I love figs. My dad used to make the best fig preserves. I always looked forward to going to his house because I was sure there would be toast and fig preserves for breakfast. His preserves were the kind with big chunks in them – sometimes whole figs. He got his figs from a tree that grew without much tending behind his garage – hidden from view from everything else but with a bountiful crop.
I especially like to pick figs off the tree myself. When we lived in California, we had a wonderful fig tree in our back yard. I dried those figs and they were plentiful – so plentiful that when our son’s dachshund got on his hind legs to reach the branches and shake more figs down for himself, I just laughed. There were plenty of figs for all of us.
You can imagine my joy when we bought the house we are in now. There is a beautiful fig tree in our backyard. However, much to my dismay, I have not eaten one fig from that tree. The figs start to form, get hard, and drop to the ground. We have pampered that tree – watering it, fertilizing it, pruning it, clearing out the leaves underneath it – nothing works. I have often commented that I think it is related to the fig tree Jesus cursed.
What has been so confusing to me is how normal my fig tree looks. There is no difference between the appearance of this tree and other fig trees that have brought me such joy. My only conclusion is – there must be some problem on the inside. Something inherently bad in that tree produces bad fruit.
Many times Jesus compared us to things in nature that produce fruit such as trees and vines. He made the point that what we produce indicates who we are inside. We are saved by grace and not through any effort of our own. The evidence of grace accepted, however, is fruit produced. Ultimately, only God is the judge of anyone’s productivity. He does, however, tell us to be watchful.
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit….by their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew 7:17-20 NIV).