You know the feeling.
When you get hungry, especially for an extended period of time, your mental fuse shortens. Your body is sending you pain signals, which sets you on edge. You’re much more susceptible to expressions of anger when you need food.
You get hangry.
It seems like Jesus may have experienced this phenomenon when He came upon the unproductive fig tree in Matthew 21. It seemed like everything was just fine, then without warning, Jesus destroyed this seemingly harmless tree. Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking? Here’s a guy who displays amazing calm amidst stormy seas (Matthew 14:22-27), starvation (Matthew 4:1-4), and even death itself (Matthew 20:17).
And now He’s chosen to unleash His anger on a plant? Was this hanger at work?
I believe Jesus’ will was strong enough to overcome His human emotions, especially in the moment. In just a few days, He would set aside His fear and dread to commit to the will of His Father. Jesus wasn’t one to get wrapped up in the moment and make rash decisions.
No, I think Jesus’ outburst against the tree had been building for quite some time. He was frustrated with the current state of the Jewish nation, which had been specifically set aside by God hundreds of years ago but had by in large fallen away from His teachings. Their leaders twisted His laws and cared more about earning peoples’ respect than honoring Him (Luke 20:46). In the verses before this passage, Jesus had to drive out merchants and money exchangers who defiled the temple courts by selling animals and cheating the people.
This was not the way God intended for His people to be.
So it was with the fig tree. While the tree had leaves, it bore no fruit. It looked great from afar, but it had nothing of substance to offer.
We see Jesus use the metaphor of a fig tree again while telling a parable in Luke 13:6-9. In this story, a man with a vineyard becomes angry at an unproductive fig tree and desires to cut it down. “Why should it use up the soil?”
Like both the fig tree and the Pharisees, we’ve been the ability to produce much fruit. Working for God and spreading His message gives the world a sweet treat and encourages them to return to God. However, if we live for ourselves and our tree produces no fruit, our lives are false advertising and we come up short of what God created us to be.
Now this isn’t to say that if your life is unproductive, God is going to curse you and cause you to wither. He loves you too much to destroy you, even though that’s the fate you deserve.
But God asks for performance, not promise. And if you’re unproductive, you risk a fate far worse than hanger – God’s disappointment.