Mark 11:13 "Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if He would find any fruit on it. When He came up to it, He found nothing except leaves, because it wasn’t the season for figs."
In this passage, Jesus was walking from Bethany to Jerusalem, and He was hungry when He saw the fig tree from a distance. The fig tree presented itself as if it had fruit, but on closer inspection, it was found lacking.
I was struck by this passage because I think that in today’s time, we are seeing an increase in showy fig trees that are out of season.
There are a lot of promises made, a lot of great sounding solutions, and a lot of new ideas flooding our devices on a seemingly constant basis. Ideas to solve the world’s problems, the virus problems, the economic problems and even the lack of peace problems.
A lot of these solutions sound great on the outside – like the fig tree. They are attractive. They are full of promise. They are appealing to a hungry world.
What I like about Jesus’ approach to the fig tree is that He didn’t just dismiss the tree from a distance.
I suppose being the Son of God, He could have just ignored the tree or moved on. But instead, he approached the tree and inspected it.
1 John 4:1 says it this way, “Loved ones, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God…”
As I look around at the world today, I think there are tactics that we can use to better understand the spirit behind some of the showy fig trees that are around us. Here are a few:
1 Peter 5:8 tells us to, “Stay alert! Watch out! Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, searching for someone to devour.”
A roaring lion often scares the herd toward the hunting lioness crouching out of sight. He roars to incite fear and he looks for the unaware.
Anytime we are driven to fear and kept in a state of fear, I believe we must test the spirit. I think it is prudent to approach the fear and inspect it.
It takes a sound mind and careful, deliberate control. But we know that self-control is a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23), and we know that God’s peace is very different than the world’s peace (John 14:27).
This also helps us understand that often times, the threat of something can be much larger than the issue itself. A good shepherd doesn’t round up the flock and try to outrun a threat. He will Himself deal with the threat. Let’s remember that our Good Shepherd is able to handle anything – He is bigger than any problem you or I will face – so we can choose to not be afraid to face problems head on, as God leads us. It’s a lot safer than running with a shepherd-less herd of scared prey.
Another tactic we can use to evaluate showy figs is the heart of the matter. We know that the world finds God ridiculous. It is very common to find examples in the Bible of how people respond to God with mockery – at the cross (Luke 23:35-36), at hearing the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18), and many other places.
Mockery is everywhere today! It doesn’t take long to find someone who is being made fun of, someone who is being looked down on for being so “foolish,” or someone who is viewed as just absurd.
Proverbs 21:24 tells us that “A proud and haughty man – Mocker is his name – acts with overbearing pride.” In other words, when we see mockery, we can understand that the immediate root is pride.
James 3:9 tells us that people are made in the image of God. Luke 6:31-32 tells us to, “Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?...”
When we see someone mocked, we are not to turn our nose up at them like everyone else does. We are called to respond in love – God’s love. Because this person, made in His image, is someone that He cares about even if the world doesn’t.
It’s so easy to find ourselves muttering under our breath, “I can’t believe someone would say/do that! What’s wrong with them?” The harder thing to do is to put that aside and understand that this is another person – worthy of life, and loved by God.
This is how our light shines in the darkness.
One final tactic to address showy figs is to evaluate the truth of the matter. We know from 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 that satan masquerades as an angel of light, and that his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. While their ultimate end will be “according to their deeds,” we must also remain vigilant and test the spirits.
The best way to handle this is to have the belt of truth firmly buckled around our waists (Ephesians 6:14). In this time where truth is seen as lies and lies are seen as truth, we need a compass. We need to understand where our cardinal directions are and point ourselves firmly in God’s direction.
The only way to do that is to remain in the Word because that is the truth (John 17:17).
I also believe that allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us through these troubled waters is critical. Without relying on His guidance, we are very likely to get lost. This tactic means that we must know what His voice sounds like. That comes from a relationship with Him and more time in His presence than in the presence of other voices.
Only with God’s wisdom will we be able to avoid the mix-up of what appears good and what actually is good. There is such a fine line between them sometimes that we can’t tell the difference on our own. And left to our own we can very easily begin to justify every evil practice (James 3:16). We may even find ourselves supporting or participating in them. Without ears to hear, we won’t know.
It’s my hope that we can slow down and begin to better understand the tactics that are used all around us. As we deeply evaluate this forest of showy figs, we will better navigate this new world and gain insight to the tactics used against us.
With God’s protection, direction and provision, we can love those that the world rejects and we can remain in the truth.
I am grateful that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that when I give God all of me, He gives me all I need.
My prayer for today: Father in Heaven, thank you for the incredible gift of salvation – that because of your incredible mercy we can be with You who we could never be on our own. Please help us to draw near to you and to see through the showy figs of our day. Guide us through these difficult times and help us to bring glory and honor to your matchless Name.