“And he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 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?’ And he answered him, ‘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 13:6-9
I recently finished reading a book called Chasing Vines by Beth Moore. I couldn’t shake the thought of manure in The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree pointed out in this book. It’s so weird to ponder the concept of poop. If you have kids or animals, you’ve dealt closely with poop at some point. Whatever your experience is with it, it’s gross! And whatever crap you’re dealing with right now, it has a purpose according to this parable.
In this parable, a man planted a fig tree, looked for fruit for THREE YEARS and he found none. Then he went to the vinedresser and told him to cut down the fig tree because it was wasting good ground. But the vinedresser told him to wait a year, dig around it, and put MANURE on it! After all that, if it finally bears fruit, good, but if not, then he could cut it down.
What in the world does this have to do with our spiritual life? Well, first and foremost, what kind of fruit are we bearing? Are we bearing any fruit? One way to do this is to ask those closest to us what fruit they are picking off of us, Gal. 5:22. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have good ground to expect some fruit from our lives (Mat. 7:20). Let’s pray we’re ripe for the pickin’!
The man asks about the fig tree using up the ground, some versions say “cumbereth it the ground” (soil). The Greek word used for this description means to be entirely idle, useless, abolished, destroyed (Strong’s). “Those who do not do good commonly do hurt by the influence of their bad example; they grieve and discourage those that are good; they harden and encourage those that are bad.” (Matthew Henry)
Sometimes we do more harm than good. And if so, repent and never look back! We have a long-suffering, gracious Heavenly Father waiting for us with open arms! (Luke 15:17-20)
The Long-Suffering Of Christ
The parable doesn’t say that the man came looking for a lot of fruit, he just expected something, anything. The vinedresser — we know who that is! — was long-suffering (fruit of the Spirit). His long-suffering and patience with us lead us to enjoy the gospel on a different level. But when His patience is abused and taken advantage of, there are consequences (Luke 13:9).
His long-suffering, kindness, and gentleness lead us to repentance, to restoration (Rom. 2:4). And if He’s long-suffering, kind, and gentle with us, how much more should we extend the same to others?
The vinedresser intercedes on behalf of the fig tree as part of his long-suffering. We are fig trees planted in God’s vineyard. Christ intercedes on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2). The vinedresser doesn’t tell him to never cut it down, but to give it another year and then observe what he finds. We must stand in the gap for others.
Load Up the Manure
So what must the man do to the fig tree? Dig around and put manure on it (fertilize it). Sometimes Christ has to do a lot of diggin’ around in our hearts, load it up with piles of manure, and over time, we become ripe and people can start plucking away! I don’t really see piles of crap as the perfect foundation for fruit to flow, but God knows what’s best.
If I’m honest, this is where I am in my walk with the Lord. He’s doing a lot of digging around in my heart and it ain’t pretty in there! The digging hurts and it’s exposing (Psalm 139:23-24). But when I let myself be exposed, then He can finally clothe me and cover me in His righteousness, not mine.
Lord, if this is what it takes for the fruit to bust out of me, then load up the manure.
If the tree does eventually bear fruit, it will be even better and add to the beauty of the vineyard. The tree will receive a blessing from God (Heb. 6:7) and bring forth more fruit year after year.
Where’s The Fruit?
But what happens when there’s still no fruit? Cut it down. Matthew 3:10, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Remember, cutting it down was the absolute last resort.
God is always seeking fruit in our lives. What fruit is He finding? Good fruit? No fruit? Bitter fruit? Plastic fruit? He is a good, good Father who is long-suffering with us and wants us to come to repentance. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
So when you’re covered in manure, count it all joy. You never know what will spring forth from all the crap that’s been piled on you!