The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Observations and Reflections
The fig tree was a very important tree in the ancient Mediterranean. It provided figs twice a year typically. The fig tree in the parable had no fruit for 3 years. By most accounts, it would be considered a dud. Like a rose bush that never blooms, the owner of the garden should cut their loses and re-plant another bush. This fig tree owner sees that a dud tree is taking up valuable space and knows it needs to be replaced. However, he is willing to give it one last chance to shape up.
Following the parable properly, the reader must know that Jesus is speaking about his fellow Jews. This passage in Luke is one of the reasons why many Christians, especially in the early church, believed in a replacement theology. The Christian church is the new fig tree that replaces the barren fig tree that is the Jewish nation. However, it is important to remember that this parable alone does not form our theology. The Bible still has more to say about what God will do with His chosen people.
None-the-less, Jesus is issuing a serious warning to the Jews. This warning was issued to a nation that had (in Jesus’ view) abandoned serving the Lord. They were chumming up to Rome which was the great Babylon of the day. The ones who did actually care about the law were smug and prideful. Jesus was warning them that their disobedience had gone on long enough.
However, like most biblical warnings this one ended with a second chance. As change to do things right. Jesus gave all humanity a second change. That grace aught not be taken for granted. We must not be like withering fig tree. We must produce the good fruit that the Lord is seeking. Out actions, our relationships, and our lives should reflect a healthy fig tree.
Jesus often used parables as means to teach His disciples a spiritual lesson. In this particular parable, He focuses on the uselessness of something and how much longer one can attempt to bring it to become useful.
A fig tree has one important and primary focus, that is to produce fruit. Without fruit the tree is bare and has no other features that make it stand out. It has no flowers or anything that can justify its existence unless it does what its supposed to. No one can look at the fig tree and say at least it has some other redeemable qualities, there is nothing outside of it producing fruit that can redeem why it is there to begin with.
Jesus points out its uselessness not to be harsh, but to teach them an even more important lesson. As Christians we are put on this earth to spread the news of Jesus Christ. There are times in our lives when our actions do not bare the fruit of Jesus Christ living in our hearts. We sometimes appear to be no different from the rest of the world and it is because of that, we are not useful in our role as Christians.
However, Jesus does not yet give up on us that easily. When the servant speaks on behalf of the tree that is not bearing fruit, he asks to give it one more chance to produce figs. He tells him that he will do the work in giving it a new foundation and soil in which the tree could use to bring about figs and make itself useful.
This is what Jesus does with His children each day. He is always looking for ways for us to grow and become part of His mission to further the gospel and advance His kingdom. Let us not waste the opportunities that God has given us whether it is with work, school, church, or any situation God has place you in. He wants us to be useful in the here and now.