The Fig Tree

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'” (Luke 13:6-9)

Jesus’ main point here is that judgment will come to non fruit bearers. Scripture is replete with the importance of a walk that matches our talk. The fact is, talk is cheap. It is easy to talk about the truth, but difficult to live it. A person will live out what he or she believes. This fleshing out of truth or, quite frankly, obedience to God’s revealed will, is called “fruit” in Scripture. This is precisely why John the Baptist cried out to the Pharisees (the religious leaders of his day):

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
-Hebrews 6:7-8

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.1The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-10)

We are all sinners in need of a Savior. All is a very inclusive word indeed! Not one of us is righteous in our own standing. Not one. These religious leaders believed they were safe because of their ancestry. After all, they were children of Abraham. Jesus came and confronted this way of thinking. In His talk with Nicodemus one of Israel’s teachers, He said:

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:3-7)

No one receives preferential treatment. We all come to the foot of the cross the same: as sinners. Since this is the sad state of every unbeliever, those who have been redeemed through faith in Christ, those who are children of the King, those who belong to Jesus, should indeed “shine like the stars in the universe as [they] hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15). There certainly should be a difference in the life of one who is redeemed that ultimately points others to Christ. The fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control–should be made manifest in our lives!

“Unfruitful professors of religion, if after long unfruitfulness they will repent, and change, and bring forth fruit, shall find all is well. God will be pleased; minister’s hands will be strengthened. There will be joy in heaven for it; the ground will be no longer used up, but bettered, and vineyard beautified, and the good trees in it made better. As for the tree itself, it is well for it; it shall receive the blessing of God; it shall be purged, and shall bring forth fruit.” -Matthew Henry

Interestingly, in the parable, it was God who came to look for the fruit. This fig tree was planted in His vineyard using up His good soil. It was given an advantage over the fig tree that perhaps grew by the side of the road. God requires and expects fruit from those He has planted in His vineyard. It dishonors Him greatly when we enjoy the privileges of the gospel and yet do not live out its truths. In our parable for today, the landowner has been patient. He had waited three years and has not found any fruit. He had not been overly ambitious in His expectations, He merely expected fruit. Not only was no fruit produced, His good soil had been wasted.

The doom is passed against it: “Cut it down!” Barren trees are to be cut down because there is no place for purposeless trees in God’s vineyard.

Take It to Heart

Enter the intercessor, the caretaker of the vineyard! He asks for a reprieve. The caretaker in the story is Christ, our great Intercessor! He sets before us an example to follow in pleading for others. We owe it to our Lord Jesus that barren trees are not immediately cut to the ground. He prays for a merciful reprieve and His prayer is reinforced by His endeavor to save the tree. What are you doing to intercede for the barren fig trees in your life?

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