Bearing Figs

Then [Jesus] 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.’”

Luke 13:6-9

text for Sunday March 24, 2019

What was wrong with the tree?  Why did it not bear fruit?

Was it that the tree had been planted in the wrong place?  Was there was too little sunshine, or too much?  Was the soil was too acidic, or not enough?

Surely the tree longed to bear fruit.  

Maybe the tree looked at the other trees in the orchard, saw all of them bent with the happy, heavy weight of fruit.  Some trees bore fruit that was round and red; others longer and green; some trees were hung with fuzzed-globes of warm yellow while others bore smaller globes, with a purple-blue haze to the skin.  But no fruit hung from her branches.  The tree wept for her own barrenness, for the wrongness of her planting in this place, for the fruit she had been meant to bear but had not.

The master came to look at her, “Three years I have looked for figs,” he said, grieved to find the branches empty.


‘Sir, let it alone for one more year,” said the gardener.  “I will dig around it and put manure on it.”

Figs?  The tree heard and wondered.

The gardener came to the tree. “Figs,” he murmured, soft as a breeze.  “You are meant to bear figs,” he told the tree, “You have always been meant to bear figs.  Be fruitful.  Bear figs.”

The tree listened and began to hope.  Her barrenness was not the master’s design; it was a grief to him as well as her.   The gardener dug around the tree, and put manure in the soil.  The gardener put new heart in the tree. “Figs,” the gardener whispered blessing to the tree.  To her neighbor, he whispered “apples” and to another “pears” or “peaches” and “plums.” The tree listened and began to understand.  She was meant to bear figs – not the fruit that every other tree bore, but figs, green-skinned, purple-fleshed, seeded and sweet.  The tree had blamed the planting, blamed the garden, blamed her own inability to be something she was never even asked to be.  Now she realized her true purpose.

“Bear figs,” the gardener promised.  The tree heard and believed.  The tree put away her tears and began to bud.  The tree bore figs for the master’s joy, and her own.

*originally written 2010

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