How’s your fig tree?

Fig tree in hands

I don’t have to tell you that we, as a country, are in difficult times. You can discern that for yourself by scrolling through your Facebook news feed. And it’s the scrolling through my feed that prompted me writing this. I’m not one to get entangled in all the political hoopla and B@!!$#*% currently dominating the headlines. However, the current state of things in our country has revealed a deadly symptom of our society, and I believe there is a root that we need to begin addressing. We’ll get to that shortly. First…

A baseball team is comprised of individuals that each contribute at various times to the overall collective of the team’s success, whether during an at-bat or making a defensive play at their specific position. Each individual is accountable to each of their individual teammates and the team as a whole for their personal performance. When I’m in the batter’s box, the outcome is solely my own. I can’t blame the teammate on deck behind me for my lack of performance. On good teams (the most successful teams) you will always hear individuals talk about the team no matter the outcome. And when one individual does make a crucial mistake he takes responsibility for it. At the same time, you will never hear another teammate blame another for the direct result of the games outcome. The team functions well as a unit because each element or individual takes responsibility for their part on the team.

So much of our society today, and the political climate as a result, is due directly to a lack of personal responsibility. Politics in general is basically a bunch of finger pointing. We are all too quick to blame and criticize, taking the role of victim, rather than being mature enough to take ownership for our own thoughts, words, and actions.

Judgment

The blame game is on full display for you to see. Again, just scroll through your Facebook feed or turn on any cable news network. We are pointing out every minute, insignificant flaw to get our point across or win favor. It is appalling and it furthers the divide between us. Yet, at the same time, we are all vulnerable to doing it. We’re broken. Every one of us. None of us are perfect in any shape or form. And that is the very reason blaming is an attractive alternative to personal responsibility. It allows us to hide from our own imperfections, masking the deep shame and disgust we have with ourselves. It becomes an even more attractive tactic when we can latch on to a group of people doing the same thing, because then we can justify it by telling ourselves, “they’re right and they’re just like me.” In other words, we’re all in the front yard of another pointing out the imperfections and flaws of their tree, while our tree never gets tended and is withering away to die.

Luke 13:6-9 is a story about a man whose fig tree has not produced fruit for three years so he tells his gardener to cut it down. The gardener suggests a different approach by giving the tree one more year, digging around it and fertilizing it to see if it will produce fruit and if it doesn’t, then cut it down. It’s time we start digging around and fertilizing our own tree.

Fig tree in hands

I believe this is the essence of our existence, and the core of Christianity. When we dig into our own flaws (our own brokenness) and we begin to work out all the bad soil while at the same time sowing elements that help us grow, then our “tree” will start producing fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22). Blame and criticism cannot produce this, only death.

Take ownership. Start digging around your tree. Weed out all the impurities and anything that doesn’t promote healthy growth. Sow in the nutrients you need to produce the character you wish to see in others. The Message Bible translates Gal. 5:22 like this, “…affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick to things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a much better society than the current outhouse we see in our news feed every day.

It starts with me, and you, as an individual. So ask yourself, “How’s my fig tree?” If it’s not producing fruit, then its probably time to get out of other people’s yards and tend to your own.