Fruitless

by Christine Berglund

The fig tree has long been a symbol of peace and prosperity. In I Kings 4, as the glory days of Solomon were described, each man dwelt under his own fig tree.

The fig tree is a plant on our family’s wish list, as much for its symbolism as for its sweet fruit.

“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. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’ And His disciples were listening” (Mark 11:13-14).

Since it was not the season for figs, why did Jesus curse the tree?

Some trees are purely ornamental. My Kwanzan Cherry is one such type.

There will never be an edible cherry on the tree, but the fluffy pink blossoms are absolutely breathtaking. One garden visitor was clearly disappointed when he learned that it would not produce fruit, knowing we had seven other fruit trees at our place.

Jesus was also clearly disappointed when he saw that there were no figs when he needed them for sustenance. We often put our human emotions and characteristics on plants. We even start to feel sorry for the poor, defenseless fig tree.

But in this instance Jesus may have used the impersonal example of the tree to show his true feelings about being let down. Trees don’t have actual responsibilities, nor do they have feelings.

Jesus does not pronounce that type of curse on us, but he surely must feel a sharp pang of disappointment or aggravation when we fail him. We spend so much time talking and thinking about the love of God that we forget to think about what the Bible calls “the fear of God.”

If this example doesn’t give you a healthy respect, or “fear” of disappointing our Lord, then maybe you will want to read Luke 13. This chapter talks about repentance, and then gives an example of an unfruitful fig tree that was about to be cut down, but then got a second chance.

Jesus made the tree. The tree didn’t give him fruit when he wanted it. He pronounced a terrible curse on the tree, and it withered and died within a short time.

“As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered (Mark 11:20,21).

That is what we deserve when we fail in our responsibilities to our Lord. While the text of Mark 11, goes on to give the lesson of how God will accomplish amazing things when we pray in faith, there is still this underlying lesson.

Something that is not useful to God is worthy of being obliterated.

This is not to detract from the mercies of God. In fact, it highlights them. If the fig tree had nothing to give because it was made to give fruit in another season, and is still judged unworthy, then how merciful is our God when he sent his Son to redeem us from such unworthiness?

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

Let us put aside the excuses such as, “I was born this way,” and give God what he asks for from us. And when we fall short, just be thankful we are not fig trees.

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