Monday, October 11, 2021

Demons and Figs

Maybe you're not sold yet. Maybe you read yesterday's post, and you're interested in the idea, but it's still hard to believe that everything you've heard about moving mountains - about conquering all the things that stand in your way - could be wrong. It's okay. I get it. It's hard to let go of a message that means so much to so many of us. 

But just because something sounds good, that doesn't mean it's what God is trying to say to you. And what if what God really wants to say to you is even better

First, though, we'd have to show that when we talk about mountains, we really are talking about worship and not just the challenges of living a human life and all the big things that come against us. 

A good place to start is this - Jesus promises us this life will be broken. He tells us we will have trouble. He reminds us that things aren't going to go the way that we want them to. So it's pretty bold of us to think that He would also preach a message that tells us that if we just had a little faith, we wouldn't have to put up with trouble. That would make Jesus double-minded, wouldn't it? Or at least, double-speaking. If Jesus tells us that a little faith would get us out of big trouble but also tells us that we will have trouble, then what is He really saying about faith? Clearly, that none of us can ever have even a little bit of it. And, well, I just can't believe that Jesus would really say such a thing. 

That alone would be enough to say that maybe we've got the message wrong, but look at the contexts in which Jesus talks about moving mountains. These, too, are a clue that these mountains aren't what we often think they are. 

The first time Jesus says this, He is talking to His disciples who have failed to cast a demon out of someone that the Scriptures don't indicate that they even knew prior to this moment. A total stranger. Or at least, a relative stranger. If we think that moving mountains is about conquering the things that stand in our way, we have to say...this demon wasn't standing in the way of any of these disciples. This demon had nothing, really, to do with them, nor them with it. We'd have to say that these disciples, then, went out looking for "mountains" to conquer and that their faith was supposed to conquer the "mountains" in someone else's life. 

It's a difficult theological notion to try to preach that God has made us responsible for victory in someone else's life. He has called us to love them, yes. To help them, yes. To serve them, absolutely. To journey alongside them. To fight their battles with them, sure. But not to fight their battles for them. Not to go out looking for someone else's mountain, trusting our faith to blow it up for them. 

Beyond that, we have to even ask if this demon is a "mountain" in our idea at all. It's a demon, for crying out loud. It's spiritual warfare, not temporal trouble. The answer to it is prayer and fasting, acts of worship. This is a far cry from trying to overcome our own selfishness or beat an addiction or defeat cancer. 

And even if you're thinking, "Yeah, but a demon is a pretty big mountain...," let's talk about the fig tree. The second time that Jesus tells His disciples that they can move mountains, they are marveling at a fig tree that has completely dried up after Jesus has cursed it for not having fruit out of season. He was hungry. The tree had no figs. He cursed it. It dried up. He told His disciples that they could do the same. 

Does this mean we are supposed to become "righteously angry" at things in this world that don't satisfy our appetite? Is Jesus giving us permission to be "hangry"? Or is this not about Jesus's physical appetite at all? 

If you've been around the blog awhile, you know that I believe that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from Genesis was a fig tree. I believe the fruit was a fig. And it's this scene in the Gospels (in part) that leads me to that conclusion. Jesus sees a fig tree that has borne no fruit, and He's looking at a people who do not know the difference between good and evil. The fruit has not delivered on its promise. It has not given what it claims that it had to give. So Jesus curses it for not bearing fruit in the lives of men. 

This isn't a mountain problem; this is a spiritual problem. It's a problem with worship, with men's hearts. With what we believe about God and what we do about it. 

If Jesus says we can move mountains in the contexts of demons and our relationship with God, then what on earth makes us think He was talking about our financial security or our physical health or our making a way through this world? He was talking about worship. He was talking about faithfulness. He was talking about righteousness. He was talking about the way that we love God and live like we love God

Which is, as we said yesterday, the only thing that mountains have ever meant in the Scriptures. 

More tomorrow. 

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