The Rights Of God

The Barren Fig Tree


There are similarities between Jesus 'parable recorded in Luke 13: and the song  of  Isaiah  chapter 5. The points made in the Song of Isaiah concerning the vineyard  may be stated thus: The Lord's vineyard, The Lord's Plant,   The Lord's Expectation of Fruit,  The Lord's Disappointment, and - The Lord's Judgment.


In this parable of Jesus the points are almost identical, but there is an added value here that is absent from Isaiah's parable, it is the intercession of the vinedresser. Judgment in the case of Isaiah's song was immediate because of failure. Judgment here in Jesus' parable is postponed  because of the intercession of the vinedresser.  It is however, as certain in the one case as the other, if there yet be fruitlessness.


Be it perfectly understood that the first principles of  both parables was to the Hebrew nation…The principles have, however a wider application.  Contextually the parable of Jesus was spoken to correct a false sense of security . Luke 13:1-5


1There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And Jesus answered and said to them,    Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”


One peculiar value of this parable is that in it we find the true standard for measuring our lives.    We still imagine that there are degrees of sin, that others, like the Galilaeans, are sinners above all, and that —men overtaken by some great catastrophe must therefore have been the most guilty.


Christ declares that we cannot  so measure sin for, "Except You," men whom Pilate had not mingled their blood with their sacrifices,  men upon whom no tower has fallen. "except you repent, you shall all likewise perish."  Life ended by the brutality of Pilate may not have perished.  Perishing is not the ending of this material life, by some catastrophe. Perishing is something profounder more terrible.  Jesus on one occasion made this statement Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.."


 We may live out our days, according to human thinking, and die in peace and quietness, and yet ¾ perish  "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." 


In face of so startling words, Jesus uttered the parable of the barren fig tree. And we should consider it carefully for it is one in which Jesus gives us the true standards for  the measurement of human lives. Is this not what we need? Is not this what we are supremely afraid of? Is there anything that we shrink from more than being measured by the Divine standards of God's word?  Are we not all in the habit of measuring ourselves by comparing ourselves with those we know? And when we do this we usually compare ourselves with those whom we know them to be inferior to us in our eyes,  and so we are lifted in pride and in heart, to think more highly of ourselves than we ought do.


he matter of supreme moment is not what our neighbor or friend, or even foe  may think of us, but what God thinks of us. How do we find out? n the application of this parable, Jesus has given us the standard of measurement, and the balances for weighing. Let us remit ourselves to Him for measurement and for weighing.


What are the facts of the parable? The facts are three that we shall consider,  First, the rights of the proprietor of this vineyard to do as he will with the tree.  The interference of the intercessor, 3rd Some lessons applicable to every one here


First then the rights of the proprietor and we began  reading in   Luke 13:6 " He also spoke this parable:  A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none." The first right of the proprietor is the absolute right of possession. The plant was in his vineyard, it was his plant, it had been planted there for a specific purpose.  


Notice the second  right grows out of the first,  verse 7. "then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none.  He came seeking for fruit, and he had a perfects right to seek for fruit. What is a fig tree for? Ask a small child, and with no waste of time the child will answer "figs".


As I read on, I discover yet another right. Upon finding no fruit, and continuing to look for a period of three years,  he issues the order "Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?"   He had a right to say this, his right to destroy the tree was based upon the failure of the tree to produce fruit. It was enhanced by his patience, but justified, because it cumbered the grounds, it took up space, depleted the soil another tree would need in order to produce. That is the first part of the picture 

Before proceeding to another, let us look into the spiritual suggestions of this picture, it brings us face to face with God and His rights.  Men and women living on the earth are today and in every age are obligated to learn the great truths clearly indicated by this parable. We hear a great deal about human rights, this parable teaches the rights of God. What are they? Every person, both saint and sinner should recognize and honor the fact that God is the owner of the vineyard, the universe. 


In Genesis 1:1  we read "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."  And again  Genesis 1:26-27 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." And finally in Genesis 2:7-8: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  8And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. "


Thus the right of ownership, both of man and the universe belong to God exclusively. We hear a lot about this being the Devil's world, only by worship, he has never created even a blade of grass. Men owe allegiance to God and to goodness, not to Satan and to evil.  God has the right of ownership.      


Next we should recognize that God has the right to expect fruit from each of us.  The Bible clearly teaches that every seed is to produce after its kind.  Apple trees bring for apples,  the mating of two horses will produce another horse. Corn seed planted will produce corn.   God comes into the vineyard of the universe, He looks at me  expecting to see fruit. What is the fruit God expects of each of us. "The fruit God expects of  a man is maturity or manhood" Jesus exemplifies the definition of manhood, He is what God had in mind in the garden when He said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: …..  " Jesus perfectly exemplifies manhood. The meaning of humanity has once been perfectly revealed in the Man —Jesus of Nazareth.


As we measure our lives, as I have said, we compare it with those inferior to ourselves and stand in the public places of assembly and say "I thank Thee that I am not as other men, or even this poor publican."  We dance through life upon the basis that "there are just many worse than myself". That measurement is false. What is man? I look at Christ, Behold the Man. I am speaking of His humanity for the moment., the wonderful stories of revelation in the Gospels. I look at Him, I see the Man after God's own heart. This is the ideal which God would have each of us reach and maintain. 


In the garden of Eden, God made this clear to Adam and to Eve,  of this tree, ye shall not eat,  The idea was do not ever disobey me not even once.  As Jesus taught His disciples from the Sermon on the Mount              Matthew 5:46-48  " For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." And again "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and  your neighbor as yourself"  These He did, but have I done them.  God has a right to expect this fruit from each of us, however from experience and from inspiration,  we know that no man perfectly served God. Disobedience is apart of man, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"


Notice these interesting things first about the tree. The tree was in the vineyard owned by the man who came seeking for fruit.  The tree had been planted in the vineyard, and was there then by design. It was expected to bear fruit..  The tree was a failure, it was not acceptable to the owner because it failed to bear fruit., It failed to fulfill the purpose for which it had been planted.


Lets make the lesson applicable . As it was with the tree, so it is with men. First we are in God's vineyard. Secondly we are here by design , that is we have been planted here. The reason, like the tree is to bear fruit. The Proprietor comes onto the vineyard expecting fruit, and finds nothing but leaves. If Jesus is that standard, my life is a failure when measured by that standard.  As to character Jesus was absolutely sinless.    In I Peter 2:22-23 we have this statement concerning the purity of our Lord,  Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously"  Perhaps we are prone to say: "I'm a good person, I do good toward  all men,  I’m community spirited. "  To you Jesus says, no drunkenness, no adultery, no profanity. But no fruit,   no service, no worship to please  the heart of God.


If our parable ended here, we would all be men most pitiful, but there is another part of the story.  The part of the vine dresser, the part of the intercessor. When the proprietor came seeking fruit and finding none, and all this in spite of long patience.  Oh, the Bible tells us of God's patience with us, "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."  2 Peter 3:9


After three years time the order was "cut it down; Why cumbereth it the ground?"  And just at this point I'm reminded that we have all sinned, and the wages of sin is death.  Romans 6:23 but at this point we see the work of our intercessor.  Hear His words,  Luke 13:8-9

8But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’   How wonderful it is to know that God has interceded by sending the Son , John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son….  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. " Romans 5:8-9


God has the rights of each of us, thus the right to expect certain fruit. For those who are already Christians, God expects you to yield obedient loving service, as a fruit of sweet smelling savor.  To the unbeliever,  He expects you  to become children wear the name of Christ honorable and produce fruits to His glory. That is the significance and ultimate application of this parable,   Each of us are standing  before God's judgment bar. It is by the Words of Christ we  are to be judged.  Before His word  together we stand .


As we conclude, may I reassure you that Christ did not come  to ask God  to let men off, who refuse to bear fruit. Hear His words again   Luke 13:8-9   "And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down".  Christ came, to use the figure of the parable, to dig around the tree, put His masterful touch upon it, and then if after all the digging, and preparation, the tree is still barren. He says "Then Thou shalt cut it down"…   Are you in Christ? If you are not then you are not and cannot  bear the fruits of righteousness. To use the words of Christ. "9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down"   Beloved, God has the right and all men may be assured that He will exercise the right.  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. " 2 Corinthians 5:10



Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ


phone:  (678)617-9658