Then [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
What does an orchard owner do when there are no apples to gather at harvest time? Many growers in Michigan found out in 2012. Due to early warm March temperatures combined with several April freezes, much of the tree fruit crop was damaged that year. In a state that averages 25 million bushels of apples, only 3 million bushels were harvested. Some orchards suffered total loss.
Believers are privileged to be planted in the Lord’s vineyard through the power of Holy Baptism. In that vineyard their faith grows and flourishes, bathed in the sunlight of the glorious gospel. The Lord tends to each individual tree with the greatest care. He feeds and cares for it with the continual shower of his grace.
Yet how cold and callous my sinful nature is toward the heavenly hands that care for me! Tempted by the deceptive warmth and comfort of worldly pleasures and chilled with despair while encountering life’s troubles, I fall far short of producing the fruits of faith which the Lord expects of me. Even the good works that I do in service to him are tainted by the poison of my sin. For this I deserve only to be cut down and thrown into the eternal fire of hell.
However, Jesus cares for me with greatest patience. Mercifully, he still calls me to repent of my fruitless ways. Instead of cutting me down, he himself bore shame, disgrace and death on the tree of the cross in my place. He waits, and he waits in hopeful expectation of a fruitful harvest from me. And while he waits He still lovingly digs around me and fertilizes me with the full forgiveness he freely offers. His grace ever encourages me to bear abundant fruits of faith to his glory.
Lord, I confess to you my fruitless, faithless ways. I trust in your forgiveness freely given through Jesus, my Savior from sin. Give me strength to live as a fruitful tree, blessed to be in your vineyard. Amen.