Wednesday, September 12, 2012

About Figs

This is a re-tooled post from the archives, one of best lessons I am still learning.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to the disciples,
"Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted."  
 John 6:12

I had been reading in John, sitting on my deck under the broad, shady leaves of my fig tree when I realized I was sitting in a analogy - a visual, tactile, sticky-sweet smelling image of what Jesus meant by "let nothing be wasted." I had just read the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, ending with the collection of left-over bread. 

They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish."   Mark 6:43 

Bread was a gift from God. In Hebrew, the word for bread, lechem, can also mean food in general. Lechem represents not only all food but God's sustenance as a whole. In a Jewish home it is required what falls to the floor be picked up and left over bread never be discarded.  Doing so shows ingratitude for God's gracious provision.  Understanding lechem broadens our understanding of Jesus as complete sustenance for all. 

What does lechem have to do with a fig tree? 

Before the fruit of the fig tree ripened, sitting beneath those leaves was my favorite place to read, talk to loved ones on the phone, and laugh with the family over a meal followed by s'mores.  But then the fruit ripened.

A fig tree bears no fruit for the first three years.  With proper care and in the right region, a mature tree will produce figs 10 months out of the year.  Our backyard tree was definitely more than three years old.  Sitting beneath a fig tree bearing fruit provides either a great experience in harvesting or a sad reminder of what waste brings. 

From the moment the figs ripened and started "plopping" onto my deck they reminded me of little baby birds pushed from the nest. In addition, as they ripened the skin of the figs split and a host of flies and bees feasted on the fruit through the cracks. These figs were full of flavor and nutritional benefit, but I had to do some serious mental gymnastics to pop one in my mouth.

Ken liked the figs. I would make an effort to pick some from the tree each day for him, but the rest? Well, the mess on the deck was such a nuisance I hosed the deck off daily with a power sprayer. Figs surfed the deck to the edge, then over to be hidden in the ground cover.  The harvest out of sight and out of mind.  Eventually there were so many bees I didn't climb into the tree to pluck the daily few for Ken. I was too afraid harvesting might get me stung.

Let nothing be wasted.

How often do I choose not to harvest the fruit of God's labor because I don't like the way it looks? 
In more relational terms - how often do I walk past a person because they remind me of someone else? 
Because they need me more than I am willing to give of myself? 
Because they smell? 

The sweetness of figs begins to stink.
An unharvested tree brings flies. Hundreds of them.
Bees will sting.

I've learned some things from that fig tree, not from the satisfaction of a job well-done, but from the sadness of witnessing waste. 

Harvesting is hard work.  With a tree that bears fruit ten months out of twelve, the job seems like it will never be finished.  What truth, this job God offers will last a man a life-time. 

Harvesting might mean getting stung a few times.  We live to survive the stings of misunderstandings, unforgiveness, selfishness, false accusations - those we mete out and those we receive. 
In the grand scheme of things, getting stung is a minor nuisance.

In God's economy there is no waste. Even the pieces are gathered, that nothing be wasted. 
I must judge my attitudes and actions towards others, careful to offer words of encouragement, love, and hope.
These are the tools of the harvester who reaps the fruit of God's labor. 

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to this disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.   Matthew 9:36-38

God's laborers are not volunteers showing up to do good works we think will help God.
We are chosen, authorized, and sent by God through Christ.
"Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers..."  

Favored One, may we be joyful harvesters.

Let no people be wasted.


  1. That is a lot to think about. The implications are pretty scary if I follow all my thoughts out to their natural conclusions. And here I was, just having a good ole time on Twitter. This does seem like one of those lessons that you learn over your whole life.

    1. I'm sorry. One of my friend would say "Debby Downer" strikes again. I really am a lot of fun in person! But yes, I am glad that it is a lifetime of learning that grows us into Grace. Or at least that He understands it takes that long! : ) Again, I need help re:twitter. Thanks for sharing this there.

  2. Great post. Thanks for the reminder and the very well written picture of how we are supposed to act. It was a great visual.

    1. Thanks Debi. I had been thinking about revitalizing this post for awhile. I was surprised by how much my writing voice has grown. Or I guess more than my voice, just me. : )


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