Then Jesus used this illustration: "A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I've waited three years, and there hasn't been a single fig! Cut it down. It's taking up space we can use for something else.'" Luke 13:6-7
This has been a disappointing week. First, I was out on a walk, enjoying the prolific flowers that have sprung up after an unusually wet spring. I went from flowering tree, to flowering bush, to flowering gardens, sniffing away, with much the same results. Hardly any of the beguiling flowers had a fragrance!
Then, after a few recent weeks of hot, dry weather, we're in desperate need of rain. The past three days, big thunderheads rolled in over the mountains each afternoon, promising a doozy. And each time, the same result: not even one drop of moisture.
To top it off, I bought some rather expensive cherries at the grocery store, since they're one of my favorite summer fruits. Throughout the whole bag, only about one out of every eight cherries were enjoyably sweet. The rest were either tasteless or sour. By this time, I was pretty sure it was a conspiracy!
There's nothing worse than when you have your hopes up, counting on something to be a certain way, and it just doesn't happen. Like when a beautiful flower has no fragrance, or a stormy sky doesn't deliver moisture, or a bag of cherries turns out to be the pits.
There was a time when Jesus felt disappointed, too. He was hungry, and he saw a fig tree in full leaf, which meant it should have fruit. But as he neared the tree, it was completely void of fruit. He cursed the fig tree and it withered and died (see Mark 11:12-14).
The original intent of this parable was basically about Jesus rejecting the house of Judah for their unbelief (Judah was called a fig tree by the prophets). However, Jesus also made the point for us today. There's nothing more disappointing than people who put on the "show" of a fruitful life, beckoning the spiritually hungry from a distance, yet up close one finds that it was only false advertising.
There are many believers today who can look good from a distance, pretending to be someone different in public than they are at home, or pretending to have answers that end up shallow, hypocritical, and untried in their own lives. But these pretenders have no authentic or lasting fruit-bearing properties about their lives because they're only in it for show. And when the world approaches them hungry, they go away disappointed and empty.
As Christians we should, by default, be living advertisements of the solution to people's spiritual hunger. What are we doing to bear genuine tasty fruit in our daily lives? Are we pursuing love, authenticity, humility, dependence on God, and obedience? Is God building wisdom into our lives through our teachable hearts? It's only when we pursue these virtues that people will indeed find something worthwhile about us up close. But on the flip side, remember the sobering fate of a life for show—those people are chopped down and thrown into the fire of correction.
Offer your life to the Gardener today so that you might bear lasting, life-giving fruit for all who pass by.