The Parable of the Fig Tree
3rd Sunday of Lent
February 28, 2016
“For three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and have found none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up space on the ground?" "Sir," the man replied, “leave it one more year and give me time to dig around it and fertilize it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down."
from Luke 13:1–9
Jesus makes use of images to help us understand how to better live our lives in ways pleasing to God. By means of such parables we are able to visualize in terms we can understand how to choose what is truly valuable. This Sunday Jesus compares life on earth to an orchard of fig trees. We are surrounded by orchards and fields of all kinds here in the Willamette Valley. If someone has planted an orchard of fig trees and all the trees produce is leaves, the farmer is going to eventually cut them down!
Yet, here we also see the great mercy of Jesus. When he comes across someone who is not (yet) producing good fruit in their life, he often gives that person more time, just as the farmer does in this parable. One of the lessons we can discern here is that life on earth is a precious opportunity! Our appearance, status, clout, possessions or bank account (or the lack of these things) means nothing to God. Rather, our talents have been given to us so that we might bear fruit! God expects us to use the gifts we have been given; otherwise we are like a fig tree with only leaves. But God is patient! He keeps providing lots of fertilizer and water (opportunities) so that we can be fruitful while it is our turn to be planted in the orchard of life.
Fruitfulness is best described as the ability to make use of the present moment. Someone from my former employment at the airline was sharing with me his dissatisfaction with his job and health; yet at the same time, he is determined to offer to God the best he can be in the midst of his difficulties, and I found that to be very inspirational. God only asks what we can give, no more! He does not just reward us for our successes, but for the suffering and effort we have made, even if it is only pennies on the dollar.
Bearing fruit sometimes means putting up with being sick and still striving to be kind to others rather than to yield to self-centeredness; to do our best in a job or family situation that is less-than desirable; to be kind to the person I happen to run into while on the way to doing something else; to be patient with a person whom I find irritating, and so on. Fruitfulness in God’s eyes is as simple as making use of the present moment in a way that is pleasing to God.