"In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, 'May no fruit ever come from you again!'" - Matthew 21:18-19a
This fig business has always confused me. Until I noticed that Matthew follows it up pretty closely with another story. Two kids get asked by their parent to do some work. One says he'll do it but doesn't. The other says no but comes through in the end. And Jesus asks his disciples, "Which one did what their parent asked?"
That's when I realized. This is that kind of fig tree.
It's a fig tree that wants you to know that it's a fig tree. The kind that will turn your head if you're walking along the road hungry. It's filled with leaves because it doesn't want there to be any mistake – totally a fig tree.
This fig tree wears fig tree jewelry – a fig tree necklace...on the outside of the shirt. It has a fig tree bumper sticker on its car. It's a fig tree swallowing the word "Darwin." It listens to fig tree music exclusively. Because other music has so many non-fig-tree themes. It's that kind of fig tree. And the only thing it's missing, is any figs. At. All.
Now there's nothing wrong with fig tree jewelry, and some of the music is...not terrible. But Jesus' stories suggest, if we're going to advertise our figgy-ness, we better bring the fruit.
Loving Parent, may I under-promise and you over-deliver on the fruits of the Spirit in me today.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.