The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree


Luke 13: 6-9 “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.’”

We have adopted the Godly Play method for our children’s ministry at First Presbyterian Church in El Paso, TX. Whenever a parable is presented to the children, rather than inform them of what they should glean from its mysteries, they are encouraged to meditate on the words and wonder.

Parables are beautiful as they grow with us, as we mature more meaning and depth is brought forth. For instance Mathew 25: 1-13, The Parable of the 10 Virgins and their Lamps, has always been a source of struggle for me. I never quite understood why the bridegroom would refuse them entry. It’s not the overall meaning of being prepared for Christ’s return that I struggled with, it was the details of the parable itself. Then I became a military spouse, waiting for the return of my own husband, and the passage took on a whole new meaning. – Read More at What Does An Army Wife And 10 Virgins Have In Common?

So when our Pastor began to speak on the parable of the Barren Fig Tree during our Wednesday night devotional I took notice. I tried to wrap my mind around what I had previously been taught, what I had understood, and then to let go and just listen for today’s truth through the noise of commentaries and theological explanations. I sat and wondered. And the text has stayed with me, forefront in my thoughts since.

The parable of the barren fig tree falls directly after news of tragedy has reached Christ’s ears. His response begins in verse 2 and is the predecessor for the parable of the fig tree, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” He calls for repentance but then tells a story of a fig tree not serving its purpose and offers grace. The direct call to action and the subtle text of the story at first glance feels like a contradiction. One speaks of perishing, another of second chances.

So I sit with wonder at all of Luke 13 – the repent or perish, the barren fig tree, demonic healing on the Sabbath, the mustard seed, the narrow door and the lament over Jerusalem. I am left with thanksgiving.

I am grateful for clouded parables, for words that do not come in the form of black and white answers but that gradually as we grow bring deeper meaning. I am grateful for mercy and manure. I am grateful for the hard times that point us to our purpose, that help us bare the fruit He has called us to bare. I am grateful for the wonder that is God, for both the complexity and simplicity of grace. I am thankful that today I am not who I will be tomorrow and that I am not who I was yesterday. I am thankful for the journey.

Hope Turner