The Fig Tree
On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening. Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching. When evening came, they would go out of the city. As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. (Mark 11:13-22)
Fig Trees figure much in the Bible. From the very beginning of creation to the Gospel accounts fig trees have appeared both figuratively and literally.
In the Genesis account of the fall of man Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover up their nakedness. This is very much what man has been doing ever since, covering up his nakedness through religion. But just as God had to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve by the sacrifice of an animal, shedding its blood and covering them with the skins, so we too need to be covered by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus used fig trees in his parables. In Luke chapter 13 he teaches a parable about a man whose fig tree was not bearing fruit so he decided to chop it down. However the keeper of his vineyards pleaded with him to save the fig tree. He asked him to wait just one more year during which time he would tend the fig tree, and if at the end of one year the fig tree did not bear fruit then he would cut it down.
The passage in Luke shows the Lord approaching a fig tree in search of fruit and when he found none He cursed it. This is very much a picture of churches today. From the outward appearance churches appear to be fine. They stand strong, they have a good covering of leaves, to all intents and purposes they appear to be healthy and exhibiting growth. However upon closer examination they lack the fruit. Just like the church of the Laodeceans they are rich and increased with goods and feel that they have need of nothing, when all the while they are naked and blind and have need of everything.
After Christ had cursed the fig tree he went straight into the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and those of salt the animals for sacrifice, causing a great commotion and angering the religious authorities. He declared that the temple was meant to be a house of prayer for all nations but that they had turned it into a den of thieves. A fig tree with no fruit!
Today we see many churches that are being run like businesses With the pastor as the CEO whose job it is to turn as bigger profit as possible. For example, one group who have set themselves up in the UK, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, have embarked upon a project in the city of São Paulo in Brazil to build a replica of King Solomon’s Temple. The whole project will cost $200 million! The intention is to create a mega-church. Here in the UK this church in one year spent £7 million on “procurement of services” according to the accounts it published on the Charities Commission website. What “procurement of services” means your guess is as good as mine, but you can rest assured that the bulk of this (if not all) will have been sent to Brazil to help fund this building. I am reminded of the Scripture that says, “Israel has forgotten its maker and builds temples.” (Hosea 8:14) A fig tree with no fruit!
The role of the pastor has become a career choice which should command an appropriate salary with all the benefits associated. While it is true that the workman is worthy of his hire, some pastors seem to have the idea that they are kings on the earth. For example when we look at the Charities Commission website we find the published accounts for one of the local churches here in the Manchester area. For the period ended 31 March 2010 the pastor’s salary was £18,832 plus a car allowance of £3,982. when we at least 2 figures together they come to £22,814. The following year the pastor’s salary was £43,741 plus a car allowance of £6,996. Adding these 2 figures together we get a total of £50,737. In just one year the pastor had a 122.4% pay rise. Who on earth gets 122.4% pay rise? A fig tree with no fruit!
In the past few years the UK has seen an increase in the number of African churches being established. The majority of them preach the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel and, like the UCOKG, have as their international leaders millionaire pastors. Their flocks are taught that they are gods on the earth, children of the King of Kings and Princes on the earth. It is deduced from this that they should live a lifestyle accordingly. That if they are faithful to give that least 10% of their income to their church they can expect God to reward them financially. For many 10% of their income is a burden. For some this means that their children may have to endure want and their families may have to struggle in order to keep up payments of this modern day church tax. This doctrine is called tithing however in the Bible a tithe was a 10th of one’s increase; either of one’s crops and/or one’s livestock. Those who neither owned land or livestock could not tithe, and those whose herds increased by less than 10 could not tithe. The tithe was never about money and what is more money that was set aside for the Temple was called “Corban”. Yet here we have church leaders imposing financial burdens upon their flocks quite often making them feel guilty or lacking in faith if they did not pay their dues.
What’s more in order to persuade their flocks to hand over their 10% they make them feel that they will face the judgement of God if they do not. The favourite verse of Scripture used in order to manipulate and badger their flocks is Malachi 3:8 where God says that He is being robbed in the tithes. We see that they had not been bringing the whole amount into the storehouses. Now the task of putting the tithe into the storehouses was that of the priests so we see that it was the priests who were robbing God and not the ordinary people. The priests would hold back some of the amount for themselves and, in much the same way, these pastors are guilty of the same. For they take their salaries from the tithes and offerings of their flocks. So it is they who are actually robbing God!
The apostle Paul stated, “for we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord and ourselves your servants for Jesus’s sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5). The Lord Jesus Christ declared, “no man comes to the Father but by me!”
( John 14:6), and, “come unto me all you that Labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). However these people publicise themselves. Their followers say, “Come to us! Come to our church!” and when they advertise an event whose name and photograph appear on their publicity? It is always the visiting preacher, so-called apostle and prophet. Fig trees without fruit!
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:4-8)