God’s patience with a fruitless tree

“‘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.’” (Luke 13:6-7)

When God makes Himself known to Moses, He describes Himself as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger … but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6, ESV). These two aspects of God’s character are central in the parable of the fig tree as well.

On the one hand, we see that the owner of the garden and the vinedresser are very patient with a fruitless tree. For three years already have they taken care of it, but it doesn’t bear any fruit! It’s natural therefore that the owner wants to cut it down and plant a new tree instead. But the vinedresser urges him to give the tree one more chance; he will take special care of the tree and see whether it will bear fruit this year. If not, it can be cut down.

This resembles how God deals with people. He gives them ample time to repent and be saved from God’s judgment. He even is so patient that some people doubt whether his promises and judgment will ever come true at all! (see 2 Peter 3:4,9). But the Lord’s patience is not endless. If people continue their bad behavior and refuse to repent, they’ll face the consequences.

Does your ‘tree’ bear fruit already?

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