At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’
He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
The first half of this passage certainly paints a picture about our need to repent, lest we “perish just as they did.” Then Jesus tells this odd little story about a fig tree and its lack of fruitfulness. When you read this parable, ask yourself, “where am I in this story?” Am I the man angry at the tree for not producing fruit? Am I the tree that just cannot seem to demonstrate enough maturity to grow fruit? Am I the gardener?
Depending on the season of life (forgive the pun), I could be any of these three. Right now, I see myself in the role of the gardener, suggesting patience with the tree. For me the tree is the role of so many local congregations that many seem frustrated with, ready to dig up and quit wasting their time on. I have felt their frustration as well, but I still see the beauty of what God can do through a gathered people. And as such, I implore others to wait. Let’s do the hard labor or tending to the tree. Let’s pray for the local congregations. Let’s remain faithful to what God has planted here, tending to it and expect it to bear fruit.
Lent is a painful season of reflection and sacrifice. I ask myself these questions as I reflect on my role in this story. What am I doing to further the kingdom? Where am I not bearing fruit? What more can I give? I invite you to meditate on these things as well.
This week’s devotion is brought to you by Campbell University’s Center for Church & Community.