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The Cursing of the Figs

by | Jul 7, 2023 | Christian Example, New Life, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Life

“The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat your fruit again!’ And the disciples heard him say it.

(Mark 11:12-14 NLT)

It has always been a puzzling story to me: Why would Jesus curse a fig tree because it didn’t have any fruit, when it wasn’t even the season for figs??? I mean, poor tree! It is just doing what it was created — by Jesus Himself! — to do! The world’s wisest man teaches us that there is a season for everything: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…A time to plant and a time to harvest….” (Eccl. 3:1-2 NLT). Why, therefore, would Jesus curse the tree for no fruit when it wasn’t even the right season??? It makes me want to put a little protection around all the out-of-season figs, and perhaps all the out-of-season trees! Don’t let Jesus see that peach tree without fruit!!!

As I think about this, however, my mind goes to the abundance of fruit orchards in the region where I live. One of the two “bread baskets” of Canada, my region produces what I would (biasedly!) say are the best peaches, apricots, plums, apples and pears in the world. And we have begun to develop quite a reputation for grapes as well! I absolutely love driving through the region in the spring. First the trees are completely bear, then those bare branches burst into beautiful flowers. After this the leaves begin to appear. Tiny at first, but by the time the tree is fully in leaf, you can already see the beginnings of fruit on the branches… Wait. Our climate may be far too cold to grow figs, but a fig tree would be no different from a peach tree! By the time the fig is fully leafed out, there should be at least some tiny knobs beginning to grow…

But that is a peach tree. Maybe figs are different? And so I did a little research.

Interestingly, figs do lose their leaves in the fall, even in Israel. There are two different fruit seasons for the fig. They produce a spring crop from old growth of the previous year, and a second crop in the fall on the season’s new growth. Apparently a fig tree must be of a certain age, generally 5-6 years old, in order to produce ripe fruit; however even a young fig tree will produce green, fig-shaped structures at the base of almost every leaf.

Therefore, when Jesus examined that tree, which would have been in the spring as it was nearing Passover, he should have at least found evidence of fruit that would eventually ripen.

But the Bible says He didn’t…

What we see here, then, is a tree full of fig leaves. It is declaring to the world by its leaves that it is a fig tree. Yet it does not produce any figs. And what good is a fig tree that doesn’t produce figs? None at all, and Jesus cursed it.

Why is this story included in scripture?

I would suggest that it is because Jesus knew that one day, nearly 2000 years later, His precious church would be full of fully-leafed fig trees that don’t bear fruit!

And of course, I am referring to so many Christians. We say we are Christian. We claim to have made God the centre of our lives. We go to church, we sing songs and raise our hands in worship. But we are sadly lacking in fruit. And by “fruit”, I am of course referring to the fruit of the Spirit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). God doesn’t want people to wear His name without producing His fruit. When we call ourselves after His name, we should show His love, His joy and peace, His patient kindness, His goodness and gentleness, His faithfulness and His self-control! And if we don’t, we are no better than that fig tree near Jerusalem. We are good only to be cursed!

This story isn’t so different from the parable of the sheep and the goats, recorded in Matthew 25:31-46! The sheep are praised for showing love to their fellow mankind: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” (vs. 34-35 NIV). In other words, the “sheep” bore fruit! They bore love and patience and kindness and goodness, etc., while the “goats” were cursed. Why? For the same reason as the fig tree: They bore no fruit! “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in…” (vs. 41-42 NIV)

It makes you think, doesn’t it? How much fruit do you bear? Of course there will be times when you bear more fruit than others; but at all times there should be signs of fruit-bearing. God doesn’t want fully-leafed Christians without fruit. He wants us to show we are Christians by our love!

What can you do to bear fruit today? Why not ask God to help you with this?

In His love,

Lynona Gordon Chaffart
Moderator, Associate Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries