Thursday, September 17, 2015

Living like a barren fig tree

“And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"”         Luke 13:6-9 NASB

There was a problem with the fig tree. The landowner had provided excellent soil and an attentive vineyard-keeper. Presumably, the vineyard-keeper had already fertilized the tree and dug around it. For three years, the owner had inspected the tree. There must have been leaves, because the tree appeared healthy. The owner had a reasonable expectation of fruit. 

Instead of bearing fruit, however, the tree had soaked up the environment and the advantages provided for it, but done nothing with its opportunities. It had grown taller and borne leaves, as if that were enough.

The mission of a fig tree is to bear figs. 

Much had been given to the fig tree, and fruit was required.

In a way, the fig tree responded to the care lavished on it as if the care was its just due, with nothing required in return. 

The problem with the tree, and with many of us (myself included) is a sense of entitlement. I am not speaking of our right to something for which we have a legitimate claim. If we order something online, we are "entitled" to receive what we have purchased. 

I am speaking of our impression that we have a right to expect a certain lifestyle or certain comforts, simply because of who we are or where we live. For example, when I attended the CRi conference this past November, I stayed in the "conference center". I expected (and felt entitled to) a comfortable bed, climate controlled environment, and a fully-functional bathroom in my room. Instead, I had a sleeping bag and mattress on the floor, no heat in the building, and a non-functional toilet. 

The circumstances were shocking to me, and my initial (emotional) response was not warm and fuzzy. A conscious choice had been made by ministry leaders to allow the circumstances so that the attendees could experience conditions somewhat reminiscent to the ones experienced in Iraq, should we decide to go there with CRi. They also allowed the circumstances to address the pervasive sense of entitlement in the church today.

Addressing my sense of entitlement changed my life. For the better.

We live in a nation of affluence. We have smart phones, smart cars, and smart watches. We drive fancy automobiles, send our children to expensive private schools, and live in oversized houses that are entirely too expensive to maintain. We enjoy it. We don't want to change. I don't want to change.

One of the problems with this lifestyle is that we can easily begin to believe we deserve it. It's our right.

Who are we kidding? Certainly not God. He never promised us smart cars, smart phones, or big houses. He didn't even promise us "mansions", as is commonly believed. He promised that He would go away and prepare a "dwelling place". 

In Jesus' time, when a groom took a wife, he prepared an "insula", or added a room, to the family home. There is a vast difference between an added room and a separate mansion. If we hold to the "mansion" idea, we may surprised when we enter heaven.

This sense of entitlement has dealt a terrible blow to the church. When we see our blessings as just due, we easily forget that much has been given and much is required. 

We can become like the fig tree. Soaking it all in, but giving nothing back in return. 

Our mission is to bear fruit, not just leaves.

When we choose to live like the barren fig tree, we can expect the Master to be upset and frustrated with us. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. It is impossible to do either of those two things without "doing something", without bearing fruit. 

For today, let us thank God that He has provided generously for all our needs and ask Him to do whatever work in us is needed to produce fruit. People around the world live in circumstances that would defeat many of us. We are blessed beyond compare, and much is required.

Let us live as those who know they have been redeemed and bear fruit.

Our Father, forgive our barren spirits and barren lives. Help us to live in keeping with the blessings you have given us and help us to bear much fruit. In Jesus' name. Amen

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