One day, while Jesus and His disciples were entering Jerusalem, he saw a fig tree which had grown leaves. Expecting to find some figs on it, He went closer only to be disappointed to find no fruits on the tree. Jesus cursed the fig tree.
‘The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.’ (Mark 11:12-14)
The story of the cursed fig tree can be found in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-25. In both passages, the event took place just around the time Jesus rid the temple in Jerusalem of the traders.
There have been several theological discussions as to the symbolism of this event. Many scholars have suggested that the cursing of the fig tree connotes God’s judgement against Israel in general and the temple in particular which was at the center of national spirituality. Indeed, in both Hosea 9:10 and Jeremiah 24, the fig tree is used prophetically as a symbol for Israel.
I like to however take a rather more practical look at the event. Fig trees generally grow leaves in late spring after their long dormant period during the winter, and begin to produce figs in early summer. Once the fig tree actually shows leaves, it is ready to begin the process of producing figs.
Simply put, if it is not yet the season for figs, the fig tree which is not ready to start producing figs must not grow leaves. By growing leaves when it wasn’t in season, it was promising something it could not deliver, thereby deceiving everyone who approaches it. Jesus did not take this kindly.
No matter who or what the fig tree stands for symbolically, the key lesson of this passage is about the danger of deception. To deceive is to mislead people to believe in a falsehood. Hypocrisy, pretense, and depicting a different nature in public from what we are in private, are all forms of deception.
Portraying something we are not, promising something we cannot deliver, or leading people on a path of deception with our actions or inactions is a grave vice that attracts the wrath of God.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680), a celebrated French moralist of the seventeenth century once said, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” Fake morality is simply decorated corruption.
“There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy,” said Frederick William Robertson, a nineteenth century English clergyman. According to him, those three things are hypocrisy, fraud, and tyranny.
In our world today, deception has become the new normal. Married couples lying to each other, politicians deceiving the populace for political advantage, workers pretending to be at post, accountants massaging figures, and employers pretending to be making no profits are all the unfortunate consequences of our fallen world.
As we are being equipped as an army to possess the nations, we must strive to put on the belt of truth always. Let us eschew all forms of hypocrisy and deception, and worship God in spirit and in truth. Let us indeed become the shining light in our world and the salt that preserves the society.
In all our activities and relationships, we must always endeavor to be truthful and, thereby, avoid the fate of the cursed fig tree.
Written by P/Ovr. Joel Kwesi Baidoo (0207079250)