Luke 13:6-9 says:
“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.
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: cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’
“But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it: And if it bears fruit, well: but if not, after that you can cut it down.’”
I feel compelled to share some of my life, which may help illustrate this parable to you.
First of all, on the surface, this parable is talking about a barren fig tree. Normally, a fig tree does not bear fruit for three or four years, but in the parable, the implication is that this particular type of fig tree should have been bearing fruit and the owner of the vineyard had unsuccessfully sought it for three years. (Perhaps, if the tree had not been able to bear fruit on its second or third year, it would have been different.) But here, the owner is frustrated and he wants to cut it down immediately.
I find that I need to be able to apply the things that I read in the Bible to my own personal experiences in order to fully appreciate and understand them. I need to be able to relate Scripture to myself. This may seem strange to you, but this is just how I am.
I am forty three years of age. For a period of sixteen years, I genuinely thought I was one of the last two prophets that were called to come and judge the world. I actually believed in my manic state that I was the reincarnation of Elijah, the prophet. You see, I suffer from a mental illness called “Schizoaffective Disorder,” which is a combination of Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. Part of the Bipolar Disorder is a delusional mind-set called “Visions of Grandeur.” I steadfastly believed that both Moses and I were the two Prophets mentioned in the Book of Revelation Chapter Eleven. (I was continually expecting to meet up with Moses and actually thought that I had found him on two occasions) I was paranoid that I had to learn how to accomplish my illustrious mission from God. Therefore, I spent all those terrible years, searching the Scriptures desperately trying to work out every unfulfilled prophecy in the world. I was not only delusional, but very tense and frustrated. Looking back now, I know that I was extremely judgmental and overbearing, especially towards my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I had even been kicked out of some churches.
I reacted very strongly against all those who believed that we are saved by grace: that all our sins, past, present and future, were forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I would not accept the fact that Christians are now not under the commands or the judgments of the law. In those days I would agree with absolutely none of the teaching on God’s grace! Needless to say, I had no joy and very few “normal” friends accept my own family who of course loved me with God’s kind of love.
Since being on medication, an enormous load has lifted but I still remained very legalistic. I have for the past four years, been writing Christian articles on the internet. Also during that time, I have been operating a prophetic website, doing personal prophecies for people, and only recently have I come to the revelation that my past understanding has been totally wrong. I needed to repent and adopt the wonderful inner assurance that the work of redemption has been fully paid for by the Savior. Jesus said “It is finished!” We are now in the grace of the New Covenant.
There are many articles I wrote that I still believe contain good and solid content, yet there are many articles that I had to take off the internet, because they were entirely false in doctrine.
Today, I know that I am called to be a teacher of the Word of God. I look at my life now and I consider it to be quite fruitful. I know also, that I am called to preach in churches and recently some doors have been opened to do just that.
For so much of my life I had been bound in sin and lived a good-for-nothing existence. I had been living with various addictions: one of which was an insoluble problem with sexual fantasies and actual involvement. In fact, when I look at my earlier life, it looks as though it had been wasted. But I know that God never wastes anything!
When I read this particular parable I recognize that if I hadn’t had the mercy and grace of Jesus operating in my life: if I had been under the Law of the Old Covenant, I would not be here today. Instead I would have been cast aside: cut off and thrown into Hell.
This parable makes me wonder about the owner of the vineyard. Do you remember in another parable about a certain landlord (see Chapter 21), that the owner of the vineyard sent servants and the workers actually killed those servants. So, the owner sent his son and they killed the son, thinking that they would have the rights to the vineyard after his death. I am starting to think now that the owner of this vineyard is God the Father. Also the law: that Old Testament covenant law: was the fact that the tree should be bearing fruit within three years or it should be cut down.
I am thinking that the actual gardener who said “No, give it one more year. Let me give it some fertilizer,” was Jesus Himself saying, “No let me give this person some more of my grace. Let me give them some understanding. Let me give them the power of the Holy Spirit. Let me dig up their life and teach them some new things and give them the ability to overcome. Then, let me see if they bear fruit after that.”
See? The message of the New Covenant is that you are forgiven. There is no judgment against you. There is nothing held in your account. The hand of God is not against you. All of your lawless deeds, God remembers no more when you have repented and believed in God’s Son.
Now, in my spirit, I feel that God has personally written me a letter. It reads: “Yes, the reason why you have survived all these years in your unfruitful lifestyle Matthew is because you are living in the time of the New Covenant as a believer of God. Under the Old Covenant, as an adulterer and fornicator, you would have been stoned to death, but because you live under the New Covenant you have received mercy and grace instead of death. Also, under the Old Covenant, you would have been rejected as a priest, a preacher or a minister of the Gospel. But under the New Covenant, you are forgiven, washed clean, set free and made whole in my sight and given My authority and the My ability to preach the Gospel.”
Because of that: this parable is tremendously encouraging. I hope that you too, can fully capture its meaning. I hope that you can dig deep into the teachings of grace and the finished work of the cross. May you understand the grace of God and allow it to “fertilize” your life so that you may bear good fruit in the coming season. You may feel that your life has been a total failure, but I hope this book on the parables, and particularly this parable, will truly bless your life.