Friday, September 18, 2015

Parable of the Fig Tree: Cut it down


“And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"”         Luke 13:6-9 NASB

This is the third day in our "fig tree" series, although I've written about fig trees before because mine has been such a problem over the years. If you're just joining us, here are the links to the previous posts in the series: The Fig Tree With No Fruit and Living Like a Barren Fig Tree, and links to other "fig tree" posts: The Come Back Tree, The Lesson of the Fig Tree (One of my fav's), and My Daily Fig. (They'll open in a new tab)

Today, we're looking at the phrase "Cut it down!" 

My favorite theologian, Matthew Henry, interprets this quite differently than I do. In his opinion, the owner of the vineyard sees the unfruitful tree and pronounces a judgment on it. "Cut it down!" Henry compares that to a spiritual judgment for the one with no fruit. He opines that the judgment sends the unfruitful one to eternal hell. His interpretation may well be correct, for his commentary has stood the test of time.

On the other hand, Matthew Henry may not have cut down a fig tree before, but I have. 

My experience with cutting down a fig tree is that severe pruning is radical, but can be life-saving for the tree. Several years ago, my fig tree stopped bearing fruit. When I cut my tree down, it came back better than ever. 

We pruned  that same tree (once again not bearing fruit) yesterday. After the pruning, it was obvious that the tree has some diseased branches. Today, we will cut the tree down again. All the diseased branches will be cut away and only that which is healthy (mostly the roots and stump) will remain. With the disease cut away, the tree will have another opportunity to grow and be healthy. I will be shocked if it doesn't bear fruit next year. 

The word translated as "Cut it down" is ekkoptō. In Romans 11:22, 24 this same word is used to indicate a metaphorical"cutting off" that results in removal of spiritual blessing. 

I believe the "cutting down" is a kind of judgment, given with the hope that the tree will respond by becoming what it is supposed to be. There is precedent in Scripture for this, as Israel's sin often precipitated calamitous judgment. When severe judgment came, the people responded by returning to God. 

In an amazing way, judgment can be mercy in disguise.

The tree in the story was planted by the vineyard owner and care was provided by the owner. It was his tree. When the tree failed to produce fruit, he judged it and planned to cut it down, but the vineyard keeper offered mercy instead, with the hope of fruit after additional care. 

Both judgment and mercy for the tree had one goal in mind: FRUIT. 

Our lives are the same as the pitiful tree in the story. The goal for our lives is not showy leaves (physical beauty/fine house/fancy cars/big bank accounts). 

The goal for our lives is FRUIT. 

Our Heavenly Father expects to see evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. When we fail to produce fruit in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we risk a divine fruit inspection with a potentially painful result. 

The treatment for no fruit may be mercy (more fertilizer, digging around the roots) but prolonged lack of fruit will result in judgment. 

God misses nothing. He knows the condition of our hearts and the condition of His church. He knows how much fruit of the Spirit we bear. It may well be that the body of Christ in the U.S. has been "inspected" and found wanting. I have great concern that mercy has been given to us with little change. 

We have chased after inspiring books rather than "THE BOOK". We have sought a purpose-driven life rather than a Spirit-driven life. We have attended church rather than "being" the church.

As disciples, we are to follow our Master, and there is only one Master. Jesus Christ. No one else will do.

We would do well to do a fruit-inspection of our own. How much fruit of the Spirit is evident in my life? In yours? 

I've inspected my heart over the last few days and found serious deficiencies in a few areas. The work of repentance and change is underway. It's time for us as disciples to allow a serious fruit inspection with the goal of becoming fruit-bearers. 

We have a choice. Bear fruit or risk judgment. Which will it be? Time is short. We must choose well.


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Our Father, forgive us for our fruitlessness. Remove the barren branches in our lives. Strengthen us to bear the fruit of the Spirit and become the church you intended us to be. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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