The apple tree had borne far more than ever before. I had made several pies, a couple dozen muffins and a cake, and canned two dozen quarts of applesauce, a gallon of apple juice, a dozen pints of apple jelly, half a dozen quarts of apple pie filling, and finally a half dozen jars of apple butter.
As I stood over a sink full of soapy water I muttered, “I hope I never see another apple as long as I live.” The next spring my apple tree died.
When it became apparent that we couldn’t save the tree, Keith looked at me and muttered something about not really knowing what that might mean—the fact that I could curse a tree and it up and die for no obvious reason so soon afterward. Just exactly who, or what, was he married to?
The county agent saved my reputation. The tree was planted too close to an oak, he said. Oaks carry a disease that kills fruit trees, especially apples and peaches. Sure enough, we soon lost our peach tree too.
All these years later, the story came up again, and with it a new perspective. Here I had cursed a tree that bore too much, while the Lord cursed one that bore too little.
And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it. And as they passed by it in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots, Mark 11:13,14,20.
You might do as I did at first and wonder why the Lord would expect to find figs when it wasn’t fig season. Yet every commentator I read said that figs produce their fruit before they leaf out. When the Lord saw a fig tree fully leafed out, he had every right to expect to see some fruit, even if it was small and green. As a gardener I know that nearly every plant has at least one “early-riser”—a tomato or pepper or blueberry that ripens before the others. Even if there was nothing ripe, there should have been plenty of fruit hanging there, gradually ripening on the leafy branches.
Now how about us? Is anything ripening on our branches? Is the fruit of the Spirit perhaps still a little green, but nonetheless visible as we become more and more what he would have us be? Or are we nothing but leafy show: lots of pretty clothes on Sunday morning but behavior like the rest of the world throughout the week? Lots of talk in Bible class, but no good works in the community? Quoting catchphrases to our neighbors, but never opening the Book in our own homes? More concerned with winning arguments than winning souls?
The Lord will come looking for figs in our lives, more than likely at a season in which we are not expecting him. He told us we would recognize false teachers by their fruits (Matt 7:16-20). What will he recognize about us from ours or will there even be any for him to see?
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, Col 1:9,10.