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.’”
A man plants a fig tree, and for three straight years expects fruit but finds none. He tells the gardener to chop it down and plant something else. The gardener asks for one more chance, another season for the tree to bear fruit. If there is no fruit next season, then cut it down.
This is an odd parable as Jesus doesn’t explain it. Who is the tree, who is the gardener, where is it planted? These are the kinds of details that I like to read so as to understand exactly what Jesus is trying to say. But I think this one is open to the Holy Spirit to speak to us as to how he wants to apply it.
As I read it, I have a sense of two things.
Firstly expectation. The man who planted the tree comes back again and again looking for three years, looking for and expecting to find fruit. God has an expectation of us, that where we are planted we would bear fruit. He has gardeners that care for us, feed and water us, ensuring that the conditions are right for us to bear fruit.
The second, is one that doesn’t rest comfortably with me. It’s not the grace that the gardener asked for – one more year, one more chance to bear fruit. The second one for me is urgency. The man who owned the tree expected fruit now and was prepared to chop it down and replace it with another. Yes, there is grace – one more year, but there is also urgency.
Time is running out. What am I doing to bear fruit?
Father, thank you for planting me exactly where you need me. Thank you for providing everything I need to bear fruit. Help me to be faithful to you and bear the fruit that pleases you.
Written by Andrew Martin