“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“With their doctrine they build, and with their lives they destroy.” ~ Augustine

“Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:5 NIV

The fig tree, common in the Mediterranean region, has been called the hypocrite tree. Why? Unlike apples or oranges, figs are green and are not easily detected among the leaves until they are nearly ripe and turn colors. From a distance, you can’t tell whether a fig tree has any fruit or not!

In one of His parables, Jesus was clear that if a fig tree did not bear fruit, it should be cut down (Luke 13:6-9). Later, on His way to Jerusalem, a hungry Jesus approached a fig tree … and cursed it because it didn’t have any fruit (Matthew 21:18-20). Why? Mature leaves and ripe fruit appear at the same time. This particular tree had all the outward signs of bearing fruit … but was a hypocrite.

No one detested hypocrisy more than Jesus as He repeatedly lambasted the Pharisees for putting on a good, outward show of religious activity but completely lacking the essential fruits of faith, love, mercy, and compassion. (See Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16-18 for starters.) I suspect that in cursing the fig tree, Jesus was making a point about religious people who looked good from the outside but lacked any fruit to share with a needy world.

Fig trees also show up in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve took fig leaves and tried to cover up their sin and shame with a wilting substitute. God then sacrificed an animal and used the skin to create clothing for them … symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice and shed blood to cover our sin.

Not all Bible stories involving fig trees were bad. There was the story of a tax collector who wanted to see Jesus so he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up in a sycamore-fig tree in order to see. Jesus stopped by that tree and found good fruit in the repentant heart of Zacchaeus. (See Luke 19:1-10.)

What about me? Do I try to cover up my shame with religious activities that fade away? Do I put on a good religious show but lack true fruit? Does my fruit blend in with everyone else’s, or is it ripe and easy to spot? If Jesus stopped by, would he find good fruit in me?

If I’m going to be like a tree in 2012, I can learn a lot from the fig tree.

What about you? How do you define hypocrisy? Have you ever been disappointed or disgusted to find an outward “Christian” who lacked internal fruit? Where do you rate on the hypocrisy scale?

Like A Tree – Fig Trees
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