Scripture Reading: Job 22:1-24:25 / Matthew 21:18-32 / Proverbs 3:21-35
Advertisers are masters of pushing truth to the border of falsehood. Phrases like “New and Improved”, “Guaranteed” and “Compared to other rival manufacturers” are often skewed. For example: Dannon’s popular Activia yogurt was forced to pay $45 million in damages to consumers who said they were mislead by the yogurts claim to help regulate their digestive system. That health claim was not factual and cost the company millions of dollars and their reputation was severely damaged.
Jesus discovered another form of false advertising and it meant the death of the product and advertiser. Jesus was hungry and, “Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. (Matthew 21:19)
The tree was guilty of “false advertising” because it had leaves but no figs. During the Passover (late March or early April), some fig trees would produce green figs and they would ripen close to June. As with every fig tree, the figs would grow and then its leaves would bloom and cover the fruit.
Jesus saw a fig tree with an abundance of leaves, signifying the presence of figs. He was hungry and was excited to find a fig tree with leaves because where there are leaves, there’s fruit! When Jesus went to pluck the figs from the tree, He did not find any figs…just leaves. Some have called this story, “The Cursing of the Braggart Fig Tree” because it boasted to have fruit but didn’t have any fruit.
Jesus was referring to religious Israel who claimed to be spiritually plentiful but they were actually spiritually empty and deficient. They were not what they claimed to be but were spiritually hypocritical. They could not even perceive and believe that Jesus Christ was their Messiah. Instead of embracing Him they crucified Him. Instead of enjoying the fruit of faith and belief, they received the judgment of their pride and unbelief.
Hypocrisy causes great damage to the message of the Kingdom of God but a death filled curse comes to those who live hypocritically. Jesus always forgave the broken and repentive but harshly judged those who were spiritually proud and arrogant. Jesus praised the widow woman who quietly contributed little while condemning those who gave great sums in a demonstrative public display. God answered the prayer of the publican but ignored the loud and boisterous prayer of the Pharisee.
We can tell a tree by its fruit and we also know a Christian by their fruit. We might be able to fool others but we cannot fool God. We cannot peddle a gospel that we don’t live. It’s not enough to have “leaves”; we have to have fruit. It’s not what we proclaim, it’s what we live. It’s not what we profess, it’s what we pursue. It’s not about the leaves… it’s about the fruit!