20 Early in the morning, as Jesus and his disciples were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered from the root up. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look how the fig tree you cursed has dried up.”
22 Jesus responded to them, “Have faith in God! 23 I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’—and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen—it will happen. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you. 25 And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your wrongdoings.”
We have a fig tree that is in a pot on the deck in the summer and in the house in the winter. It has produced a couple of small figs, but it goes from looking green and healthy to dropping all of its leaves and looking dead in a matter of weeks. It recently looked healthy, now it looks dead. The story of Jesus cursing the fig tree has several interpretations, but they come down to the hypocrisy and lack of faith of people. Jesus sees the fig tree and curses it because it looks healthy and looks like it should have fruit but doesn’t. We think Jesus should know that it isn’t the season for the tree to bear fruit, but of course Jesus is not talking about fruit, he is talking about people. We look great from the outside, but inside we are not healthy.
Verse 25 says that if you have something against anyone, forgive them. “Anyone” certainly includes oneself. How many times have we done something that we just can’t seem to let go of? We may have apologized, and the other person accepted our apology, and certainly God has forgiven us, but maybe we still feel really awkward around the person we wronged because of what we did or didn’t do to or for them. I have some things that happened in my past that every time I think about them, I get angry with myself. They were things that happened because I was naïve and I understand that, but I am still angry with myself for not knowing the truth about a situation. Have I forgiven myself? I think so, but as Pastor Joe said, we have a hard time forgetting. We can sometimes treat others with more grace than we treat ourselves. We are that green vibrant tree on the outside but inside we are hard on ourselves, we feel we are not deserving, we are anxious and scared. It is often said in self-help activities that we need to examine our self-talk and see if it is something we would ever say to a friend. If not, why are we allowing us to talk to ourselves that way? We need to forgive ourselves. We know God forgives us and wipes our slate clean over and over again. I think in some ways our memories help us not to make those same mistakes over again, but we can’t then dwell on those and tear ourselves down. As Christians, we are tasked with “bearing fruit” for the Lord. We can’t bear fruit if we are hiding ourselves and our lack of self-forgiveness. As verses 22-24 tell us, we need to pray to God to help us find ways to decrease our self-doubt, fear, and unforgiveness not only of others but also of ourselves.
by Janet Waryck
For Pondering & Prayer
Let’s take a few minutes to think about those things we have been holding against ourselves, those things that seem to pop up over and over and make us feel unworthy. Then let’s pray about them to find ways that we can decrease their hold over us.
Prayer: God of forgiveness, help us to include ourselves in the list of people we are to forgive. Help us to give ourselves the same grace we extend to others so that we may be a green tree ready to bear fruit for you. Amen.