Fruitless Trees

The Vine Dresser and the Fig Tree

The Vinedresser and the Fig Tree (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 13:6–9 (ESV)

6 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. 7 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?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses, Jesus taught about the need for repentance. In this parable, he continues with this theme with the example of a fig tree. In the Old Testament, a fruitful tree was often used to speak of one who was living a godly life (cf. Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:7-8). A fig tree that was already three years old should have been producing fruit. Since it was not, it was time to cut it down. However, the vinedresser asked to give the tree one more year. The tree would get all it needed to produce. If it still did not, then the tree could be cut down.

The parable’s message is that God is patient towards us as he waits for us to produce the fruit of repentance. However, there is a time when that patience will end and judgment will come. We must produce fruit today while we still have opportunity. John the Baptist taught this lesson earlier in Luke 3:7-9 where he said, “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (cf. Matthew 4:17)!” If you have not done so, will you today?

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The Fruit of Repentance

luke 39 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 3:7–10 (ESV)

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Parallel Text: Luke 3:7-9

Understanding and Applying the Word

John the Baptist’s ministry was focused on calling people to repentance. When the Pharisees and Sudducees show up, he has harsh words for them. He calls them a “brood of vipers.” And warns them to bear fruit consistent with repentance. The Pharisees and Sudducees prided themselves in their ability to keep the Mosaic Law and follow religious rules. For this reason, they would have felt little need to repent. In their minds, they had done nothing wrong! They also would have thought, “We are biological descendants of Abraham. We are fine with God!” However, John warns them that being the physical descendants of Abraham will not be enough.

John’s warning to these two groups to bear fruit in keeping with repentance tells us that God is looking for more than external religious activity. He is looking for sincerity of heart. True repentance may be symbolized through baptism, but it is only real if there is a heart change. And when there is a heart change, it is reflected in how we live.

The gospel calls us to repent and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. When we do that we are saved. Have you done that? Does your life reflect it? If not, take the time right now to repent and call on the Lord. He is faithful and gracious to all who will turn to him.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.