I was sipping on watermelon spark this morning, smoothing away all of these hair frizzies with my Chi flat iron, and listening to Joyce Meyer’s television program from the bedroom. My typical work week routine. Today, Joyce was preaching about how Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit. Since the tree had leaves on it, it was supposed to have fruit. But it didn’t have fruit. So, Jesus cursed the tree and it died. See Mark 11:12-25 and Matthew 21:18-22. Or the Wikipedia outline.
Joyce said, the tree was a phony. I never looked at it that way but I see the point. They were looking at the tree with its leaves ready for a nice piece of fruit. Bam. NO FRUIT. How do you feel about phony, fake things? I immediately thought about the jewelry my husband bought me. The wedding ring set and anniversary earrings. How would I feel if I discovered they were fake diamonds? They were CZs. Oh heck no!
Joyce went on to say that this is the problem with many Christians today. People see the fish symbol on your car and the cross around your neck, and they are expecting the real deal. They are expecting hope, love, encouragement, etc. They look to you for fruit, but find out there’s no fruit.
That reminded me of this week’s Bible reading. It’s dated August 6, 2014 in the Chronological Bible. “Jeremiah … stopped in front of the Temple of the Lord. He said to the people there, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will bring disaster upon this city and its surrounding towns as I promised, because you have stubbornly refused to listen to me.”
This is at the temple, right? I immediately thought of our modern day church buildings filled with so many religious people who have deceived themselves into thinking that they are righteous by works, while pointing fingers at everyone else.
During my hard core atheist days, I can honestly say that I did not want to be a Christian because they were so mean. (Insert the “why you gotta be so mean” chorus by Taylor Swift that just popped in my head so I sang the verse. Darn the A.D.D.) And to this day, I am very cautious of “church people”. They are scary. There every time the door opens yet spewing hate on others. All. The. Time. (P.S. I am very aware that there are amazing church people too. I could tag 20 of them on Facebook. But as an atheist, from the outside looking in, this is how it felt. And let’s be honest, you know your church is filled with people like this too. A 30 minute pump-you-up message once a week just doesn’t do the trick…)
Which reminds me of one of my very favorite Bible stories ever ever ever. “Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: Two men went to the Temple to pray, One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: I thank you God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income. But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14.