New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Unfruitful Fig Tree

Our last parable of the rich man and his barns spoke of a bountiful harvest and the rich man’s poor decisions, being fueled by covetousness and poor priorities. This parable speaks of another agrarian example, but this time the dang tree ain’t producing!

Let’s take a look at

Luke 13:6-9

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.'”

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

The text opens up in Luke 13 with a general description of “some present at that very time” and how they had spoke of an atrocity that some Galileans suffered.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Again, this is early on in the Lord’s ministry, seemingly in the Galilean region, prior to His journey towards Jerusalem

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

The region of Galilee.

Why did the Lord give this message?

The context of the passage is repentance. Luke 13:1-5 speaks of the relative sinfulness of those who suffer compared to others. You know how that goes – they are worse than I. It is a favorite past time of everyone of us. These folks in the first verse just mentioned this to the One who doesn’t dabble in relative sin, at least in His discussion here.

These folks who suffered at the hands of a cruel government leader weren’t worse sinners than any others! All need to repent! And those folks who suffered due to an accidental occurrence weren’t worse sinners than any others! All need to repent!

Even those who think they are better than those “worst sinners!”

So in summary, the context is for this parable is the requirement of repentance, especially of the self righteous.

What was the message for the original audience?

What is a fig tree doing in a vineyard?

I get the allusion of the vineyard as representing Israel, because it is often referred to as such.

One of the multiple verses referring to Israel as a vine is

Jeremiah 2:21

Yet I planted you a choice vine,
wholly of pure seed.
How then have you turned degenerate
and become a wild vine?

So what about a fig tree? Why the difference?

Jeremiah helps us one more time, for in the 8th chapter….

Jeremiah 8:13

13 When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

Interesting. Jeremiah complains of the nation of Israel, in that both the vine and the fig are fruitless. Is this an example of Hebrew poetry, where the author says the same thing using a different description? I’m thinking so.

That still doesn’t explain why the Lord made the distinction. And I want to be careful not to make a mountain out of a molehill, or to try to make this parable walk on 50 legs! Still, it is interesting and caught my attention. If the reader has a suggestion to assist, it would be greatly appreciated.

The message for the original audience is that the fig tree, representing the nation of Israel, needs to change (repent) and begin to produce fruit in keeping with the message of Jesus. If the nation continues without producing the fruit required from the vinedresser, that is the Lord Jesus, that fig tree will be immediately pulled out by the roots and completely destroyed.

Did you catch that?

Not by the roots! The tree will be cut down. The life of the tree will not be extinguished, just the visible portion removed. (There is significance to this truth, but will not chase that rabbit right now!!)

And notice, that the fig tree had not been producing any fruit for THREE years. Remember that the fig usually produces fruit twice a year, the early and the late fig. But this tree produced nothing.

Also one more mistake I inserted into the text above.

The tree would not be immediately removed! The vinedresser, the Lord Jesus asked the owner (God the Father) to give it one more year. He would dig around it, and place some fertilizer on it. The Lord Jesus wanted to give the fig tree / nation of Isarea the most advantageous conditions to produce fruit. He gave the fig tree another year of opportunity. A second chance. (In reality a fourth chance!)

What is the message for us today?

I wanna say “Get to work and do something!” or “Get producing!” but I’m not quite sure that is the right thing to say. After all, the context is repentance, and as the prophet John said, bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Bear / produce fruit.

Fruit in the Christian life is the result of walking with the Spirit. Walking with the Spirit is the goal of the every day Christian. The every day Christian should recognize the Spirit’s call on his life. The characteristics of a believer walking in the Spirit should be obvious, but I will mention since I need to be reminded – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Don’t try to produce fruit. You will get leaves.

Walk in the Spirit, be submissive to His calling in your life.

  • When you have opportunity to argue, return a soft answer
  • When you are tempted to compete, show humility and give way.
  • When a difficult situation arises, seek to endure, if it be the will of God. (That last one is a tough one!!!)

Don’t stand or run in the Spirit – walk in the Spirit, and if you do you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Incredible truth.

Produce fruit.

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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

2 thoughts on “Parable Surprises – The Unfruitful Fig Tree

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