Parables Of JesusThe Gospel Of Saint Luke

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

Audio Bible Parables - the barren fig-tree
Luke 13: 1-9


1 THERE were present at that season some that told him of the Galilæans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilæans were sinners above all the Galilæans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
6 ¶ He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

The Galileans Herod has had killed have not behaved any better or worse than other people; they were not worse sinners than whose to whom Jesus addresses his words. God does not always punish sinners in this life. Accidents and acts of brutality may constitute no particular moral judgement. We are sinners. We stand in need of God’s mercy. We must repent.

Through these sayings Jesus calls the people to conversion of heart. They have heard of and perhaps witnessed others’ suffering and death. They must know that those people were not much different from themselves. It could just as easily have been them. Jesus extends this thought into a warning: the people will indeed suffer should they fail to repent, should they not look to themselves, in the light of their own mortality, and realise they have great need of God’s mercy. This knowledge is a part of what it means to be true to ourselves, rather than to live in denial of God, to live a lie.

God is merciful. The parable of the barren fig tree illustrates this. When the owner of the vineyard decides to have the unfruitful fig tree chopped down, the vinedresser intercedes, promising to nurture the fig tree to help it be fruitful. So Christ intercedes for us, and so he came to teach us, to call us to follow him.

Through Christ, we have every encouragement and every resource to enable us to be truly fruitful. Christ, indeed, becomes our spiritual nourishment. It is our duty and our joy to respond energetically, and with great generosity of spirit. Our lives are not meant by God to be sterile. We are asked to respond to God’s grace.

‘He tells us that, without Holy baptism, no one will enter the Kingdom of heaven; and, elsewhere, that if we do not repent we will all perish. This is all easily understood. Ever since man sinned, all his senses rebel against reason; therefore, if we want the flesh to be controlled by the spirit and by reason, it must be mortified; if we do not want the body to be at war with the soul, it and all our senses need to be chastened; if we desire to go to God, the soul with all its faculties needs to be mortified.’ (St John Mary Vianney, Ash Wednesday.)