(Mark 11: 12-14) 12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”
There is a little apple tree in my back yard. I’ve been told that it’s been around for over 40 years. For decades, this apple tree provided bushel upon bushel of beautiful fruit, which was used to make pies and jellies, and was also the source of handy snacks for neighborhood kids playing outside (as well as for countless birds and squirrels). As the years have crept by, the tree has become less of a resource and more of an eye sore. Each spring it flowers less and has more and more yellow, speckled leaves. Very few apples are produced, and many of it’s branches are stark and brittle. It’s growth is very stunted. Beside it grows a massive oak tree that is gradually taking over the apple tree’s root system, and whose majestic appendages are pushing into the personal space of the sad little apple tree’s shrinking branch area. The apple tree really just needs to come down. It is useless.
Like an apple tree (or any fruit tree for that matter), we are all created with a purpose in mind. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God plans for our lives well in advance, and we come into this world as tiny, empty vessels, equipped with innate gifts and talents, ready to be filled with the love and spirit of God so that we can carry out our purpose. Though we all produce different types of fruit, and though we all grow and mature at different rates and in various ways, the end result should always be the same — good and abundant fruit. Just as a farmer or gardener gauges the value of a tree by its output, we can likewise judge our own merit and spiritual maturity by what we are producing. In John 15:5, Jesus tells us: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” If you’re at a stand-still, if you’re just kind of idling and taking up space, then what does that tell you about how close you are to Christ? If you remove yourself from Him, little by little, through neglect and distraction, you will begin to dry up and stop producing any fruit (results) for the Kingdom of God. You’re not doing your job anymore, so your tree is forgotten and sick and being shut out and overshadowed.
Maybe you’ve heard someone say before that if you don’t use your talents and gifts you’ll lose them. Well, no one just made that up just to have something to say to reluctant people — there’s actually some truth in it. When Jesus was hungry and needed some fruit from the fig tree, yet he found it completely void of anything that could be of use to him, he cursed the tree to never be of use again. Does this mean that God will curse you for life if you are in a rut? Of course that’s not what it means. It does mean, however, that if you waste, and waste, and waste your talents — if you continually hold yourself back — He will eventually move on to use someone else who is willing.
If we truly desire to be used by God, to live our lives fulfilling His purpose for us (what was set-up long before we were ever even in our mothers’ wombs), then we have got to seek wisdom and utilize it every day. We must not allow ourselves to be overly distracted and weak. Instead, we have to continue to prune ourselves, ridding our lives of the stuff that we don’t need — allowing new growth to take place, so that we are bursting with life and beautiful, sweet fruit.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for every blessing, every gift, every talent, every bit of wisdom, and all of the grace that you have placed in my life. Help me to use all of it in ways which are pleasing and useful to You. Help me to keep my spiritual “tree” healthy and full of life, so that I never need to be chopped down and thrown in the fire. My desire is to constantly bring, through my life, my best as an offering to You. Amen.