Thursday, August 7, 2008

The parable of the barren fig-tree

The parable of the barren fig-tree

Scripture

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted 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.’ ”

Luke 13:6-9


Observations

* This parable is only found in Luke.
* The context and setting of this parable being told is when Jesus was approached by some dudes wanting to tell Him about Gallieans who were persecuted and killed, and about some who died in a tower collapse.
* When Jesus responds to the reports he does it with a teaching on repentance, highlighting the notion that we will all die, and that troubles are a part of life not a result of sin. He then launches into a parable to illustrate the necessity of bearing fruit in our lives.
* This parable is intended to enforce the warning immediately going before it, "...But unless you repent, you too will all perish...” in other words unless you become changed you will be ruined like the barren tree that will be cut down unless it bears fruit.
* The man had a fig-tree in his vineyard. Vineyards were used for vines, fig-trees grew in the wild, alongside roads as seen elsewhere in the Bible. This fig-tree had more care and nurturing than most fig-trees.
* The owner of the tree expected fruit and he checked it for fruit and when it had none after a period of time he wanted it cut down because it took up room of fruitful plants.
* The gardener of the vine extended the period of time for the tree beyond that which was reasonable and then decided it would be cut down if it didn't bear fruit after this time.

Discussion
Some people believe that this parable is about the nation of Israel but I do not so if you want to check that theory out (and I suggest you do) then you should. I won't talk about it much, except to say that a fig-tree in a vineyard is transplanted, just the same as a non-Jew is transplanted and grafted into Gods kingdom. That is a discussion for another day.

This discussion will be easier broken up into chunks of parably-goodness-

"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard..."
The man owns the fig-tree and has chosen to plant it in a vineyard where it can be look after. What a lucky plant. In the same way God (the Father) owns His Church and has chosen to place Christians in a place where they believe and have the privilege of being cared for and nurtured in His kingdom.


"...and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any..."
the man (who represents God the Father) wants and is looking for fruit in believers, this fruit (as talked about in other places in the Bible) is fruits of the Spirit which are a result of turning away from old ways and turning to God (repentance).

"...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!"

He has been patient with the vine and there has been no fruit. This shows Gods patience. As he was not unreasonable and only wanted fruit, it is a reasonable response to cut it down. This shows Gods justice.

"Why should it use up the soil?"
I'm not sure about this... is there some sort of harm the tree is causing the other plants? is there harm caused to fruit-bearing Church? People will disagree put I think that this is God purifying His Church so that He can return for a bride "without blemish". What do you think?

‘Sir,’ the man (looking after the vineyard) 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.’
Is this Jesus interceding for us? After all He does call Himself His Fathers "vine dresser". Notice He doesn't ask to leave it outright, but for a time. Jesus is asking for justice, put prolonged to Judgement day, giving us time to get our asses into gear.

Application
Jesus teaches us that God will not tolerate a lack of productivity forever- that God wants fruit when we turn to Him. Sometimes I think I have been enjoying the grace of God and the love of God without giving anything in return. If you are like me then you need to get your but into gear as well, otherwise we're in danger. Lets begin to produce the fruit that God is calling us to produce.

Prayer
God thanks for being so patient and I want to apologise sincerely for sometimes mistaking Your patience for something else. I know You are just and I want to ask You to forgive my unfruitfulness. Thank You for pouring out wrath for my sin onto Jesus and not onto me. Now help me to produce fruit in my life.
Amen

Questions for comment/discussion
* What do you agree/disagree with?
* What have I missed? I know there is so much more to this parable its amazing!!!!
* What is an appropriate response to a knowledge of Gods justice?
* Do we individually/corporately forget sometimes that we are going to die and stand before God?

5 comments:

Scott said...

What a magnificent parable with wonderful parably bits to chunk and examine!
I think you've nailed the key points and reckon it is important as part of the context to see that it was Jesus- before he had died for our sins- prechurch- pregrace. This makes a slight but important distinction in our interpretation.

The original audience were all Jews- Jews who were accustomed to assuming they were in God's good books simply because they were born Jew or were circumcised into His good books. What a refreshing and convicting thing then for Jesus to talk in terms of a gardening metaphor to break this evil notion and bring about genuine repentance and acceptance of God's goodness into hearts and lives.

The fertilised soil might represent the nutrient rich law that provides clarity on living.
Opening the bible as one document can interfere with clear distinctions in God's dispensational dealing with His people. But we can and must look for underlying principles here to bring over to the age of Grace and the age of the church.

Clearly God is not to be trifled with! We must not ever get to a place where WE also assume that we are somehow born into this family of God- cos our folks are Christians. Neither can we turn a blind eye to sin assuming God is in the business of dealing with that- or that "I am not perfect just forgiven" as an excuse to live how we want and in so doing miss out on ALL the benefits of intimacy with God and end up drawing others into wrong concepts of who God is - either to push them away from the real life change potential in Him or encouraging them to come in - whatever their lifestyle( without a notion to change).
Acts 5 fits nicely into this parable as a church age example of something similar at work. Ananias and Saphira were a part of the community of the church. They were mistaken in there belief that God would turn a blind eye to their sin of lying - inevitably to the Holy Spirit. The trees were pulled up and that somehow enriched the soil for real growth in others.

How does that sound?

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