A woman is again the embodiment of Wisdom in Proverbs 8. And we find language similar to what we saw earlier in Proverbs 1.20-23: Wisdom desires to be heard by men (8.3-4). Not unlike other women, Wisdom craves attention and acknowledgment. However, Wisdom isn’t shy about raising her voice to get people’s attention.
In contrast to the harlot in the previous chapter (Folly?), Wisdom does not play coy. Instead, she chooses to be in the spotlight. As a result, she is the center of attention. She perches herself on the rise overlooking the gateway to the city below (8.3). Wisdom does not want to be heard by a select few; she wants to be heard by everyone, whether the sons of men (8.4) or the fools (8.5). She hopes to impart wisdom to anyone open to hearing it.
Wisdom gives us praiseworthy and righteous counsel (8.6), words of truth and righteousness (8.7-8), and a straightforward and virtuous way of thinking (8.9). The benefits of wisdom are priceless, far exceeding the value of any material possession (8.10-11).
Thus, Wisdom implores everyone to listen so that she may impart her excellent knowledge. But even if that weren’t impressive enough, verse 12 shows that she is wise, knowledgeable, and has good judgment. Consequently, Wisdom hates conceit, lust, and evil because she respects God (8.13). That’s why she’s a reliable source of guidance, wisdom, and resolve (8.14).
Wisdom delights in providing these things to everyone, including those to whom God has given earthly authority. Wisdom will bestow riches, honor, righteousness, justice, and wealth on those who love her (8.15-16). She makes it possible for kings, princes, nobles, and judges to rule justly (8.17-21).
Wisdom testifies that she was God’s companion even before He made the world. Therefore, she existed before the cosmos (8.22). So, according to Solomon, Wisdom is eternal (8.23). Indeed, Wisdom is “older than dirt” (8.26), existing before the oceans, mountains, and hills (8.24). So, Wisdom was present to see the Lord at work, creating the universe. Wisdom saw God create the heavens and the world (27-29) and stood beside Him as a master craftsman, rejoicing in His creation (8.30-31).
Those who are open to Wisdom’s advice will prosper (8.32). Therefore, instead of disregarding her message, we should listen to her advice and act wisely (8.33). Those listening to her with care will be blessed (8.34a). They’ll sometimes have to wait for her (8.34b), but she’ll bring those who are patient new life and the Lord’s favor in return (8.35). However, those whose sins bring dishonor to her suffer spiritual damage (8.36a).
Those hating Wisdom demonstrate a desire to die (8.36b). This mindset means that people who like death will get what they want. Thus, wisdom implores us to listen to her so that she may impart wisdom, knowledge, truth, and righteousness; and endow our lives with wealth and glory, especially as the Lord bestows.
To quote Wisdom:
“Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8.34-35 NASB1995)
In the first chapter of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom was shouting at the crowd in the town square. From our last article, we know that she was looking for simpletons, mockers, and fools to warn about what would happen if they didn’t listen to her advice. In Proverbs 2, we meet another set of three people, but these are servants of Lady Folly who are ready to lead people down the path to eternal damnation. But first, we are told to find wisdom once more.
Lady Wisdom is not always in plain sight. If she were, you wouldn’t have to dig sometimes to find her, just like a miner who digs precious metals and ores out of the ground. One can, thankfully, also cry for her (2.3-6; cf. James 1.5). Crying is a good way for a baby to get food (1 Peter 2.2), and it works just as well for people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness (Matthew 5.6). God will not only feed us, but He will also tell us what to do to please Him.
Lady Wisdom also helps people deal with their neighbors fairly and correctly (2.9). She shows us what God’s justice looks like so we can do the same thing when dealing with others. This example is critical because people don’t always see things as God does. But her advice is also helpful when dealing with risks posed by others. God’s wisdom, which Lady Wisdom represents, is great because it acts as a shield and watchman (2.7-11).
But here is where our triplet comes in. We have a perverse guy, people who walk in the dark, and the adulteress (2.12ff). God’s wisdom is helpful because it tells us more than just what to avoid. It gives us what we need to do. So, when our triplet comes, we know how to send them away. This wisdom comes from letting God’s word into our hearts, where it guides us. As David said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119.11 NASB1995).
But we must do more than say no to evil. We must take charge of being good. How does that happen? When you don’t hang out with bad people, you hang out with good people instead (2.20-21). Paul told the Corinthians that the people they hung out with could change their morals (1 Corinthians 15.33). Lady Wisdom helps you tell the difference between good and bad people so you can be a good judge (Matthew 7.20).
The end of Proverbs two is a warning. Those who aren’t looking for Lady Wisdom or calling for her will be led astray by our trio. Once a person is lost, God will take them out of His garden like he would a dead branch or tree. No one wants this to happen to them. In the meantime, let’s also remember what Jesus said about seeking, asking, and knocking:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7-8 NASB1995).
Last week, we looked at our syllabus for Wisdom 101. Professor Solomon has outlined the aims of our course. And now, Solomon will introduce us to the “texts” we will be studying. The primary “text” will come as no surprise to the believer. That source is God (Proverbs 1.7). But there is also a secondary “text’ that Solomon encourages us to study. We will examine this more in a moment.
Wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord” (1.7). That fear is the primary text. But what do we have in mind when we say “fear?” It cannot mean that God causes an unpleasant emotion making us apprehensive to approach Him. If God were scary, how could we entice another to listen? In their commentary, Old Testament scholars Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch give a superb definition. Fear is a “reverential subordination” to God.1 In other words, when you recognize the superiority of God, you stand in awe of Him. Who better to learn wisdom from than the One you admire? You should desire to hang on His every word. God, for His part, is glad to impart His wisdom to us. As James reminds us, if we ask Him, He will generously give us wisdom (James 1.5).
Yet we know not everyone esteems God highly. Those disrespecting God are called “fools” (1.7). But by calling them fools, we are not suggesting that such people lack the intellectual capacity for growth. Rather “fool” demonstrates their disposition. In the original Hebrew, the word translated as “fool’ is “evil.” No, not our English word, evil, but a word transliterated as such from the Hebrew language. Hebrew scholars Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Bridge observe that the word always denotes one is “morally bad.”2 Confirming this interpretation is the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. The 70 or so Jewish scholars translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek used the word “asebēs” for “fool.” That Greek word means “impious.”3 Thus, one who is impious (i.e., morally bad) despises wisdom and instruction. Such foolish persons might echo the pharaoh who asked, “Who is God that I should listen to Him?” (Exodus 5.2). So, if we were to cite a secular maxim to explain this part of our proverb, it might well be that “you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink.”
Yes, God can boost your wisdom, but you must desire to sit at His feet, develop a relationship with Him, and learn from Him those words leading to eternal life (John 6.68). But since I used the plural form of source in our title, you know there must be at least one other source. Indeed. You have probably heard of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is essentially an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is supposed to be an unbiased source of information, but a quick perusal of hot-button topics often reveals the bias of Wikipedia editors and publishers. At best, though, Wikipedia is a tertiary source of information. The word “tertiary” is from the Latin tertiariesmeaning “of or containing a third.”4 So tertiary is a fancy way to say that Wikipedia provides third-party information (i.e., information twice removed from its source). But what sources come before the tertiary one? The educational field gives us a clue by using the terms “primary” and “secondary” when describing its schooling. Primary is the category coming first and takes youth through to the age of 12, or 14, depending on the country. Following primary education, a child enters secondary education. Secondary schools will see the child through graduation from high school, the highest level of compulsory education. From there, a young person may elect to pay for “post-secondary” education in college or university.
So, for the believer, God is the primary source of wisdom. And though we can learn wisdom elsewhere, before listening to those tertiary sources of wisdom, Solomon reminds us of our secondary source of wisdom in Proverbs 1.8. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Note that God makes parents the secondary source of wisdom. Hence, parents become the secondary “text” for Wisdom 101. Recall the first institution created by God in Genesis 2.18-24. That institution was the home, the family.
Despite causing great harm to the family by signing the so-called Great Society Legislation, Lyndon Baines Johnson nevertheless stated that “the family is the cornerstone of our society.”5 Indeed, Johnson’s “reforms” helped break the home. He bolstered single-parent households and turned birthing children out of wedlock into a cottage industry. The State stepped in to fill the vacancy left by the absent parent, and education became the responsibility of the public-school educator. This innovation was never the intention of God.
Solomon was aware of the Law given to Moses. Fathers were to instruct their children at every opportunity (Deuteronomy 6.1-8). What we observe today in our society is that which played out countless times in Old Testament history. First, you would have a faithful generation that failed to impart wisdom to the next generation. God’s people would then enter a decline, followed by apostasy. God would then punish them using the military might of their pagan neighbors until they repented and cried out for mercy. Finally, God would bring a deliverer who would lead the people into a new righteous era. This period would persist until a new untaught generation arose, and the cycle would begin again.
Though we are not a theocracy, righteousness still exalts a nation (Proverbs 14.34). And this democratic republic is buoyed by the faith of its citizenry. As a result, we have noted prosperity resulting from periods of “goodness” (e.g., the post-WWII boom). And times of difficulty that seem to result from times of “excess” (e.g., the “Roaring Twenties” and the Great Depression). One wonders where we are within our cycle of apostasy and renewal when he hears news stories of public-school teachers confusing children about being oppositely gendered or talking openly about their perverted lifestyles. There is a significant disconnect between what parents would teach their young and what some teachers teach in schools. That was, at least, one blessing from the COVID pandemic shutdown. Parents overheard what teachers were teaching their children and would have none of it.
So, what happens when you have children who do not have a trustworthy secondary source of wisdom (i.e., parents)? Tertiary sources step in and instill man’s wisdom, which arises from man’s dark heart (Romans 1.21ff). The children worship the creature rather than the Creator. And these progenies ignore all authority: God, parents, and even the civil government (Romans 13.1ff). There can be no substitute for the wisdom mom and dad are to instill. You cannot even delegate instruction over to the faithful brethren of the church. The Bible school teacher can be a trusted tertiary source, it is true, but he or she does not have the amount of time with the child given by God to parents. Christian parents must stop abdicating God’s role in their children’s lives.
And the result from having the proper primary and secondary source for wisdom? Wisdom becomes one’s attractive accessory, like a graceful wreath upon one’s head or a necklace around their neck (Proverbs 1.9). We observe this in Peter and John. We trust the secondary wisdom imparted to them by their parents was adequate but take note of the primary wisdom they received spending time with Jesus. As they stood before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders noted the confidence with which they spoke. They concluded these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4.13).
So, what are the reliable sources you have that boost your wisdom? First and foremost, it is the fear of God. The second source is the godly instruction you receive from your parents. But wherever you are in your journey to find Lady Wisdom, whether one who is still learning from his parents or who may soon be the secondary source of wisdom for a child or grandchild, remember the words of our Lord to those feeling deficient. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7-8 NASB1995).
Jesus wasn’t going around just trying to make enemies of anyone, but He was fearlessly living and telling the truth no matter the circumstances. What we read in Luke 11:37-54 is how the scribes, Pharisees, and experts on the Law were living by the gospel according to self. They looked really righteous and knowledgeable on the surface, but of course Jesus can see below the surface at what’s actually going on in the heart and mind. It seems that there are several reasons why Jesus offended these religious leaders on this occasion.
He Exposed “Surface Spirituality” (37-41). They were so obsessed with appearances, doing things to look good to others. Yet, Jesus said they were full of corruption and wickedness in their hearts. They knew how to look spiritual without being godly, a deadly condition!
He Exposed “Majoring In The Minors” And “Minoring In The Majors” (42). He doesn’t rebuke the attention to details, but says they neglected what really mattered when making gestures that appeared to show how scrupulous and careful their religion was. True religion is supposed to stand on huge pillars like divine justice and love. Operate from those qualities and you are well on your way to true righteousness.
He Exposed “Appearance-Driven Actions” (43-45). Jesus called them on their love of the chief seats and respectful greetings. Surely most people appreciate being appreciated, but such can never be what drives or motivates us to do praiseworthy things.
He Exposed “Hypocritical Holiness” (46). They were good at making rules others needed to follow while not bothering to live by those same rules. Beware holding others to a standard you do not submit to yourself. Here, these appear to be their own convictions which they bind on others rather than God’s laws.
He Exposed “Artificial Admiration” (47-51). They seemed to conclude that revering long-dead prophets was the spiritually acceptable thing to do, but they rejected and hated the greatest man in history–God in the flesh. While decorating the tombs of men their ancestors had slaughtered throughout the Old Testament, from Abel (Gen. 4) to Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20-21)–like saying A to Z, they were actively fighting One even greater and ready to do the same to His disciples.
He Exposed “Wicked Watchdogs” (52). Jesus’ last accusation is as piercing as they come. He says they took away the key to knowledge. They refused to enter the kingdom, but they actively hindered others who were trying to enter. They made themselves the gatekeepers to God, a presumptuous but also misguided effort.
And did they humbly repent and change their ways when the Son of God called them out? No. Their pride overrode any other impulse, and they grew more hostile, plotting how they might trap Him in something He might say. They became more critical and vicious. They had hardened their hearts that much. The takeaway for me is abundantly clear. What do I do with Jesus’ will? Do I take to heart His admonitions and challenges, or do I allow sinful pride to eclipse my view of it? Do I dig my trenches deeper or do I allow His will to shape and influence me? I pray that I will choose the latter!
Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What is a holy sacrifice? Holy means, “to be set apart.” It’s living free of moral filth and being devoted to God. A holy sacrifice is one who is devoted to the service of God. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
God’s agenda comes first. We are now used as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:13 says, “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” We should want to be useable in the hands of God! We should also look to accomplish that which is pleasing to God.
Ephesians 5:6-10 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Who are we trying to please? If we want to be a holy sacrifice we must be aiming to please God.
People make sacrifices all the time, but think about something or someone you love. It’s easier to sacrifice for family. God is our family, so why do we not sacrifice for Him? If anyone is deserving of sacrifice, it’s God. I once had a pet squirrel when I was 11. My older brother Gary and I saved it from falling out of a tree. Every day I used an eye dropper to feed it milk and nurtured it into an adult.
It would be with me during school, and at night I’d have to stay up super late feeding and caring for it. Stuart the squirrel was great, but to nurture him back to health and care for him took a lot of sacrifice on my part. But I was willing to do it. I loved that squirrel.
Love makes sacrifice easier. How do you feel about living the Christian life? Do you feel like you are sacrificing other pleasures in order to live a life for God? How much does your sacrifice take from you? Be a holy sacrifice when others around you are unholy. Imitate Christ around your coworkers, your kids, your spouse, your friends. Be holy in your service to God and wholly sacrifice your life.
I stood at the doorway of her humble apartment in a small Kentucky town. This Christian woman in her mid 80s, mother of three and newly-widowed, was adopted by the local church and seen after especially by a son who lived in the same town. I had received a sweet letter from her, expressing her appreciation for the great work being done by especially World Video Bible School. Her former preacher in the 1990s had introduced it to her, and she told me that she gave their DVDs away all the time.
Between the time I received her letter and dropped by her home, I talked to another lady in that same, small congregation. She praised the character and good works of the woman who wrote me the letter. I was told of the various hardships and challenges faced by my penpal. She was raised in religious error, but learned the truth from her husband’s family. The husband never obeyed the gospel and did not encourage her faith. Despite being subject to cruel treatment, she was not only a faithful, submissive wife, but she was full of righteous works. She became a walking Bible, the fruit of tenacious daily Bible study. She has written, supported, and encouraged missionaries all over the world for over 40 years. For decades, she has graded Bible Correspondence Courses.
The woman I met had the humility and sweet spirit of a child. She bore the marks of hardship, having undergone hip replacement and other maladies of aging and falls. But the thing that struck me was the twinkle in her eye and the genuine joy she has in being a Christian. As she talked about her life and as I had ultimately heard about her life from a few of her church family members, I could not help but think that this woman has suffered so much physically and emotionally. But you could not tell it from her attitude and disposition. The gentle enthusiasm I first read in her writing translated to a winsome smile and zeal face to face.
She had been weathered and battered by life, yet she had all the marks of a triumphant overcomer. Still faithful to meet with the saints every time the doors are opened, she lives Christ in her daily life. I could not help but think of the woman Mark tells us about in his gospel, the one who anointed Jesus’ head with “an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard” (14:3). In praising her “good deed” (14:6), Jesus summed it up by saying of her, “She has done what she could” (14:8). No one knows this dear sister across our brotherhood. She’s not an author, public speaker, gospel writer, or appointed church leader. But she epitomizes greatness as defined by Jesus.
I left my visit doing some serious self-examination. How’s my attitude? What am I doing with what God has given me? How am I blessing the lives of others? When others have been around me or speak about me, what characteristics come to mind? Every life is given a variable amount of resources and opportunities (Mat. 25:14-30). We will account for how we used them. Have we tried to tell others about Jesus? Have we reminded others of Jesus? Helen reminded me of my Savior! I left resolved to be more like her, trying to imitate her as she so clearly imitates Him (1 Cor. 11:1)!
Christianity is important to us. Making sure we live the right way is important to us. Because our loyalty to God is important to us, and because our lifestyle is characterized by avoiding evil, many believe that our mission in life is to defeat evil. Some Christians believe that this involves social activism or influencing public opinion. Nothing about this is intrinsically wrong, but it cannot be our primary focus.
Evil exists, period. Humanity introduced evil when we disobeyed God. As we noted last week, evil is on borrowed time thanks to Jesus, but it will exist until the end of time. So, what’s our job if fighting evil isn’t top of the list?
Christians are people who decide to follow God. That means living based on his moral code, not on humanity’s. That means we avoid practicing morally evil things. We recognize the influence that evil has on the world. We understand the consequences of choosing evil over God.
Christians are recruiters! We’re a tight knit group of people with shared goals, views, and struggles. Part of our job is to keep each other strong (Gal. 6.10; I Pet. 1.22; Heb. 3.12,13). The rest of our job is to recruit people to populate heaven (Matt. 28.19; Acts 20.24; Jn.15). God also expects us to be good citizens and live quiet, peaceful lives (Rom. 13; I Pet. 2.13; I Tim. 2.2; I Thess. 4.11).
Jesus defeated evil (I Jn. 3.8, 4.4; Col. 2.15), and he will personally destroy it forever at the end (Rev. 20; II Pet. 3.7). For now, though, evil is inevitable (I Jn. 5.19). Our job is to share God’s hope with those who don’t have it. By avoiding evil ourselves and helping others escape its influence, we help diminish its influence on the world!
To get your concealed carry permit for a firearm in Kentucky, you can expect to undergo a background check, complete gun safety training, and pay a fee. There is a minimum age requirement, and there are other conditions to meet while holding a permit (which can be revoked or suspended). Did you know that in 2020, there were over 68,000 permits either issued or renewed? Since 1996, well over one million have been issued and renewed here. What does all that mean? It means that there are a lot of people you run into on the road, in the store, and just about any other public place who are carrying and you don’t know it.
I do not mention any of this to induce or participate in a Second Amendment debate. There is a different type of “concealed carrier” which Jesus does not approve of. He preaches about it in His sermon on the Mount. He says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16).Jesus exhorts His disciples not to conceal the light of their influence.
It is impossible for a true disciple to conceal their influence (14). Truly, one can claim to be a follower of Christ in an affirming environment like at church services or around Christians. Yet, if we can be around people away from these “easy” situations and no one knows, from our speech, action, attitude, and presence, that we are a Christian, how much of a disciple are we? Jesus says it should be totally obvious to everyone!
It is unprofitable for a disciple to conceal their influence (15). What good is it to be a disciple if those characteristics are suppressed and concealed? A lamp might as well be a piece of furniture if it is covered up. All the knowledge of who Jesus is and what He means is useless if we do not apply that by sharing Him in our daily lives!
It is dishonorable for a disciple to conceal their influence (16). Our “light” is connected to doing the good works of a disciple and others glorifying the Father by witnessing the fruits of our influence. If seeing Christlike influence at work honors God, what does the opposite do?
God needs us spreading the influence of Christ every day and everywhere. There is no “secret service” branch in the Lord’s Army, and He doesn’t want any “concealed carry” light-bearers! No, not practicing your righteousness to be seen of men. Instead, practicing righteousness openly and without shame as you conduct yourself among the world.
The Redwood National Park in California is home to the world’s tallest tree. Standing at over 380 feet tall this tree is incredible to look at. The California Redwood is estimated to be able to reach a staggering 425 feet in its lifetime. It continues to grow all its life and there’s a reason it gets so tall, as the lifespan of this tree is up to 2,200 years. Think about that! There are redwood trees that are still growing today that were planted 200 years before Christ was born.
The California Redwood is massive. It is over 29 feet in diameter and has a root system that spreads over three miles underground. These trees are truly incredible. But like most trees, the key to their growth is water. California redwoods consume over 56,000 gallons of water each year or 150 gallons of water each day!
In Psalm 1:1, we are given this description: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” This person is blessed when they avoid the progression of sin. Notice how the psalmist describes the progression:
Walk not in the counsel of the wicked.
Nor Stands in the way of sinners.
Nor Sit in the seat of the scoffers.
These steps illustrate what people do when they are tempted by sin. They walk among it, noticing the wicked and their deeds. Once they walk among it, their curiosity gets the best of them and they begin to pause and spend time in the presence of sinners. Finally they are fully drawn into sin and they sit down and practice the evil that they have observed.
Rather than walking, standing and sitting with sinners, the righteous man delights in the law of the Lord. Verse two says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The choice is obvious for the righteous man. He avoids the sin and chooses the Word of God over anything else.
Verse three reads, “He is like a tree that is planted by the waters that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all he does he prospers.” The source of life for this tree is water. Just like the California Redwood needs water in order to grow, the saved man spends his time next to the source of life. What is this water? John 4:14 reveals, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” For the Christian, our source of life comes from Christ. We are able to grow and thrive on the words of God.
Let’s make the decision daily to be firmly planted in the words of life. That way, we too can be counted as righteous!
In Mark 11:12-14, we read a short and slightly strange account of Christ and his disciples, “On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 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.” Why did he curse the tree?
It seems to me that it would make more sense if he cursed the tree because it was in season and failed to bear fruit, but it wasn’t in season. So why curse the tree? It wasn’t supposed to have fruit. Many people say that what Jesus did was a little extreme. It appears that the only reason Jesus cursed the tree was because He was hungry and was upset that it had no fruit. At first glance His actions seem harsh and unwarranted, but Christ is illustrating a very important lesson.
This tree illustrated hypocrisy. Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had the appearance of being fruitful, but it was a lie. It lacked fruit. It was this lie that caused Jesus to curse the tree. It clearly states that this tree was not in season, but it still had leaves. So from far off it seemed to have the appearance of fruit, but it offered nothing but leaves. Jesus doesn’t want us to have the appearance of holiness; He wants us to bear fruit.
It’s not about looking like a Christian, but living like one.
Emily told me a story from when she was younger and literally had a run in with a peach tree. She was driving a golf cart at a friend’s house and ran over a young peach tree. The golf cart stripped off the bark and flattened the small tree. The owners had to spray fake bark onto the tree just to keep it alive and healthy, and to this day it’s an ugly tree. But, despite being deformed and mangled, this tree, according to Emily and all her friends, makes the best peaches out of all the peach trees on the property.
What’s the point? It’s not about how you look. It’s about what you produce. Jesus doesn’t care about our appearance and if we look like a Christian. The ONLY thing that matters is if we are bearing fruit.
This tree was an illustration of the hypocrisy that was found in the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28. Like the whitewashed tombs which Jesus references in these verses, the fig tree looked beautiful on the outside. It looked like it was ripe with fruit! But upon closer examination, it was a lie.
It had nothing. It made itself out to be something it wasn’t. Christ had no tolerance for hypocrisy. If we claim to be Christians and that we have a relationship with God, and yet fail to dwell on His word and spend time in prayer, we are living a life of hypocrisy. Jesus uses this tree to show us how he feels about those who claim to be one thing, when in reality it is all a lie.
After Jesus curses the fig tree, they immediately enter the temple and what do they see but a living example of the fig tree? In verse 15 Jesus sees people using the temple as a place to rip off others. They had turned the temple into a den of thieves. The fig tree had the appearance of having fruit to offer, but it gave none. The temple, Jerusalem, and the Pharisees had the appearance of having holiness and offering salvation, but had none.
We must use this account as motivation to practice what we preach and be who say we are to those around us.