Frustrated at Work? Consider the Fig Tree

A fruit that's mentioned often in the Bible offers a surprising spiritual lesson

Posted in , Aug 5, 2019

Moreton Bay Fig Tree in golden sunlight

Are you satisfied with your current job? If not, you’re not alone. According to Pew Research Center, roughly one-third of Americans view the work they do as “just a job to get them by.” If you’re not oozing with passion for your 9-to-5, let me suggest pondering a seemingly strange motivational tool: fig trees. 

While I was writing my latest book, Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers, I traveled the globe to learn about food in the Bible and what these Scriptures could teach us about living an abundant life. 

As part of this journey, I had the privilege of spending time with one of the world’s premiere fig farmers. Kevin’s bountiful farm in California is like Disneyland for a frugivore like me, but it also turned out to be something of a classroom. When I stopped to consider the fig tree, I realized it possessed the power to help all of us cultivate a greater sense of contentment wherever we find ourselves. 

Figs are one of the most prominent fruits in the Bible, popping up repeatedly and inviting us to consider what they represent. A closer look reveals that figs in the scriptures are often used as a symbol of divine satisfaction

Unlike most fruit trees, figs are multi-cropping, which means they are harvested numerous times each year. The Hebrew word for harvesting figs, oreh, means “light of dawn.” Because ripe figs spoil quickly, farmers rise with the morning dawn hoping to see ripe fruit hanging from the branches. 

Just as those who harvest figs learn to live in a state of expectancy, how would your life look different if you rose each morning expecting God to show up and satisfy you in the place you work?

I spoke to a friend recently who just got a new job after a period of unemployment. When I asked her if she was excited about this new adventure, she flipped her hair and rolled her eyes. 

“Meh. I don’t live to work. I work to live,” she said. “This is just a way to pay the bills.”

She’s right that making your job the center of your life is a recipe for workaholism, but I also feared that she had already concluded that this would be a meaningless experience for her before she even started. In a culture rife with cynicism and skepticism, we often expect a new job to be nothing more than a means to an end. 

Experiencing deep satisfaction often takes time. Farming figs requires care and maintenance, fertilizing and pruning. The shoots that pop up like periscopes must be trimmed, and many varieties won’t bear fruit until the fourth year. One of the keys to workplace satisfaction is the spiritual discipline of patience. You may struggle to find contentment on your first day on the job or even your 100th, but remember that waiting and working go hand-in-hand.

Instead of focusing on aspects of your job that are out of your control, seek joy in your current situation. Decide that your professional satisfaction begins with you. 

Cultivate a sense of expectation and patience in your journey to a fulfilling vocation. If you commit to these practices, rooted in the image of the fig tree, and you may find that your dream job is the one you are already in. 

Try Margaret's recipe for Roast Figs and Brussels Sprouts at home!

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