The Barren Fig Tree

The Bible has a lot to say about working for the kingdom of God. It also has a lot to say about idleness. Jesus told a parable of a vineyard owner who came seeking fruit on a fig tree he had planted in the past. When he approached the tree, it had no fruit. Luke records, “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?'” (Luke 13:7 ESV).

Jesus was clearly talking about people here. That is a gut-wrenching question–“Why should it use up the ground?” This question was meant to be thought-provoking for Jesus’ listeners. Are there people who are using up the ground? In other words, are there people who sap energy and nutrients that are vital for the growth of other Christians yet don’t produce anything worthwhile? The master told the vinedresser to cut it down, but the vinedresser pleaded.

“Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down” (Luke 13:9). Here, God is exercising grace and allowing room for others to nurture the unproductive one. The purposefully ambiguous text doesn’t provide a reason why the fig tree isn’t producing. Whatever the reason isn’t important to the vinedresser. He is interested in sparing the tree and helping to nurture it back to health.

This parable is an important lesson that these two truths exist: (1) it’s not OK to be unproductive in the kingdom and (2) we should help nurture one another to become more productive. God expects everyone to be equipped for serving in the Kingdom. Being unproductive hurts other people because we neglect to use our God-given gifts to help them.

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