There is probably no sin or human condition that was more harshly rebuked by the Savior than the sin of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy basically means one who pretends to be religious or to be of a certain belief when he is not. Hypocrisy is too harsh of a word to use to describe missionaries. After all, who can deny you have given up 2 years and based on outward actions are no doubt living your religion probably better than most people? However, many aspects of hypocrisy can manifest themselves in the lives of anyone, even with missionaries, and a casual study of the scriptures is valuable to reveal Christ’s remedy for hypocrisy.
Christ traveled out from Bethany the day after he rode a colt, “whereon never man sat…” into Jerusalem and was hailed as a King. The ride into Jerusalem is, in and of itself, a miracle. If that were me, the unbroken colt would have ejected me straight away. On this day, Christ was hungry.
13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. (Mark 11:13-14)
The next day he with his disciples passed by and “saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.”
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
This is an interesting miracle because during Christ’s whole ministry he did miracles, out of love, that brought relief, blessings and benefit to others. Clearly the winds, waves, elements, natural forces, death, sickness and infirmities obeyed his will to that end. But, in this case he judged, cursed, smote and destroyed a fig tree. If nothing else his disciples would not be able to question the truly voluntary nature of the sacrifice that he would give a few days later in bringing to pass the atonement. Cursing the fig tree was evidence that he could have just as easily smote the crucifiers during their acts of violence.
The fruit buds of figs grow earlier than the leaves. Many leaves would be an indication of well developed fruit. Some species of fig trees yield edible green fruit. Figs from some trees are harvested the following spring. It is altogether understandable that a tree with much foliage would be expected to have figs even though the “time for figs was not yet”, but the tree was not true to its rich promise and was completely barren of fruit. The tree was a leafy, boastful, pretender that asserted superiority but was deceptively barren. It was and represents the classic hypocrite.
The lesson of the fig tree comes is verse 22.
22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
Christ then repeated former assurances of prayer and forgiveness. He reminded us to pray with faith and believe without doubting in your heart. He said you shall have whatsoever you ask when you pray believing your desires will come to pass. When you pray, forgive any who you have ought against so your Father in Heaven may forgive you. That means for you to give it up if you hold any ill will against others including your companion. Even if you are barren, you have greater possibilities for achievement through faith and prayer than to pretend righteousness. This was his lesson at that time regarding hypocrisy.
I am proud of each missionary in the Belgium Netherlands Mission. You are the elect of God sent here at this time to serve. You are terrific young men and women with bright futures and you are learning and growing rapidly in this training ground. As missionaries you are to go, “…in the power of the ordination wherewith you have been ordained, proclaiming glad tidings of great joy, even the everlasting gospel…” (DC 79:1) “As authorized representatives of Jesus Christ, you can teach people with power and authority. “Your power and authority should be evident as you work and teach.” (PMG, Chap. 1)
As such, you wear the name tag and as a missionary you have the missionary image to do and be as described above. These expectations of members, non-members, friends and loved ones are the equivalent of seeing you with leaves and foliage. You are certainly not barren like the fig tree, but from the youngest to the oldest missionary, everyone struggles with short comings which can appear as hypocritical. Your short comings could be difficulty in: being led by the Spirit to say what the Lord would have you say, being led by the Spirit about where to go and what to do, having your testimony confirmed, fear of contacting and lack of interest for working hard. Or you may be: easily distracted, sustain leaders but criticize their decisions, desire to be seen by others, etc. Because all are trying to measure up better today than the day before, these shortcomings do not become hypocrisy, but to others you may appear as a less than fulfilled promise.
The lesson of the fig tree of prayer with faith and forgiving others should be helpful to your striving for personal improvement.