“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. 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?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘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.’”
This small parable is not one of the most well known in the gospels. It’s short and it’s not much of a story, but it is rich in meaning.
Jesus had just warned those who were listening to him to repent from their sin so that they may not perish. He follows that warning with this story. The owner of the vineyard has watched for three years as a fig tree bears no fruit. Finally, he decides it is no longer useful to keep it. He tells the caretaker to cut it down. The caretaker has a different idea. He says he’ll dig around it and fertilize it, he’ll put in some extra effort and care to give this tree one last chance to bear fruit. If at that point it still won’t bloom, then he’ll get rid of it.
Thankfully for us, Jesus is our caretaker. When it seems that we’re no good to the Kingdom of God, that we are bearing no fruit, making no disciples, doing no good, He intervenes to give us another chance. He says, “Let me fertilize a little more. Give them a little more time. There’s still hope.”
Jesus never finished the story to tell what happened to the tree. Did it bear fruit the next year, or was it cut down? Well, my guess is that Jesus wanted to leave that up to us. This story requires a response. It isn’t a just fairy tale that ends in happily ever after. It’s a challenge. Jesus is pleading with his followers to repent, to follow him, and to bear fruit. A tree that is well-watered, well-fertilized, and well-rooted will bear fruit. It is the nature of the tree. In the same way, if we’re fed by the living water of Jesus Christ, fertilized by the Holy Spirit, and rooted in the gospel, we will produce fruit. It is in our nature.
Repent. Turn away from your sin, the bad soil that is holding you back from bearing fruit, and allow Jesus to give you the grace that will give you a second chance.
Help me to see the sin in my life. Help me to turn away from my sin with all of my heart toward you. Give me another chance. Help me, fertilize me, and bear fruit through me.
In Jesus’ Name,