Luke 13:6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
This parable may have referred to Israel, for they were provided with three years of Jesus’ ministry in which to repent. The owner was frustrated with the lack of fruit that was produced but the Gardner plead their case. While a fig tree should bear fruit in its third year, the Gardner wanted to give it more care and allow it time to respond. God was giving Israel a little more time to respond but if they didn’t, their fate would be in their own hands. The “fig tree” was undeserving of the patient care which it received and yet the Gardner advocated and interceded on its behalf.
The expectation is one of fruit-bearing. While extra time is given, ultimately there must be fruit, or a harvest from the tree. If not, it will be cut down and the soil and energy given to another plant in its place.
God the Father is patient with his children, not wanting any to miss out on what he has prepared. At the same time there is an expectation of spiritual growth and development. God, through prevenient grace, reaches out to all of us, tending to the garden of our lives. There is an expectation of growth and development, and fruit bearing. When that doesn’t happen, we should expect the Gardner of our lives to examine us and determine whether we need a little more spiritual food to help us grow, or maybe some pruning. Eventually, however, if we refuse to take in the nourishment which is provided and we do not grow or bear fruit, we may be cut down and removed.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are supposed to be growing. Following Jesus was never meant to be a stagnant activity. There is an expectation of growth and this growth results in a deeper love for Jesus Christ that overflows with a love for the world. When we love Jesus, we can’t help but love others and want others to become his followers. Ultimately fruit bearing results from the overflow of our spiritual lives and the way in which it intersects with the lives of others. Some people are pretty uncomfortable with the idea of “evangelism.” They are worried about what that might imply in their own lives and I’ve heard plenty of excuses as to why we can’t just go around talking about Jesus. At the same time, those who are so filled with Jesus will discover that the overflow from within them cannot be contained. Fruit bearing results because it is an indication of spiritual maturity. This was the point with the fig tree. The expectation is that a fig tree will bear figs. The expectation of a Christian is that they will help to bear new Christians. This isn’t just an option for those who may be more talented as “evangelists.” Every follower of Jesus Christ is to bear fruit as Christ’s passions become our passions. His love for the lost becomes our love for the lost.
The fig tree was expected to bear fruit in its natural environment. It wasn’t being challenged to do anything un-fig like. Neither are we. The call to God’s followers is a natural fruit-bearing which is not forced, but comes from the overflow of our relationship with Christ. The expectation is for us to grow. God is patient and gives us time and provides us with all that we need. We simply need to relax in the Father, soak it all in and allow him to grow and stretch us spiritually until fruit becomes a natural result.
Lord, please feed me and fill me to overflowing this day. Amen.