October 3, 2011: Damn Fig Tree!

Posted on : Oct 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Still Speaking

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Excerpt from Mark 11:20-25

“Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

Reflection by Christina Villa & Dan Smith


I’m always a little surprised to find that the Jesus in the Bible is really not the same as the Jesus in hymns and on those decorative plates your grandmother had.

Take today’s Scripture.  Jesus curses a fig tree and makes it wither because he was hungry and the fig tree didn’t have any figs on it.  Not a very good example to set for the disciples.  Not very pastoral.

He doesn’t do this kind of thing often, but nevertheless this scripture suggests that Jesus had an actual human personality, which means he wasn’t always in a good mood. Even Jesus got aggravated.  And he let it show.

Jesus was perfectly good, but he wasn’t always perfectly nice. One of the many reasons I would never make it as a clergy person is that people expect ministers to be not only ultra-good, but also super-nice and pastoral all the time. Not even Jesus could manage that. And I wonder: is that what we really want in our spiritual leaders?

In my earlier years of working among ministers, I spent a lot of time in meetings trying to figure out how they really felt.  Anything negative was phrased so carefully that I frequently thought something was being praised when in fact it was being criticized. I remember one former colleague who would energetically nod his head up and down while saying, “No, I don’t think so.”

This is what happens when we forget that nice and good aren’t the same thing. Let’s give our pastors a break and let them have actual human personalities, just like the rest of us. And Jesus.


It’s not just clergy that need grace.  WE ALL DO.  Many of us take on too much work, too much responsibility, too many commitments, and then we hit the wall.  Our frustration reaches the max and something or someone gets cursed.  “Nice and good” aren’t the same thing.   We’re not going to be nice all the time, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t good people.  It’s good to know God’s grace is with us even when we’re not nice.  And as Christians, it’s even better to know that Jesus is the perfect example of that truth!  However, even knowing that, I do feel sorry for the cursed fig tree!

God, please watch over us, even when we lose it and curse someone or something.  Help us to know that even in those moments when we are not “nice” we are still good people.  AMEN.

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