Do you want to live a fruitful life? A life that produces fruit that is useful and nourishing to those around you and pleasing to God? Have you ever thought about living such a life?
In the last week of Jesus’ life, he did a unique miracle. He went to a fig tree that was filled with beautiful green leaves. He looked at it, and there was no fruit! Then, he cursed the tree. Matthew, a disciple of Jesus who had been an outcast and tax collector for the Roman government, tells us that Jesus said, “May you never bear fruit again!” The tree immediately withered, and Jesus’ followers were amazed.
This miracle is somewhat disturbing because it tells us that people like trees are meant to bear fruit. I used to live in Michigan. In Michigan, you could practically throw a seed in the ground and expect a fruit-tree within a few years! In South Dakota, not so much. I planted an apple tree six and a half years ago, and I only saw apples one year, which were immediately eaten by grasshoppers. I’m thinking of cutting that tree down.
God has made us for love. He has made us to produce the useful fruit of service to God and others. God is serious about this. The nation of Israel in Jesus’ time was like that fig tree. It put all its energy into leaf production, but there was no fruit. Their outward religious ceremonies were wonderful and impressive, but, as Jesus would later say, they had forgotten about “mercy, justice, and faith.” They had failed to communicate the love of God to the nations. Consequently, Jesus warned them that they would not be able to go on forever like that, “I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matthew 21:43). A few years later, their beautiful temple was destroyed by Roman armies.
There are many churches and Christians like that today. They put all the effort into leaf production. They have impressive buildings and organizations, but they are not producing any real fruit. The power of Christ-like character is not evident, and they are not communicating the love of God to their community. Other people are just going along with their lives without religion (leaves) or communicating God’s love to others (the fruit). This miracles warns us that Jesus will not allow this situation to go on forever.
The good news is that a fruit-filled life is still possible for you. If you realize that you are not living that fruitful and useful life that you wanted, there is still time. The tree hasn’t been cut down yet.
What should you do? You should ask for the fruit. Ask that God will change you and make you new and forgive you for your lack of fruitfulness in the past. God is a God of fresh starts and second chances. That’s one of the lessons Jesus took from this miracle. He said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22). Ask God now to give you a fruitful life.
But don’t just ask, go! Go to those people who need love. It’s often as we reach out to others with the love of Jesus and with the power of the Holy Spirit that we receive God’s power to change lives. The Holy Spirit comes to us to make us new as we move out in trust, reaching out to a lost and dying world in need of hope. This will in turn lead us to pray as feel our inadequacy to show the love that people need.
This whole point was summed up well by Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie in his commentary on the gospel account of Mark, the associate of Jesus’ leading follower, Peter:
In essence [this miracle] tells us that we are to be to others what Christ has been to us. We are to be forgiving, approachable people. This produces a permissive openness which attracts people and welcomes them into dialogue. . . . Genuine interest and concern for people grow when we let go of our plans and images and dare to love. . . . All we need to do is get involved with people. He will show the way and give us words to speak. Trust him! The fruit will flow.