I read Luke 13:1-9 this morning during prayer. “Repent or perish!” the headline in my Bible says. This is what the text says:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”Luke 13:1-9 NIV
The problem with the fig tree in the parable wasn’t that it was in the wrong place, or didn’t provide shade, or wasn’t beautiful. The problem was that it wasn’t bearing fruit.
God is looking for fruit. Fruit is what carries the seeds, which carries the potential for the multiplication of the life of the fig tree.
So God is looking for his life to be multiplied through you. Not just that you prayed a prayer or belong to the right group, or had the right parents, or had a specific experience. It’s fruit that God wants. Why?
Well, God is doing something in the world, and calls us to participate. What he’s doing is sharing his life with the world, and as we say yes to this call, as we share in the very life of God, we naturally begin to bear fruit. The life we receive becomes the life that we multiply.
But if we cut ourselves off from life, from God, we begin to die, and of course then we don’t bear fruit. There’s just no middle ground here. There is no way to receive the life without also multiplying the life. In God’s economy, there is simply no way to be a consumer only and not also a giver. It just doesn’t work like that.
If you’re not bearing fruit, it means you’re not receiving life. There is something wrong, something that is blocking the flow of life into us. In essence, we’ve already begun to die, because what other source of life is there?
So then, in the parable, the judgment of the fig tree for not bearing fruit is that it will be cut down. It’s important to note that the cutting down of the fig tree is not some cruel punishment imposed by a harsh master for a bad fruit “performance.”
No, the cutting down of the fig tree is merely an outward manifestation of what is already inwardly true. The fig tree is already dead if it’s not bearing fruit. Cutting it down is just a revelation of the true state of the tree.
Jesus gives this parable as a warning to people who felt content in their fruitlessness because they hadn’t been cut down yet, as far as they could tell (vv. 1-5).
But if Jesus is giving a warning, that means there’s still hope! Bearing fruit isn’t a way of “getting busy for Jesus.” Bearing fruit is a natural result of receiving life from Jesus. How do you start to receive life from Jesus?
Repentance is not a big performance. It’s not even feeling really sorry for your sins or something. It’s simply a turning toward Jesus in trust, and then acting practically on that trust. It’s not difficult or complicated, it’s simply the willingness to trust what Jesus says about life, and putting that trust into practical action in your life.
The natural result is that his life will begin to flow into you, and his life cannot but grow into fruit: