Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 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?’
8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9, NIV)
While agriculture was familiar to those to whom Jesus was speaking, it is less familiar to many today, and understanding parables, such as the one above, may require a little research. A vineyard is known for its lush soil. By planting a fig tree in the vineyard, the tree is being given the best nutrients, the best opportunity at producing fruit. A fig tree begins to produce fruit after three years. In this parable, the tree has likely been planted for at least six years, three of which is should have been producing fruit. Therefore, the man was valid in assuming it was unlikely to ever produce any fruit. When the tree fails to produce fruit, it still continues to take away nutrients needed by other plants in the vineyard. The tree has wasted its opportunity and could harm other plants, by taking nutrients from them, if it is allowed to continue and should be removed from its prime position.
Jesus used fig trees in many of His parables, with the fig tree representing Israel, a comparison which goes back to the Old Testament. God serves as the vineyard owner, Jesus is the caretaker and intercessor. Jesus has pleaded for more time to allow each of us to bear fruit. God grants the mercy for which Jesus had asked.
Another year is given to the tree, a year in which the soil can be cultivated, fertilizer placed around the tree. Another year in which the tree can come to fruit. The parable is left open ended. What happened to the tree? Did it sprout fruit after all? This encourages us to look within ourselves and examine our own lives. Each day we live is a day of mercy, another day that Jesus has interceded on our behalf.
God is merciful, giving us many chances. How have you responded to that mercy? Have you embraced it?
When we started our journey this year, we used the example of a mustard seed. A tiny seed that can grow into a great bush and provide shelter for many. Another example would be a that we are to be fig trees, producing fruit for all who need it. Eventually, we are all cut down by death. The question before us is will we be cut down after years of bearing fruit? Or will we have lived a barren life?
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