Pretentious Foliage

The word pretentious means attempting to impress by affecting greater importance than is actually possessed or in other words: a fake. An example is the mineral like iron pyrite that has a superficial resemblance to gold and affectionately called “fool’s gold.”

We may ask ourselves the question: Are we Christ’s followers or just pretenders?

Jesus said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22–26).

In John 15:1–11, we read the lesson Christ taught about the vital importance of being connected to the vine. He said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples. As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Jesus makes it very plain when He says that unless we are connected to the TRUE VINE, we will not bear fruit. Why? Just think of the branches on the tree. If the branch is disconnected from the tree, its source of life, it is fit for nothing but to be burned. So, it is a fact that if we are not connected to Christ, we are useless, yes friends, useless for Christ. Without that connection we cannot bear the fruits of the Spirit – longsuffering, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance and the list goes on. We may pretend to be Christ’s, but in reality, we are none of His and in the final analysis, how terrifying it will be to hear the words, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

The fig tree is native to the Middle East and northwestern Asia. It was brought to North America by Spanish missionaries in the early sixteenth century. Figs are one of the oldest fruits known to mankind and are members of the moraceae family, which includes the Mulberry and breadfruit. The shade provided by a mature tree is definitely appreciated in the summer and in the right conditions some species will produce two crops in a year. The first, called a “breba” crop, ripens in late May or June, and a second will be ready in late September to early November.

One day Jesus was walking to the temple. “On the way He passed a fig orchard. He was hungry, ‘and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came, if haply He might find anything thereon: and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet’ (Mark 11:13).

“It was not the season for ripe figs. … But in the orchard to which Jesus came, one tree appeared to be in advance of all the others. It was already covered with leaves. It is the nature of the fig tree that before the leaves open, the growing fruit appears. Therefore this tree in full leaf gave promise of well-developed fruit. But its appearance was deceptive. Upon searching its branches, from the lowest bough to the topmost twig, Jesus found ‘nothing but leaves.’ It was a mass of pretentious foliage, nothing more.

“Christ uttered against it a withering curse. ‘No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever’ (verse 14), He said. The next morning, as the Saviour and His disciples were again on their way to the city, the blasted branches and drooping leaves attracted their attention. ‘Master,’ said Peter, ‘behold, the fig tree which Thou cursedst is withered away’ (verse 21).

“Christ’s act in cursing the fig tree had astonished the disciples. It seemed to them unlike His ways and works. Often they had heard Him declare that He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. They remembered His words, ‘The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them’ (Luke 9:56). His wonderful works had been done to restore, never to destroy. The disciples had known Him only as the Restorer, the Healer. This act stood alone. What was its purpose? they questioned. …

“The cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable. That barren tree, flaunting its pretentious foliage in the very face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation. The Saviour desired to make plain to His disciples the cause and the certainty of Israel’s doom. For this purpose He invested the tree with moral qualities, and made it the expositor of divine truth. The Jews stood forth distinct from all other nations, professing allegiance to God. They had been specially favored by Him, and they laid claim to righteousness above every other people. But they were corrupted by the love of the world and the greed of gain. They boasted of their knowledge, but they were ignorant of the requirements of God, and were full of hypocrisy. Like the barren tree, they spread their pretentious branches aloft, luxuriant in appearance, and beautiful to the eye, but they yielded ‘nothing but leaves.’ The Jewish religion, with its magnificent temple, its sacred altars, its mitered priests and impressive ceremonies, was indeed fair in outward appearance, but humility, love, and benevolence were lacking.

“All the trees in the fig orchard were destitute of fruit; but the leafless trees raised no expectation, and caused no disappointment. By these trees the Gentiles were represented. They were as destitute as were the Jews of godliness; but they had not professed to serve God. They made no boastful pretensions to goodness. They were blind to the works and ways of God. With them the time of figs was not yet. They were still waiting for a day which would bring them light and hope. The Jews, who had received greater blessings from God, were held accountable for their abuse of these gifts. The privileges of which they boasted only increased their guilt.

“Jesus had come to the fig tree hungry, to find food. So He had come to Israel, hungering to find in them the fruits of righteousness. He had lavished on them His gifts, that they might bear fruit for the blessing of the world. Every opportunity and privilege had been granted them, and in return He sought their sympathy and co-operation in His work of grace. He longed to see in them self-sacrifice and compassion, zeal for God, and a deep yearning of soul for the salvation of their fellow men. Had they kept the law of God, they would have done the same unselfish work that Christ did. But love to God and man was eclipsed by pride and self-sufficiency. They brought ruin upon themselves by refusing to minister to others. The treasures of truth which God had committed to them, they did not give to the world. In the barren tree they might read both their sin and its punishment. Withered beneath the Saviour’s curse, standing forth sere and blasted, dried up by the roots, the fig tree showed what the Jewish people would be when the grace of God was removed from them. Refusing to impart blessing, they would no longer receive it. ‘Oh Israel,’ the Lord says, ‘thou hast destroyed thyself’ (Hosea 13:9).

“The warning is for all time. Christ’s act in cursing the tree which His own power had created stands as a warning to all churches and to all Christians. No one can live the law of God without ministering to others.” The Desire of Ages, 581–584.

As we take the time to read this article, I would like to state that I stand condemned, for if I am truly honest, I do not want to be pruned. Pruning is a painful process, but if we desire to spend eternity with Jesus, we must allow God to take control of our lives, we must surrender and allow Him to make us more productive.

Pray that God will help us to be connected to the True Vine and daily remain connected to Him. Remember there is nothing good in us unless we receive the power that flows from the Vine.

May the Lord help us daily and give us His grace, His strength and His Love to share Jesus.

Revella Knight is a registered nurse and writes from her home in Arkansas.