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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, March 23, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Luke 13:1

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (NRSV)

If you’ve ever watched a competition, say a sporting event or singing contest, you have probably noticed that criticism has itself become a spectator sport. There is in most media a feverish drive to identify and discuss what people are getting wrong. The figure skater’s quadruple axel is scrutinized. The singer’s pitch or presentation are scrupulously analyzed. And a similar process unfolds in everyday life. The finances of a person experiencing homelessness, the academic performance of a student, the performance goals of an employee can all be the subject of our endless speculation. We are quick to analyze what others did to bring about their situation, good or bad. The underlying message: There is cause and effect. You get what you deserve.

But in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus forces us to consider whether we’ve been focused on the wrong thing. The disciples seem overly concerned with identifying the sins or circumstances that cause the demise of otherwise good or innocent people. But Jesus is not one for cursing others to bless himself. Remember, this is the one who said elsewhere, “judge not, unless you want to be judged.”

So how does Jesus respond to a culture of criticism in this passage? He changes the subject. He asked the disciples to consider their own faithfulness rather than point to the mistakes or idolatries of others. Rather than their engaging in a culture of judgment and critique, Jesus wants his disciples to be drawn into a practice of self-examination that leads us to measure our lives not against victorious outcomes, but against faithfulness, which saves our souls and puts life in our years. Faithfulness is a fruit that God, like the fig tree’s patient gardener, is trying to develop within us despite many dangers, trials, and snares. May we let God’s work in us succeed.

Holy God, you know us in our innermost being. Turn us toward the way of discernment that helps us to know ourselves and trust our lives to your transformation. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Community Engagement

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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