the danger in being a fig tree

figs look lively cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Figs Look Lively” by nakedpastor David Hayward

Purchase a print of this cartoon.

So you’re a fig tree, and one day you’re just minding your own business being a fig tree in the off season, when Jesus comes along and curses you for not bearing figs, even though it is not the season. And so you whither up and die.

I’m not here to explain away why this could have actually happened. I know there are evangelical biblical scholars who assert that it was the season for what the Arabs call taqsh… small little buds that the fig tree produces and which fall off before the figs come in. Passersby could snack on these. But Jesus noticed there weren’t any taqsh, so that mean there would be no figs, which meant the tree was barren, which justified Jesus cursing the tree.

So in this cartoon the fig tree says, “Okay figs… look lively!” Jesus is coming followed by his disciples. Scary! Who knows what he’s going to do! Should I have figs? Should I not have figs? I don’t know. He cursed my brother because he didn’t have figs OUT of season. Is he going to curse me because I have figs IN season? What should I do? How should I be? Is Jesus going to bless me? Or is Jesus going to curse me? I don’t know! Oh God, here he comes!

I put this story of Jesus in the gospels in the weird category. Odd. It is only in Mark and Matthew. It is a strange event, out of character it seems for Jesus. Scholars guess at what it means. Many claim Jesus did this just to prove his divinity and authority over nature. Meh.

The point I want to make is that many people have this same fear in the church and its ministers and members and message. We talk a lot of grace. But we all know that we can be treated very unpredictably. Grace talkers make excellent abusers. Love preachers can be awesome manipulators. One day we can be basking in the church’s favor and the next kicked out on our figs. How many times has “Jesus cleared out the temple” and “Jesus cursed the fig tree” been used on me? On you? Interesting fact: both of these stories happen very close to each other in the accounts. Hm.

I believe this is the bottom line: Grace does not kill. Love does not curse. We can rely on that.



9 Replies to “the danger in being a fig tree”

  1. Ok. Here’s my take on The Fig Tree Incident. Jesus had been to Jerusalem the day before. They had lauded and praised him, but he knew they’d yell “Crucify him!” soon. He saw the mess in the temple with the money changers and it disturbed him. They went to Bethany that night and started back to Jerusalem early in the morning. He’d likely been brooding over the whole temple mess all night long. He was hungry. His blood sugar was low, and he was cranky. (The scripture says he was in ALL points tempted as we are…). So, hungry, he expected to eat something off the fig tree, and it had nothing. He was pissed and so he cursed it! It’s the only thing we have record of that he cursed. Then he proceeded to the temple and went ballistic on the moneychangers. I think he cursed the fig tree and cleared the temple because he was tired, angry, and hungry. He was, after all, human as well as divine. For what it’s worth… 🙂

  2. I love this David. Not just for your spot on comparison to what many church members experience, but also for the candid questions pertaining to the story itself. Questioning the church is relatively “safe”. But questioning some part of the Jesus narrative is far riskier even on a blog such as this. But perhaps what I like most is that you are able to form your own conclusions and identify guiding principles without attempting to resolve inconsistencies in the narrative. That is freedom.

  3. Thanks Gary. It’s interesting, but I got personal correspondence back on this commentary from atheists asking me what my take was on scripture being God’s Word. They couldn’t understand how someone they view as a Christian could question it in this way. I responded, basically, that it is NOT God’s Word, but man’s attempted word ABOUT That-Which-We-Call-God. Interesting discussions.

  4. “Man’s attempted word”…indeed.

    In my personal life there are still very few I can discuss this topic with. Love having a place to explore these subjects honestly.

  5. I’m glad this place is here too; sometimes I feel so insulated that I can’t discuss things with anyone who doesn’t already agree with me. It’s nice to have a place to challenge and be challenged. I really enjoy the depth I find here.

  6. I had a great discussion with my dog the other day, concerning the physics of sonic booms and open-air explosions. I explained they were harmless, and essentially highly compressed air slipping over a structure moving at greater than the speed of sound… or an explosive wave expansion that moves out and then rebounds in… and so, the compressed waves move into our area from the weapons test area, and shake the glass windows, and we hear the sonic ‘sound’ (or the wave’s double sound) and the vibrational aspect of the glass within the window. My dog simply cowered in a corner, and whimpered. After a time, I shut up. I sat next to her, and after a thought or two… I then stared at the offending window and growled long and deep… she looked at me, and then growled too. Dogs understand ‘packing up’ and growling at intruders, yanno? We finally communicated, and we were brave together.

    The challenge of vocabulary and comprehension is immense. God can surely communicate to man the deepest truths, but ultimately, the fullness of the Godhead must communicate within mankind’s limited vocabulary and comprehension – or there will only be just an awe-struck and fearful listener cowering in a corner… and no deeper comprehension or response.

    The limitation is among the dogs, so to speak. So, in my opinion, the Bible is the best set of barks and growls, I know of…. really…. and in that way, it is not the words of God… rather, it is a number of dogs in the pack explaining their experience with (and understanding of) sonic booms and explosion waves with dog comprehension and in dog terms, so that all we dogs can ‘pack up’ and growl in the right direction… and stop whimpering in a corner overcome by fear.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn (with my dog on the lounge sleeping near me)

Comments are closed.