The Fraudulent Fig Tree

Lou Lotz

READ : Matthew 21:18-22

And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. (v. 19)

A fig tree in leaf meant figs for breakfast. Those luxuriant green leaves trembling in the breeze were like a blinking neon sign: FRUIT HERE! But this tree had no fruit. “He found nothing at all on it but leaves,” says Matthew. It was the old “bait and switch” ploy: advertise one thing, deliver another. The tree fooled Jesus, but Jesus wasn’t fooling: “May no fruit ever come from you again!” It was his one and only curse.

Does our religion have the fruit to back up its foliage? We admire the Good Samaritan, but do we act like him? We talk about tithing, but do we actually do it? Are we treating “the least of the brethren” the way we’d treat Jesus himself? Are we searching for the lost sheep, and sending the seventy out to serve? Are we feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick? Or has our Christian passion receded, leaving us long on foliage, short on fruit?

In Mark’s version of the story, Jesus and the Twelve come upon the tree the next morning. “Rabbi, look!” says Peter. “The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” A faith that is all foliage and no fruit will always wither.


Lord, help me to bear the fruit of obedience.