Jesus killed a fig tree

I was reading through the Gospel of Mark and came across an anecdote that stopped me in my tracks. Jesus cursed a fig tree that wasn’t bearing any fruit. The tree shriveled and died.

This passage struck me as cruel. Imagine this poor, defenseless little tree, standing there, not hurting anyone. Along comes God and Zap! Firewood. It almost seems unfair. Why?

The more I thought about it, though, the more consistent that story became with the rest of the gospel stories. God is loving and kind and forgiving. But God also has expectations. Parable after parable, sermon after sermon, explain that the Master will put up with the lazy worker just so long. There comes a point in many of the Gospel stories where the tree, or the vine, or the wedding guest, gets tossed out into the darkness.

God has a plan for us. He put us here to do his will, each of us according to the unique gifts he gave to us. He’ll nurture, coach, and cajole, but he won’t force us to do his will. Jesus could have spoken a word and the fig tree would have sprouted delicious fruit. But Jesus didn’t.

I’m not afraid of God, but I often think about that fig tree…and I get back to work.


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