The Fig Tree

September 21, 2007, 1:30 pm; posted by
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One of the benefits of living in the South is that I have a fig tree outside my window at work. It’s boxed in on all four sides by the building, fences and a dock so it’s not easily accessible for neighborhood freeloaders. I usually can get a fig or two when they ripen before someone mysteriously cleans it out at night. They’re both sweet and delicious.

Lately I have taken to checking the tree for fruit and it has none yet. Not even small unripe figs. You wouldn’t believe how disappointing it is. I have never noted “the right time” for figs to be on the tree, so maybe I’m just early this year in my desires, but my disappointment has left me thinking about the parable where the man keeps checking a tree for figs, but eventually says, “Cut it down! Why let it take up space in the ground any longer?”

I noticed the last time I read that parable that the gardener admits he has not done everything in his power to produce fruit on the tree. He pleads for patience, saying, “Let me dig around it and fertilize it,” and allowing that if it still fails to produce fruit next year, he would cut it down himself. I don’t know why I had never noticed that admission of guilt before.

I have always seen it as a lesson in patience, not an indictment of leadership. It’s not just a Christian pleading for patience, but it acknowledges a failure to put forth every effort to see that a person, a ministry, a marriage or a job succeeds. It’s someone stepping up to the plate and saying, “Listen, this failure may be as much mine as his.”

It’s not just saying, “Give the tree another chance,” it’s saying, “Give me another chance.”


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