Plain Brown Sign



Simone Lake

How plain is plain? More importantly, are you plain? I do not mean plainness in regards to being “cute,” as in the simple innocence of a child. Nor do I mean the kind of plain as in a garment, style of clothing, or some type of decor for your home that sort of stands out because of its simplicity. Nope, I’m talking about a different kind of plainness … This was the question of the day as I drove up north to Cottonwood this past December.

I was invited to meet, teach and train other prayer leaders. Reflecting on the recent snowfall, I looked forward to my trek there. Anticipating the new, fresh look of nature with the white powdery snow would make my drive more enjoyable. Driving on the transformed road, blanketed with soft snow created refreshing scenery.

When I arrived at the junction of Highway 87 and Highway 260, there were a half-a-dozen carloads of families parked on the sides of the road. Kids and adults alike were tumbling out of cars running to meet their friends to build snowmen, throw snowballs, sled or make snow angels. Dogs ran alongside chasing after the kids joining in on the fun. 

“Winter wonderland indeed!” I thought, while looking on and smiling at their fun and laughter. This visual abruptly ceased as I turned down Highway 260 to Camp Verde. Trying to maintain my beautiful nature fix that I just experienced, it was clear to see that the scenery up ahead could not compare. Noticing on each side of the highway, less and less snow and more and more of the brown tan of the land, I settled into a “cruise control” mode, searching for something outstanding in nature that would capture my eyes. Almost instantly, at a distance, I barely noticed an object on the right. As I drove closer and closer, it was clear that it was a sign. After catching my interest, my curiosity increased more and more. Granted this sign did not even compare to the beautiful scenes previously seen, nonetheless, it became my new inquisitive quest. With the car getting closer and closer, I found myself sitting a tiny bit taller behind the wheel and leaning a little more forward, to see if I could get a glimpse of what it said. As it came into full view, I did not see even one word or one symbol of any kind. It was plain, blank, empty. I was a little disappointed.

“Oh, there must be something on the other side,” I thought, after passing the sign, yet after I looked in my rearview mirror, to my surprise it had absolutely nothing on the opposite side as well. It was just as bare and naked. Not one word! Nada! It was just this PLAIN BROWN SIGN!

“What a waste!” I thought, and became really irritated that nothing was on that sign. “A waste of wood, a waste of brown paint, a waste of time for those who may have needed valuable information to guide them, only to find nothing!”

I argued in my head as if I were a trial lawyer defending a serious injustice in a court of law. All of nature around me became witnesses then turned into jurors as I laid out my closing argument. What if someone needed directions? What if someone was lost? I continued pointing out evidence to convict the guilty sign. It neglected to fulfill its obligations and responsibility to do its job. Oh the injustice of it all! It should not have been plain. It should have had information on it.

Now after I realized that I was spending way too much time and emotion thinking about a plain brown sign, my brain immediately reminded me of Someone else who spent time and emotion on something that was plain.

It was Jesus and a plain fig tree. 

Previously, before Jesus encountered the plain fig tree, He was riding on a donkey enjoying a wonderful joyous celebration symbolizing His triumphal entry. People cried out “Hosanna” as He passed by on His donkey acknowledging who He was. After the outside celebration party, it was way too late to go to the temple in Jerusalem, so the disciples and Christ postponed the temple visit for the next day and went to Bethany (a similar distance between Payson and Star Valley) to lodge overnight.

The next day Jesus gets up in the morning with His disciples and leaving Bethany, they head back to Jerusalem to go to the temple. He is hungry and sees a fig tree in the distance. I can imagine Him perhaps thinking … “I’m on a schedule; so on our way to the temple, we will just stop up ahead. I see there is a little drive-thru tree — we will just get some fast food to go, that’s hanging on the limbs … we will just grab some breakfast to go and be on our way, back on task, headed to Jerusalem, on time to finish My job there at the temple.”

However, when Jesus came up to the tree, there was nothing but leaves, not one fig whatsoever. It was plain. What a disappointment! No food at the drive-thru! What kind of a fig tree was this? It might have well not have even been there in existence. Imagine being hungry and driving along and you see a restaurant up ahead so you decide to stop and get some food. You go in, get seated, look at the menu, and make a decision and then when you get ready to order the number 2 daily special, the waitress says, “By the way, we don’t have any food.” 

What’s the deal? The sign did say restaurant, didn’t it? That is what this business does right? It would have been better if it was closed. Jesus’ response to the barren fig tree was to curse it so that it would never bare any kind of fruit ever again. Cursing the fig tree shows that this was a pretty serious offense. This indeed was a dangerous kind of “plain.” The “plain” often seen on those “Law and Order” TV shows. The kind where the perpetrator is guilty of all the hideous crimes, all evidence points to them, yet this plain turned creepy look comes on their face as they deny any wrongdoing.

This “plain” was so bothersome to Christ that He basically called out “Fired!” Yep, Jesus fired the fig tree from its job. Now when Jesus, the incarnation of God Himself, leans out of heaven to fire something that He created from its job, I’d say it’s pretty much fired. Wouldn’t you? Done deal.

Later on in the evening after they left Jerusalem they followed the same route going back to Bethany. They passed the fig tree again. And the next morning, going back to Jerusalem, they passed it again. That fig tree had completely dried up from the roots and was withered away. Stripped, plain and completely dead.

So I want to ask you, are you plain? Void of words to give direction like that sign or void of fruit to feed those who are hungry? If Jesus were to walk past you, what would He see? Would you have fruit that decorates and adorns, overflowing so much that it falls to the ground? Or would you be plain, dangerously plain to the point of being good for nothing except cursing?

Evaluate yourself. 

If you find that you are lacking fruit, I would encourage you to pray to Christ and seek Him to establish you in His fruit so you can be a blessing to others.

My prayer for you is that when Jesus comes passing by to look upon you, that you would have fruit to abundance in compliance to the call He has for you in your life. The call to follow Him, serve Him and bear fruit for His glory, His alone.

Biblical text: Mark 11:12, Matthew 21:18

Suggested reading: Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Matthew

Additional Books to Read: “Being a Disciple and Counting the Cost” by Kay Arthur; “Walking in Power Love and Discipline” by Arthur, Lawson, Vereen.

About the author: Simone Lake is a full-time minister serving in the areas of Bible teacher, speaker, missionary and author. She attends Church on Randall Place where she serves alongside her husband, Pastor John Lake. Read more about her work at, www.

Current Bible Studies:

• Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Gazing at the King, Church on Randall Place.

• Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.: Gazing at the King, Mountain Bible Church.

• Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. through February: Gospel of Luke, Senior Center.

• Gazing at the King is an inductive Bible study that Simone is currently writing.

All are welcome to attend.

Speaking itinerary:

Feb. 19, 9 a.m., Mountain Bible Church women’s event — “Planted to Blossom.”

Feb. 28, 8:30 a.m., Tempe Church Conference — “The Hook — Catching your Community.”

April — METS conference for health professionals — Philippians.


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