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The Tree That Didn’t Give A Fig – A Story for Christian Highly Sensitive People

December 3, 2009

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There’s a bizarre story in scriptures about Jesus and a fig tree. Some people can easily understand the implications of it because they’re from from fig country.

But if we don’t know the secrets of fig trees, there’s no way we can decipher the lesson here.

The Fig Tree

The story (Mark 11:12-14) goes like this. Mere days before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus is travelling – probably on foot as was common back then. He is in the middle of wrapping up His ministry, presenting His final teachings, communicating His final lessons, and accomplishing His final tasks.

He’s hungry and there isn’t a fast food restaurant in sight. In the distance He sees a fig tree in full leaf. The storyteller remarks that “it wasn’t the season for figs”. Jesus knows this, but when He sees the tree He makes a beeline for it, apparently looking for a meal.

When He gets up to it – no surprise – there are no figs on it. He curses the tree, which shortly thereafter dies.

A Perplexing Story

If we don’t know fig trees, we might look at this and say, “What? It wasn’t the season for figs! Jesus, why did you curse it for not having figs?”

And we might, if we weren’t afraid of being irreverent, think that Jesus looks irrational or evil here. We might even rationalize, “Well, I get crabby when I’m hungry. Maybe he was a tad hypoglycemic.”

If we’re being more reverent in our thoughts, we either are confused or come up with some creative way to explain what was going on in this story.

What We Fig-Tree-Illiterates Didn’t Know

The missing piece of information for those of us who don’t know fig trees is that the fruit and leaves of a fig tree grow simultaneously, and sometimes the figs start to come even before the leaves. And when the figs pass, so do the leaves. Fred Wight explains this in the old book Manners and Customs in Bible Lands*. And I have confirmed it with a gardener who knows fig trees.

So if you see a fig tree in full leaf, it’s supposed to have figs on it. Unless it’s not a good tree and doesn’t give a fig.

So What Was The Issue?

The issue here is not that this particular tree didn’t have figs; it wasn’t supposed to have fruit in that season. The real issue here is that this tree had leaves, which falsely made it look as if it had figs.

Basically it’s a portrait of hypocrisy. From far off it looked pretty good, but it was all flash and no fig. It made a pretense of fruitfulness when it wasn’t the season to be fruitful.

“In Its Season”

An ancient Hebrew poet wrote about a blessed tree growing by streams of water “that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Psalm 1:3).

According to this verse, each tree only needs to bear the fruit it was created for. For example, pear trees don’t have to bear pomegranates, and pecan trees don’t have to bear figs.

And different trees have different seasons and do not need to be producing fruit outside their particular season.

The same applies to people. In fact, that Hebrew poet was using the tree imagery to describe a person. In scriptures, it’s clear that everyone has a different rhythm to their seasons and a different flavor to their fruit. God seems to like it that way.

Moses was 80 years old when it was finally his season to bear fruit as the deliverer and leader of his people. Samuel began his ministry as a prophet of God when he was a small child and continued in it for the rest of his long life. Elijah had a three-year season of fruitless isolation in the middle of a powerful ministry. Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, knew he was going to be important someday and was instrumental in saving his entire known world from starvation, but all that came to be only after he endured long seasons of slavery and imprisonment. Ester, a powerless trophy Queen of a capricious King, briefly navigated some terrifyingly deep political waters as a young woman and saved the Jewish people from extermination. Mary’s time began in her teens, when she bore Jesus.

The Good News

The good news is that God has no desire for us to bear fruit out of our season. And the better news is that we don’t have to play games with Him to pretend we have fruit when we really don’t.

He’s not disapproving of our dormant seasons, however long they may be. We don’t have to hide or try to fake it with Him.

I have known many Christian highly sensitive people who have carried unnecessary stress during apparently long dormant seasons of their lives. But if we find ourselves here, it’s a fine thing to trust in God and relax into our relationship with God. If we are in Christ, our fruit bearing is Father God’s business. John 15 is an wonderful description of the roles of Father God, Jesus, and ourselves in our being fruitful. Truly, all we need to do is tend to our heart relationship with God.

My Prayer

Father God, teach our hearts to rest in Your faithfulness in caring for us! Thank You that our fruitfulness is not up to us! The Name of Jesus!

 

*Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight. ©1953. No evidence of a current copyright. An online version of this fascinating book available at Manners and Customs in Bible Lands by Fred Wight Lots of $1.99 used copies available at Albris.com

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