The Fig Tree

Figs were a staple of food in biblical times. In 1 Samuel 25:18 Abigail sent food that included 200 cakes of figs to David and his men. In 1 Samuel 30:12 we read of fig cakes being eaten to strengthen the Egyptian. In Nehemiah 13:15—figs were among the food stuffs being sold in Jerusalem.

Figs and fig trees were also used in other ways too. In Isaiah 38:21 the prophet prescribed a poultice of boiled figs to be applied to the boil on Hezekiah. In John 1:48 Jesus refers to seeing Nathaniel under a fig tree, probably used for shade. And maybe the most famous use of the fig tree is found in Genesis 3:7. Adam and Eve, after they had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, sewed fig leaves together to make coverings for themselves.

When it comes to the New Testament Jesus used the fig tree several times in order to make a point about fruitfulness in the kingdom. In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus gave us this parable, 6He 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. 7Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 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.’” This parable is an admonition to us for fruitful growth. The fig tree obviously grew for three years but it had not produced any fruit. After our baptism we can have some type of growth but that growth must be recognized by some type of fruit. While the master of the vineyard wanted it cut down the keeper wanted one more year to fertilize it. The application of this portion of the parable should be a clear one. We must bear fruit but in order to do this we must be fertilized. In 2 Timothy 2:15 we read, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Paul also told Timothy, 14But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17). We must “fertilize ourselves by the word of God because only the word of God will make us wise for salvation. As we gain this wisdom we should have a desire to grow to fruitfulness.

Jesus also used the fig tree as a warning for the unfruitful. In Matthew 21:18-19 Matthew recorded, 18Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. We should take this incident quite seriously. Jesus came to the fig tree with an expectation for fruit. He desired to eat from the tree and be nourished. When He found no fruit on the tree He cursed it and immediately it withered away. What do you suppose will happen to any who is not found fruitful by Jesus at the judgment? We get an idea of their fate from Jesus words found in Matthew 7:19, Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. In John Jesus gives us the options that are open for us. Jesus said, Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit John 15:2). Will you be taken away or are you pruned? This taking away is described in verse 6, If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15:6).

And so we look examine ourselves by these scriptures and others to see if we are standing or falling. We might be able to convince others and even deceive ourselves but Jesus will not be deceived at judgment. He knows the heart of man and He will know yours and mine. Will you be welcomed as a fruitful tree or cast out as the withered and unfruitful trees are burned?

By Chip Foster

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