an internationally known Christian preacher, teacher, apologist and author, “The point is not that the presence of fruit proves the presence of Faith, but the absence of fruit proves the absence of Faith.”
What is it that God is speaking to you through the fruitless fig tree today? What is it that God is asking from you? Are you producing fruit? Let’s have Faith in God be fruitful in our Christian lives. Amen.