THE UNFRUITFUL VINE
Study Text: Luke 13:6-9
He also spoke this parable: A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard. And he came and sought fruit on it, and found none.
Luk 13:7 And he said to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none. Cut it down, why does it encumber the ground?
Luk 13:8 And answering, he said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and throw manure.
Luk 13:9 And if it bears fruit, well; and if not, then after that you shall cut it down.
- When we genuinely repent and begin living for God, fruit will be born in our lives that will soon be evident to all that pass by. Likewise, a failure to repent and live for God will show a lack of fruit, equally evident.
- The presence or absence of fruit in the lives of those who claim to be God's people is an important issue in God's word.
"Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance," said John the Baptizer in Matthew 3:8.
John records Jesus as saying, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit." (John 15:5)
"By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit..." said Jesus in John 15:8.
"Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire," said John in Matthew 3:10.
- Fruit - real and visible spiritual fruit - is a necessary concern for anyone who loves God and desires to go to heaven.
- We shall look at the parable of the barren fig tree.
In Jesus' day, this was a parable about the Jewish nation but it also contains some important lessons for us.
- The Biblical issue of fruit bearing and the principles put forth in this parable also apply to the church. They concern you and me.
- Let's examine this parable more closely. There are at least seven aspects to consider.
I. The Personal Possession.
- Verse 6 says that "a certain man had a fig tree." There are actually two men mentioned in this parable: The owner of the vineyard (it says that he planted the tree in "his vineyard") and the vineyard keeper who was probably an employee of the owner in charge of doing the actual work.
- Cutting down the fig tree was a drastic action, but it was well within the rights of the owner. It was his vineyard. It was his tree. He could do with it as he pleased.
- Suppose you decided to paint your house a certain color and someone came to you and objected, telling you he liked another color better and that you'd better paint it his color. You would probably tell him to take hike. Why? Because it's your house, not his. The right of ownership carries the right of determination.
- Likewise, since God owns the world and everything in it and He also owns each one of us, it is simply not right for us to object to His dealings with us or claim that He has "no right" to do this or expect that in our lives.
- He has every right to expect anything He chooses in our lives. He is the owner. Paul asks in Romans 9:20-21:
Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" (NIV)
We live in a day when people "talk back to God" all the time. Having long forgotten that they are His creation, they think they are autonomous and that God has no right to tell them what to do or expect anything from them. Though they are in His vineyard and are, indeed, His possession, they don't act like it.
I think we can expect unbelievers to be this way, but surely such an attitude should not be found in the church! Yet it is seen far too often.
One of the first things we need to teach every new Christian is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?"
- God has the right to tell us what He expects and the right to expect it and the right to deal with us as He pleases if we don't do what He expects. He is the owner.
- We are going to learn from this parable that God expects you and me to produce fruit in our lives for Him. I just want you to remember that such an expectation is well within the realm of what is right because we belong to Him.
II. The Privileged Position
Verse 6 says, "a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard."
- This fig tree enjoyed certain advantages not possessed by all fig trees. Many fig trees grew along the roadsides. They were, in essence, wild. No one fertilized them. No one cared for them. They had to survive in rocky, shallow soil with sparse nutrients.
- But this fig tree was different. It was purposely planted in a vineyard. It enjoyed better soil. The vineyard keeper watched over it and took care of it. He fertilized it and perhaps even watered it during the hottest months of the year.
- . God had put His chosen people in a favored position. He had lavished special care on them. He had taken special pains with them. He sent prophets to put in regular fertilizations of His word.
- Doesn't it seem rather obvious that He would expect a return on His investment? Yet for all these advantages, the chosen people turned away from Him. Ultimately, when He did not find fruit, their favored status was removed.
- But what about us? Hasn't God lavished even more favor upon His church today - we have the Word of God in abundance - radio, television, print, cassette, CD, computer. It's all around us.
- We have indeed been planted in a privileged place! Yet have we produced appropriate fruit?
- Doesn't it follow that when the Owner of the vineyard invests so much in us, that there should be much fruit?
III. The Projected Production
- What was the expectation of the owner of the vineyard? We read in verse 6: "...he came looking for fruit..."
- The fig tree in this parable had leaves. A fig tree cannot survive without leaves. But it had no fruit after three years.
- Israel was very religious. It had lots of leaves. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a more religious nation anywhere than the nation of Israel in the time of Christ.
- Religion was at the heart of their national life. Attendance to the temple services in Jerusalem was expected if not required.
- People regularly died for their nation and their religion. Yet, as this parable prefigures, they had no fruit so they were cut down.
- Do you and I know the difference between leaves and fruit today?
- For all the religion and all the church going that still takes place in this country, where is the influence on the culture? Where are the changed lives? Why is honesty and honor in such short supply? Where can you find people of real integrity?
- We often bemoan the direction our nation is going away from God. We blame the politicians. We blame the unbelievers who control the media.
- Yet none of these things could even begin to have the influence they have if more of those who claim to be followers of Christ had real fruit in their lives.
- Brothers and sisters, God is looking for fruit in our lives. Leaves of crying "Lord, Lord" will no do.
- Leaves of merely sitting in a church building will not do. He wants fruit and if He doesn't find it in our lives, according to the passages, He will cut us down and remove us from His vineyard. We simply must bear fruit!
IV. The Protest Against Production Failure
Verse 7 says, "Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any."
- There is an intimation here of God's forbearance on His people who have been planted in His vineyard but who, to date, have produced no fruit.
- There should have been fruit before this time. "For three years I have come looking for fruit..."
- There is a dissatisfaction in that - disappointment each year - but the order to cut the tree down wouldn't come until the end of the fourth year.
- Why? The owner is giving every reasonable opportunity for the production of fruit. He doesn't want to destroy the tree.
- Has God come to examine the lives of some of us here and been disappointed yet another year that He found no fruit? If so, how long will it be before He decides it's time to cut down the tree?
- Very soon every one of us is going to see God look at our lives to see if there is fruit there. If He finds none, then we're not going to get to go home with Him.
- . Your life is going to be examined by God and there is going to be an outcome. He will either be satisfied or dissatisfied.
- You and I will either be removed or remain. It all depends upon this matter of fruit. What would be the verdict if He called it in right now? Would it be "I did not find any?"
V. The Pronouncement Against Production Failure
- This part of the parable is very simple to understand. It's there in verse 7: "Cut it down. Why does it even use up the ground?" What a terrifying thought to imagine God saying that to one of us!
- "Cut it down! It isn't even worth the space it takes up in the ground." It's quite easy for us, living in the age of grace, to be lulled into a false sense of security thinking that such a thing will never happen.
- But the patience of God should never be confused with laxness on His part. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians,
"Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"
- If any of us have lived a fruitless life since being baptized and we seem no worse off because of it, let us realize that what we are experiencing is God's patience, not His indifference.
- Besides, producing fruit in a life is a process. It isn't something we do in a day or two. We may be able to run to the market at the last minute and buy physical fruit that has been produced by the efforts of others,
- but that cannot be done in the spiritual realm. Some fruit takes a lifetime to mature.
VI. The Pleading For Patience
- Notice that the vineyard-keeper interceded for the tree. An interceder steps between two parties to enact some sort of compromise or communication or, in this case, a second chance.
- Verses 8 and 9 tell us that the vineyard keeper said,
"Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down."
- What a beautiful prefigure of Jesus ministry among the Jewish people! It was God's last attempt to get them to produce the kind of fruit He had in mind since He first called them.
- Did they utilize the extra chance? No, at least not the majority of them. Listen to these words of Jesus near the end of His ministry. They are recorded in Matthew 23 and Luke 13:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!"
- In our parable it is the fig tree that is cut down. Who were the interceders in Israel's case? They were the line of prophets God sent to them and ultimately "The Prophet" - God's own son, Jesus Christ.
- Again, however, this isn't intended as a history lesson. This passage has meaning to us today. Christ has interceded for us and continues to do so as I speak. But that intercession is not so we can continue to do nothing about God's expectation of fruit from us.
VII. The Postponed Purnishment
- Notice the element of warning to us that hangs on the end of verse 9. It says: "...if not, cut it down.'"
- As a history lesson, that "if not" was fulfilled. Israel failed to utilize the extension of time God gave her to bring the fruit of repentance and she was destroyed.
- We need to take stock of our lives. We are all in that probationary "fourth year" period. Christ, the Vineyard keeper has made intercession for us.
- He did not do that to grant us more time to do nothing for God. He expects us to use the time we have remaining to produce fruit in our lives!
- The fruitless tree will be cut off and cast into the fire! You have all pledged your allegiance to Christ so that should concern you.