Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 13:1-14:29 / Luke 13:1-30 / Proverbs 9:1-12
An apple tree will take 2 to 5 years before it begins to produce apples and pear trees take 4 to 6 years but a fig tree will only take 1 to 2 years before it bears figs. Several factors contribute to a trees ability to produce fruit like environment, soil, sunlight, fertilizer and moisture. When properly managed, a tree will naturally produce fruit.
Jesus shares a story about a fig tree that was well managed but barren. This parable illustrated the warning he previously gave, “but unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:5) Jesus came to the Jewish people but they rejected His message and mission. They were like the barren fig tree yet any person who lives in unrepentance suffers the same outcome.
When the owner visited his vineyard, there was an unproductive fig tree that never bore any fruit. For three years he went to the vineyard with the hope that the tree had produced figs. The tree had a promising beginning as blossoms appeared but it always failed to produce. For the owner, the anticipation was not enough… he needed the tree to produce fruit.
He complained to the caretaker and expressed his frustration. He waited a long time expecting fruit, even a little bit of fruit would suffice but there was none. In frustration he told the caretaker, “Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” (vs.7) It took up room for another tree that would be fruitful. The tree was a terrible representation of his vineyard and a reproach in the midst of the productive trees.
The caretaker was unwilling to give up on the tree and cut it down so he suggested, “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.” (vs.8,9) He was willing to take drastic and intense measures to help the tree bear fruit.
As times, drastic measures are needed to bring us to a place of repentance and faithfulness. Christ intercedes for us and His Spirit begins to break up the fallow ground of hardness, apathy and rebellion. Drastic measures are often needed to turn us from pride and lust to brokenness and surrender. Christ does not take pleasure in “cutting down” but “building up”. He is patient and longsuffering – not willing that any perish but that all would come to repentance.
Sometimes He places “smelly” fertilizing circumstances in our lives as His all-out effort to bring about change in us. God will not always bear with us and while He is rich in mercy, He is also a just and righteous judge. Our master expects us to be fruitful. Fruit can only be developed as we abide in Him and allow His life producing Spirit to flow through us. If your life is barren, don’t neglect his mercy. Time is running out! He is waiting with a basket to gather fruit… or an axe for judgment.