“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it.” – NIVUK
Are there areas of your life that appear to not be bearing fruit?
Have you decided to cut those areas out of your life or attend to them more carefully?
Today’s verse is taken from the Gospel of Luke and is part of a parable which Jesus is teaching from.
We are told that a man has a fig tree growing in his vineyard but for three years it has not produced fruit. He decides it is time to cut the tree down and do something else with the soil.
He calls to his gardener and gives him the order but the gardener asks for another chance – one more year – for the tree.
He will tend it – dig around it loosening the soil so the roots are watered more effectively – and he will fertilise it – adding in manure to nourish it.
The gardener will put in extra time and effort to that one tree, out of the whole vineyard, to try and get it to bear fruit.
He tells the owner, if this doesn’t work then cut the tree down.
Many commentators state that Jesus is alluding to the nation of Israel here. They have one more year to ‘repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand’.
There are many other verses in the Gospels which lend strength to his view, but often in parables Jesus has several threads in his teaching.
The owner has waited patiently. Three years is more than generous.
The gardener sees his job as caring and nurturing, not cutting down; although judicious pruning is often needed for a plant or tree to grow more healthily.
The gardener commits himself to put in the extra time and effort to aid the tree.
When the owner thinks it is worthless the gardener sees possibility.
We see this attitude in Jesus throughout the Gospels.
He takes time with people the leaders of society think are worthless. He nourishes them. They produce fruit.
In more recent times the habit of structuring our lives and getting the maximum potential out of them, we are generally encouraged to be like the vineyard owner.
If something isn’t bearing worthwhile fruit then cut it out.
Habits, possessions, use or users of time – if they aren’t productive then get rid of them.
The logic makes perfect sense and can be the right way to act.
This parable contrasts the owner’s attitude with that of the gardener. The former has put very little effort in to the vineyard and the gardener has; and he is willing to put in more time and effort on this one tree.
Is it his superior knowledge that commits him to this course of action? Or is it faith in his ability to effect a change?
If we view the tree as the sinners and the tax collectors and the sick and those who counted for nothing in Jesus’ society, then we see the difference between the owner – the religious leaders – and the gardener – Jesus.
The tree can be us, our lives – habits and actions – or perhaps the people in our lives.
The gardener doesn’t just leave the tree, he commits to the time and attention it needs.
This is how we need to look at our lives on many occasions.
Some areas may not be working that well, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t, given sufficient effort from ourselves.
It needs to be the right effort though.
We need to look at the deficient areas we all have and assess what will improve the growing conditions for our ‘trees’.
If we aren’t sure we can ask another gardener – they love to share little tips and tricks, generally from their own experiences.
So, identify a few fruit-less trees in your life and look at them with a gardener’s eye – what can you do to improve the nourishment to the tree and improve the soil it is in?