“And Jesus began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”–Luke 13:6-9, NASB
“Then Jesus used this illustration: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if he could find any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally he told his gardener to cut it down. ‘I’ve waited three years and there hasn’t been a single fig!’ he said. ‘Why bother with it any longer? It’s taking up space we can use for something else.’ “‘Give it one more chance,’ the gardener answered. ‘Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine; if not, I’ll cut it down.’”–Luke 13:6-9, The Message
Since this weekend, our neighbors next door are having a large tree cut down, I assume because it is a dead tree and they didn’t want to risk it falling on their house. God often uses things in the natural to teach spiritual lessons.
As I watched the workman with the chain saw cutting it down, I was reminded of the verse from Luke 13:6-9 when Jesus was teaching a story about a fig tree that had no fruit on it.
In three years the tree hadn’t yielded any figs. The man who planted the tree told his gardener to cut it down. The gardener asked for one more year to fertilize it and see if it bore fruit then. If not, then he’d cut it down. I believe this story illustrates two things.
Number one, God expects us to bear spiritual fruit in our lives, not just coast along doing whatever we want. Our lives are not our own. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) We belong to God, and He created us for a unique and specific purpose.
God has put gifts inside of us that He wants to use for His glory and to encourage and help others. He wants us to operate in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” –Galatians 5:22-23, NLT
The second thing I believe this parable teaches us is that God is merciful. I believe the gardener in this story is symbolic of Jesus, who is interceding on our behalves to God. He wants to give us another chance. God is longsuffering and patient. He wants us to live to the utmost, fulfilling our great destiny.
He knows that when we are first saved, it’s going to take time to produce spiritual fruit in our lives. Good character takes time.
We need to “fertilize” our lives through reading and studying the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship with other Christian believers, and obedience to God. This is how we will grow spiritually.
But if we’ve been walking with God a long time, He expects us to be mature and to produce good fruit. If not, God is warning us in this passage that He may cut us down like my neighbor’s tree. It’s a sobering Scripture.
Are you like the fig tree that has no figs? Or are you a tree producing abundant fruit in your life?
To learn more about prayer and growing and maturing in your relationship with God, check out my Amazon Best Seller eBook, Walking With God.