"Be spiritual" is the slogan of every religion. No religion in the world lessens the importance of being spiritual. Even in the time of Jesus, there were certain religious sects who taught others to be spiritual. There is nothing wrong in being spiritual. Indeed, it is necessary for understanding spiritual things because a carnal man cannot understand spiritual things (1Cor. 2:14-15). But when it sidetracks from inner spirituality to professional spirituality, there is disaster.
The Pharisees were one of the groups, during the time of Jesus, who gave importance to professional spirituality. They gave more importance to the customs of Moses like no work on Sabbath day, bathing, washing hands before they ate, and circumcision. So they used to measure the spirituality of a person on the basis of his outward life. Even today we Christians often do that. For us, a person is spiritual, if he prays day and night, if he fasts thrice in a week, and sometimes, if he speaks in tongues. There are some Christians who teach others to wear white clothes, have a clean shave and not to wear ornaments in order to be true Christians. These are neither the hallmarks of true Christians, nor an identification of spotless hearts and unpolluted minds. I don’t mean to say we must not wear a white shirt or shave our moustache and beard, or must wear ornaments. All that I mean to say is, let’s not consider those doings as the marks of a true Christian. A lapse into legalism is a threat to Christian freedom. An inner spirituality is demonstrated by purity of heart and mind.
I have picked up the story of the fig tree recorded in Mark 11:13-16. This story gives us many good lessons against false spirituality. In the preceding passage, we see Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Having entered the Jerusalem temple, Jesus and His disciples went out to Bethany and spent the night there. In the morning, when they returned to the city, he was hungry and he saw a fig tree which was full of leaves and looking glossy. He thought He would find something to eat. But unfortunately, He found nothing except beautiful leaves. Jesus then cursed the fig tree. From this episode, Jesus wanted to teach the Jews about the need of inner spirituality rather than outside professional purity.
This story bears a few complex characteristics. Was Jesus right when He cursed the fig tree, since that was not the season for figs? I would like to suggest two hypotheses to bring remedy for this complexity: a) The Greek word used here is kairos, ‘for the season.’ The same word is found in Ephesians 5:16 where most English translations use ‘opportunity.’ So here kairos means ‘opportunity or an appointed time’ (according to H. C. Hahn in TDNT). That is to say, the opportunity of bearing fruit was gone or the appointed time was over. The gospel-writers did not use the word kronos that denotes whose duration is not as a rule precisely determined. b) Jesus cursed that tree not because it did not have fruit, but because of its pretending. Thereby Jesus wanted to teach the Jews the importance of inward quality, rather than outward quality. Along with this, Jesus wanted to teach them about ‘the power of faith.’
Unselfishness, Sign Of Spirituality
Even if you pray day and night and yet live a selfish life, you are not a spiritual person. All your spirituality is like a tomb--the outside looks very nice, but the inside is full of dirty things. Paul admonished us about two important things: a) consider others better than yourself, and b) look not for your own interest, but the interest of others (Phil.2:1-5). John F. Kennedy said, "Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country."
Generosity, Beauty Of Spirituality
When a fig tree bears fruit, it never takes anything for itself, and never tells anyone not to have its fruits. Everything a tree has, it offers for others. There is nothing a tree holds back. It always says, "Let others be benefitted." It takes lot of pain to bear fruit. Yet it never becomes stingy. Generosity demands a great amount of sacrifice. A spiritual person will not withhold to give his time, talents and resources for others who are in need. Often we think that when we have much, we will be able to give to others. You give what you have. A widow in the gospels was appreciated for her generosity. She offered all that she had. Likewise, we must learn to give, instead of learning to receive.
Impartiality, Quality Of Maturity
A tree never shows any partiality to anyone. It gives an equal amount of shade to everyone. Anyone can have its fruits. There is no classification. A tree never shows any discrimination. For a tree, colour is not important, looks are not important, wealth is not important, dress code is not important. All that is important is to release its fruits to everyone else. When we pray, we should pray for all, regardless of who they are. We should preach the goodness of Jesus to all sections of people, regardless of their caste and class. The message of love is for all, the forgiveness of God is for all, the presence and power of God is for all. We must not restrict them to any particular section of people.
We must not show any partiality because of Deuteronomy 10:17. It is against the faith of Christ (Jas.2:1). It makes us wicked judges (vv.2,4). It is mocking at God (v.3). It is against the royal law (v.8). We commit sin when we do partiality (vv.9-11). We must not show partiality, for we are under the law of liberty (vv.11-13). So let us not be selfish, but rather serve humanity in love, wholeheartedly.