What would we expect a farmer to do with a plant that did not
produce any fruit? We would expect him to cut it down and try
again with a different plant. That only makes common sense. Jesus
recognized the sense of such an approach and used this very same
concept in a parable on repentance in Luke
13:6-9. Jesusí parable is frightening but also
comforting. Examine the parable and learn the lessons from the
barren fig tree.
Lesson #1: The Master
This story reminds of another parable. In Luke
8:5-8, Jesus told the parable of the sower. He explained
the parable in vss.
11-15. When the seed is sown in good ground, the result is
fruit. However, there are obstacles. Some will hear the word but
not believe it. Some will hear it and accept it, but they will not
put down roots. When trouble arises, they die out and never
produce any fruit. Others will hear, believe and obey, but they
are distracted by so many things that they never bear fruit for
the Lord. Finally, some few are sown on good ground and they
produce for the Master, some thirty, some sixty, some a
hundredfold. The long and short of it is that the Master expects
us to bear fruit.
The parable of the sower demonstrates that the Lord has not
put us in competition with one another. We do not need to be
concerned about our comparative fruit production. We must simply
produce what we can produce. However, we must produce.
Most of us may already know what the fruit is we are to
produce. However, by way of reminder letís look at two passages.
First, look at personal fruit. Galatians
5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit, which we must
produce in our lives to glorify Godólove, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Second, look at fruit in the lives of others. In Matthew
9:36-38, Jesus, looking at the masses, said, ďThe
harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.Ē Jesus saw the
salvation of others as fruit to be harvested.
Finally, we recall John
15:8. ďMy Father is glorified by this, that you bear
much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.Ē We want to be
Christís disciples and we want to glorify the Father. We can
only accomplish this through bearing fruit. God does not want
barren trees, He wants fruitful ones.
Lesson #2: The Master
is patient with us.
In the parable, the master had passed by the barren tree
for three years before he said anything about it. Then, he was
willing to wait another year while the vineyard keeper fertilized
the tree before exercising final judgment on the tree. Our Master
There are two sides of this: a frightening side and a
comforting one. The comforting side of this patience is the
knowledge that God is not looking for the opportunity to simply
wipe us off the face of the earth. He is patient with us as II
Peter 3:9, 15 explain. God recognizes fruit-bearing is a
growth process. He does not expect an immediate hundredfold
harvest from new Christians. He does not want any to perish,
therefore He waits patiently.
The frightening aspect addresses the complacency that some
have. How many times have Christians justified ungodly behavior by
saying, ďI have been doing this for a long time and God has not
zapped me yet.Ē Some believe that because God has not brought
down immediate judgment, their actions must be alright. They are
like the mockers of II
Peter 3:3-4. Remember that God is patient. He rarely
brings down immediate judgment. Rather, He waits and gives time
for repentance. If your actions violate Godís word, do not view
Godís lack of judgment as approval, rather view it as patience
giving you time to repent. This need for repentance is what caused
Jesus to teach this parable in the first place. Read the context
13:1-5. Jesus was speaking to people who needed to repent.
They needed to know that God was being patient with them, but
patience was running out, which leads to the next lesson.
Lesson #3: A time is
coming when the Masterís patience will run out.
As patient as the Master is, His patience will run out. He
will come back searching for fruit for years. He will allow the
keeper of the vineyard to persuade him on to another year. But
eventually, the unfruitful tree will be cut down. He does not want
it using up the ground.
If I understand the gardening practices correctly, vineyard
keepers would sometimes plant fig trees in the corners of their
vineyards where grapes were not growing. They would do this to
keep from wasting any part of their property. However, there was a
trade off. The fig tree would use some of the groundís
nutrients. As long as the fig tree bore fruit, the trade off was
fine. But why would a vineyard keeper maintain a fig tree that was
leaching out the groundís nutrients from the grape vines if it
would not even bear any fruit?
This calls to mind Jesusí statement in Matthew
12:30. If we are not gathering to Jesus, we are scattering
abroad. If we are not bearing fruit for the Lord, then we are
simply using up the ground and leaching the nutrients away from
the fruit bearing vines. Our Master is patient. He will allow this
for some time, but He will not allow it forever. There will come a
time when He will cut down the unfruitful tree so it will no
longer be a bad influence on the rest of His vineyard.
What each of us must recognize is that we really have no
idea where we are on this time frame. I do not believe there is a
standard four-year waiting process after you become a Christian. I
have no idea what factors God takes into account as He bears with
us patiently. Are we in our first year, second year, third year?
Or are we in that final year in which God has about had enough.
The fact is, we just do not know, which is why we need to be
working and fruit-bearing all the time. The point is very similar
to Peterís in II
Peter 3:11. We never know when the Lordís judgment may
come on us individually or on the world as a whole. Therefore we
need to be people conducting ourselves in holiness and godly
conduct bearing fruit.
Lesson #4: The Master
will help us bear fruit.
The final point we need to notice in this parable is
Godís grace. Not only is the Master patient with us, the Master
helps us bear fruit. He has the vineyard keeper dig around us and
provide fertilizer to stimulate growth. God has not just planted
us here on the earth and then said, ďGet to it.Ē He helps us.
As we recently learned in II
Peter 1:2-3, God has helped us by providing all that we
need for life and godliness through knowledge of His Son, which we
gain through reading the word, which He also provided (II
Further, God has provided our relationships with one
another to help us. According to I
Corinthians 12:18, God has placed the members of His body
where He wants them. Hebrews
10:24 explains that we are here to stimulate one another
to love and good deeds. God has provided this help to get us
going, to get us growing and to get us bearing fruit.
What an amazing God we have. Do not feel alone and
abandoned. Do not feel there is no hope for bearing fruit. Lean on
Godís help and bear fruit to His glory. Remember, we can do all
things through Him who strengthens us (Philippians
As we conclude this lesson, I want you to remember that God
is the judge and His patience will run out at some time. However,
I do not want you to focus on that. I want you focus on the grace
God has granted through His Son, His Spirit, His word and His
people. Look for the help with which He has blessed you and lean
on that help. Through Godís help you can grow in your fruit
bearing, whether you are going from barren to bearing or from
thirtyfold to sixty. God is helping you, lean on Him and grow.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ