Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fruit Loops

If you are like me, I’m sure there are passages of scripture in the Bible that you don’t quite understand. After spending years studying the Bible from cover to cover, both on my own and in formal training, I still wrestle with certain things the Bible says. I’m not talking about books of the Bible like Revelation, or the last part of Daniel that seem to confuse most people. I’m talking about the straight-forward scriptures that seem to make no sense.

A good example of this for me is found in Matthew 21.
Now in the morning, as [Jesus] returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:18-19)

This passage always seemed a little odd to me. The way it reads seems to indicate that Jesus was ready for some breakfast, but the fig tree did not have anything for Him to eat. Therefore, He just destroyed it. Upon a first reading, it seems as though Jesus was not a morning person and used His divinity to exact revenge on a poor tree. Who hasn’t wanted to be able to do this to someone or something that made us angry? (I had a similar incident at Hardee’s in Greenwood this week, but I didn’t burn the building down.)

What is really going on in this passage? Jesus was human, so He experienced hunger. If you read what happened before this passage, you’ll find that the day before He had been busy. He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna, and He ran the moneychangers out of the temple. In other words, He worked up an appetite. By morning, He was ready for something to eat.

Also, this was right at the time of Passover. It was spring. The fig tree, if it was healthy, should have had its spring fruit ready for harvesting. When Jesus saw that it did not, He cursed it. Why? Not because He was angry with the tree, but to teach the Disciples who were around Him a lesson. Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach.

Did you know that you are like the fig tree? If you are a child of God, then you, like the fig tree, are supposed to bear fruit. What kind? Galatians 5:22-23 instructs us that the fruit of the spirit is, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

It was a reasonable expectation that Jesus should find fruit on a fig tree in the spring. It is equally reasonable to expect us to show the fruit listed above if we are truly following Him. We are not to be His in word only, but also in actions. We must love as Jesus loves. We must have the joy and peace that come from submitting to the Father’s will. We must be patient, gentle, kind and good to all as Jesus exemplified in His life. We must be faithful to who we are in Christ. We also must control our evil desires and resist temptations that come our way, as Christ has taught us.

If we are a tree that has the most beautiful leaves, but have no fruit, then we are nothing more than a house decoration with no function or purpose. Jesus cursed and withered the tree, because it was simply taking up good soil to do nothing but look good.

Is that what we are doing in our churches? Are we simply taking up space, but never even showing signs of any real functional fruit? Are we rooted in a shallow relationship with Christ that will never yield a harvest?

There is a world that is hungry for Christ. When they come to you will you be found with fruit or will they have to look elsewhere?

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20 NKJV)

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