Jesus told the Parable of the Fig Tree immediately after reminding His listeners of a tower over the pool of Siloam which unexpectedly fell and killed eighteen people. The moral of that story is found in Luke 13:3(ESV) 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. To reiterate this moral, Jesus tells the story of the fig tree, the vineyard owner, and the gardener who took care of the vineyard.
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.’”—
Fig trees were planted in vineyards and taken care of by gardeners who worked for the owners of the vineyard.
The fig trees represents us/the church, the owner represents God and the gardener is Jesus interceding for us. God is basically saying all these trees (Church goers) are bearing fruit but this one is not, so cut it down and remove it, then Jesus intercedes and says 1 more year let me dig around it and put manure, then if it still does not bear fruit then remove it.
Healthy Fig trees that are fruit producing are pruned very little. The thinning stimulates new growth and it increases fruit size. Fig trees that do not produce fruit are pruned/thinned out meaning the diseased, weak and dead limbs are cut off during the dormant season, then in the following season if it doesn’t produce fruit they are chopped down and burned.
In the parable Jesus is pleading the case with the creator God to have mercy on the people who look like the other Christians but bear no fruit. He is saying let me prune them and put manure on them and if that doesn’t work then cut them down and burn them. Pruning is a good thing and most of time we think we are going through stuff, we think the whole world is against us, God is far from us but it is a pruning to produce fruit and it could possibly the last pruning. The manure we sometimes endure is healthy for us to produce fruit later on. Manure is used a fertilizer. We need discernment to recognize what is going on. People, jobs, things, places etc are pruned from our lives and we think it is so horrible but in all actuality it’s a pruning. Those things were the diseased, dead and weak limbs keeping us from bearing fruit.
Jesus is very serious when it comes to not letting anything get in the way of Him and you! He is very serious about the pruning process. God cares more about your Holiness than your worldly relationships.
Matthew 10:34 (NLT)“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
Here’s the question that is seeking to be answered by the parable: Does God care about results, yes or no? Yes, God cares about results. God cares about effectiveness. Here the word that encompasses all of that is “fruit,” “fruit.” God cares about fruitfulness. Fruitfulness here is good works. Good works, obedience, a changed life, living a kind of life that makes a difference, that when your life on the earth is done, people miss you because you were a gift to them. You were a channel of God’s grace to them. You provided wisdom or generosity or help or service or rebuke or encouragement. That you were giving. That you were fruitful. That your life counted. That you weren’t just a consumer, you were a producer. You didn’t just take from everyone and everything, but you gave and they were blessed by you.
And this is different than religion. Religion teaches that we’re saved by our fruit, that we’re saved by our good works, that if you live a moral life and you’re a good decent person that you will stand before God and he’ll find you pleasing in his sight in the end. Essentially the essence of all religion is the same: that you work hard, bear much fruit, God then judges on a curve and if you were better than most he finds you pleasing in his sight. We don’t believe that at all.
We don’t believe that we’re saved by our fruit, but rather we’re the fruit of the work of Jesus. Jesus lived the perfect life, not us. Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross so that we don’t have to. Jesus rose to give the gift we don’t deserve: salvation, eternal life, citizenship, and adoption into the family of God. But some of you have misunderstood Christianity. Some of you, particularly who were raised in the church or maybe gave your life to Jesus when you were young, you misunderstood the gospel. And you thought, “Belong to Jesus, give your life to Jesus, give your heart to Jesus, and when you die you get to go to heaven.” That’s almost true but it’s missing something called life.
It’s not about just belonging to Jesus and going to heaven. It’s about belonging to Jesus, living a fruitful life, and then going to heaven for an eternal reward. Your life counts, your life matters. God has fruit for you to bear. He has good works for you to do. He has things for you to accomplish. Not so that you can become a Christian, but because you are. Not so that you’ll become pleasing in his sight, but because through Christ you already pleasing in His sight.
Ephesians 2:8–(ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. So we’re not saved by good works, or to use the parable, our fruit, but we’re saved to our good works, to our fruitfulness. Once you meet Jesus, you’re supposed to become increasingly fruitful, a little more fruitful every year throughout the course of your life, demonstrating the character, love, affection, generosity of God because you’re in Christ. And Jesus says in John 15:1-8(HCSB) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
“If you abide in me, I’ll abide in you and you’ll bear much,” what? “Fruit.” Fruit that will last.
This is God’s vineyard. We’re all fig trees. And it’s a good time for us to look back on the previous year and then to look at our own life and ask, “How many figs were on my tree last year? Was I fruitful? Did I bear good fruit last year?” Some of us were very fruitful, praise God, by the grace of God we’ll be more fruitful this year we hope and pray. Some of you would say, “Well, there were areas of my life that were very fruitful.” And we’d say, “Rejoice in those, praise God for every fig.” But my assumption is, because we’re all sinners in a fallen world, there are at least a few branches on our tree that were not very fruitful last year.
HOW TO BE FRUITFUL
Let’s look at a few principles for being fruitful, and I hope and I trust and I pray that your desire would be fruitfulness. Don’t be ashamed of the areas that you are not bearing fruit. Be honest about them. Don’t punt the ball and defend yourselves. Don’t blame other people. Don’t make excuses and don’t settle for fruitlessness. By the grace of God, we all can be fruitful.
- CULTIVATE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
How to be fruitful, number one, cultivate your relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:19-23HCSB) 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy,outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
In Galatians 5:22 it speaks of the what of the Spirit? The fruit of the Spirit. How do you get fruit? Fruit—good works, changed character, new life, helpfulness to other people—comes out of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Friends, fruitfulness is not what we do for God. It’s what God does for us. It’s what he does in us and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s what he does through us.
We cannot look at the Father as a manager with a clipboard saying, “What have you done for me this year?,What have you done for me lately?” Look at Him as a friend who sent the Holy Spirit, who’s there to help, Jesus as a gardener who’s willing to prune us. And the seed of new life, and the seed of fruitfulness, is the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the seed from which new life and fruitfulness come. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in every Christian upon salvation.
See, the non-Christian lives a natural life by their own willpower and strength. That’s why their New Year resolutions don’t work. Willpower only lasts so long. Instead, Christians live a supernatural life not by their own power but by the power of the Holy Spirit, that God is at work in us, that God is at work through us, so that we can be fruitful. So you want to cultivate your relationship with the Holy Spirit. Get to know, love and enjoy the Holy Spirit.
A couple simple ways to do this. Number one is regular Bible reading, regular Bible reading. Something that basically all Christians believe but not all Christians obey. God the Holy Spirit, through human authors, he wrote the sixty-six books of the Bible. And through the Scriptures, this is the primary means by which God speaks to us. And so when you pick up your Bible and you pray and ask God the Holy Spirit to meet you, you’ll learn Scripture.
Pray, pray for people, pray for yourself, pray for your needs. That’s how we communicate with God and that’s how you cultivate your relationship with the Holy Spirit, listening to God, talking to God.
All right, what do you need to do, how do you need to reorganize your life to be filled with the Holy Spirit? When he convicts you of sin, stop and listen. Don’t quench, grieve, resist, fight. When he lays something on your heart, go with it. All right, be led, filled, directed by the Holy Spirit. That will cultivate fruitfulness in your life.
- REPENT OF SINS OF COMMISSION AND OMISSION.
Number two, repent of sins of commission and omission. Sins of commission are the occasions when we do what we’re not supposed to do. Omission is when we don’t do what we’re supposed to do. Much of our fruitlessness or our lack of fruitfulness is the result of sins of omission. So repent of your sins of commission, meaning if you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing, stop doing it by the grace of God. Stop doing it.
But what about those things that you should be doing that you’re not? I’ll give you an example. You may say, “I didn’t steal any money last year.” That would be a sin of commission, you’re not supposed to steal. What about your sin of omission? Were you generous? “No.” Okay. “Well, I didn’t hurt anybody!” Yeah, but did you help anybody? “Oh yeah.” See, our goal is not just to abstain from evil, but to be fruitful. So it’s looking at those areas of your life, saying, “Yeah, last year I didn’t do this, I didn’t do this, I didn’t do this. There were some things that, yeah, I was supposed to do and I didn’t do them.” All right, those things that you neglected, they reduced your fruitfulness. So repent of what you weren’t supposed to do and did do and what you were supposed to do and didn’t do.
- COUNT YOUR FIGS.
Count your figs. Take a measurement of your fruit. Now, I’ll extend the analogy. This guy owns a vineyard, apparently he’s got all the trees numbered and he keeps an annual accounting of all of the trees. And he goes to tree number twenty-seven and says, “Tree number twenty-seven has had zero figs three years running.” Some of you say, “I don’t like numbers. I’m not good with numbers.” You got to learn to count your figs. You won’t make changes in your life unless you’re tracking it, keeping an accounting and a reconciling of it. That’s the point of the parable. He’s got an idea of where his figs are coming from and where there is fruitlessness.
- MEASURE FRUITFULNESS, NOT BUSYNESS.
Number four, measure fruitfulness, not busyness. This one’s huge. Some of you say, “I’m busy! I’m active! I’m so busy, I’m committed to every—” but are you fruitful? There’s a big difference between busyness and fruitfulness. Some people, they are filled with coffee. They’re returning e-mails, talking on the phone, texting while they’re driving, doing their make-up and their hair while driving on their way to work. I mean, they’re multi-taskers, they’re busy, they’re active, they’re rushed. They’re always late, they’re not emotionally present when they’re there with you. They’re taking calls over dinner, I mean they—stuff’s falling through the cracks. They’re not sleeping enough, they’re stressed out and shaking. “I’m so busy!” And what they want is compassion. What they need is fruitfulness. Some of you need to learn to say, “I can’t do that, I can’t do that. I need to see three things through to completion rather than seven things through to incompletion. I need to be fruitful, not just busy.”
- LEARN FROM FRUITFUL PEOPLE.
Number five, learn from fruitful people. So here’s what you need to do. Find people who are fruitful where you’re not very fruitful. And don’t call them up and say, “I would like a mentor. Can we meet every Tuesday for the rest of my life?” Because they’ll say, “I’m busy.” What you need to do is figure out where you lack fruit, find someone who is fruitful, and then start paying attention to why they are fruitful.
Wisdom is found in the Bible first. It’s also in books. And it’s also in God’s people. So you go to those people and you extract that wisdom as a gift. But to do so, number one, prayerfully consider what questions you’ll ask in advance. Write those questions down. Don’t waste their time, it’s a treasure. Number two, humbly ask them. “Could I get thirty minutes of your time?” I won’t waste it. I’ve got a couple questions I would really like your help on so that I could become more fruitful in my life. And I promise you if you tell me things I’ll do them. I will not be a waste of time.” And then, if you ask them, what do you think they will say? “Sure.” Fruitful people love to help make other people fruitful.
- USE YOUR MANURE.
In the analogy and in the parable, Jesus says to get figs, first you need manure. Now if I came to you today and I said, “Would you like some Fig perserve?” You would say, “Why yes.” “Oh, and by the way, it comes with manure.” You’d say, “Can I just—can I just get the Fig preserve on a cracker? I would like the Fig perserve without the manure.” But here’s the point of the simple analogy and the parable. It takes manure to get a fig. Amen?
Okay, now let me tell you how this applies to your life. You look at your life right now, where’s the manure? Where’s the manure? Is it in your marriage? You say, “Yeah, my marriage is a big pile of manure. I got a lot of manure there. Yeah.” Is it your finances? “Oh, yeah, my finances. I go to the ATM, and I hit the button and manure comes out, not money. How about your walk with God? You say, “Yeah, this last year, woo-hoo. Yeah, a lot more manure than figs.”
All right, and some of you, when you get a lot of manure in your life, and sometimes it’s suffering, it’s hardship, it’s pain, it’s loss, it’s failure, it’s trauma, it’s trials. You know what? It just stinks. And some of you will look at it and you’ll say, “You know what, God? How come you don’t love me? How come you’re not good to me? How come you don’t care about me? How come you’re not helping me? You know, this part of my life, or maybe my whole life, it’s just manure!” God would say, “I love you so much that I gave you that manure. And I’m digging around the roots and I’m putting the manure on your roots because I have a whole lot of figs in your future.”
So it takes a while to go from manure to fruit. Who do you think the best counselors are for drug addicts? Those who have been drug addicts. Those people who have the best insight to help someone dying of cancer is someone who has battled cancer. Those people who have the greatest insights on marriage are those whose marriage has endured some manure. Those people who have tremendous insights, wisdom, gifts to give, generally speaking, it started for them with a lot of manure in their life. Something painful, stinky, hard, difficult, disappointing, maybe even embarrassing. But by the grace of God, you don’t waste your manure. You use your manure and eventually there’s a harvest. There’s fruitfulness. The scripture that sticks out here is that the gardener pleas with the owner to let him put the manure to produce the fruit. Sometimes it is the gardener putting the manure so we can produce his fruit.
I want you to be encouraged. I want you to be hopeful. I want you not to give up. I do want you to use your manure. Whatever right now stinks the most in your life could be something that God uses for an enormous harvest. And some of you say, “You have no idea how much manure I have.” Well then you have no idea how many figs are going to come. God apparently has a big harvest for you in fruitfulness and righteousness and ministry and testimony and service. He does. He’s not angry and looking at you today saying, “I’m here to cut you down.” He’s here to say, “I have great hope for that little tree and what stinks today will be joy tomorrow and fruitfulness if you will use it.” Amen?