“WILL GOD HAVE TO DIG AND DUNG YOU?”
TEXT: Luke 13: 6-9 W. Max Alderman
6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
INTRODUCTION: The fig tree did not meet the owner’s expectations. He thought that three years, being planted in his vineyard, the fig tree should be producing fruit. The fig tree normally is planted by the wayside in less fertile soil. This tree, however, was receiving very special treatment by being planted in his vineyard, but still was not producing. He decided after the third year to cut it down, but was persuaded by the dresser of his vineyard to let it stay for one more year. If after that year, it was still not producing then they would cut it down. There are some tremendous lessons to be learned from this brief parable.
The first lesson is by way of interpretation: This fig tree pictured Israel which had been given special favor and treatment, but had no fruit. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11) For that reason, the Lord had to set Israel aside by breaking off the natural branches (Romans 11:19-21), but He left a root of a good olive tree (V.17) so that He could graft Israel back in. Even before the Lord set Israel aside, He gave her an extra space of time to repent, but she did not. This first section of Luke chapter 13 deals with repentance.
The second lesson for us is by application: This lesson applies to the church and this is where we will give our emphasis. Those who make up the church have been given special opportunities to bring forth fruit. The message to the church is repent or “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Ephesians 2:5). The Owner of the vineyard, as it relates to the church, has given us every opportunity to bring forth fruit. If we do not, as a final effort and warning, He will have to dig about us and dung us. If that does not work, then He will have to cut us down…
I. THE TRANSPLANTING OF THE TREE (V. 6a) “a fig tree planted in his vineyard”
The transplanting of the tree showed how GOD”S PROVIDENCE was at work before the planting of the tree…
I use the term “transplanting” because the fig tree was not planted in the garden as a seed, but had been brought from another location to be planted in the vineyard. It is not normal to plant the fig tree in a vineyard. To do so was to give the tree an undeserved advantage. The fig tree was accustomed to being planted by the wayside in less fertile soil than that found in the vineyard. It was as though the owner was going to give the tree special privileges and special care that it would not normally enjoy. It was a blessing for the tree that was not usually given. This reminds me of the beloved first Psalm:
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1-5).
We should take this time and examine ourselves and see if we have truly been planted into His garden of faith and see if we are prospering by bringing forth fruit.
A. A Faith Was Involved By the Planting of the Tree
The planting of the tree was the exercising of purpose. The purpose intended, by the owner, was that the tree was to do what a tree, and in particular, that tree was supposed to do. While planting the tree, there was no reason to believe that the tree, that had been planted and given special treatment, was not going to produce, but it did not.
Just think… God finds us without privilege and purpose, alongside the road of sin and picks us up; He saves us and plants us in a good old fashioned church where we should be able to grow while at the same time enjoying old time religion. That is what is expected of us. He wants us to be conformed to the image of His own Son (Romans 8:29). “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Yet, often this does not happen. People are seen in our churches having enjoyed the good things of God for ten, twenty, thirty, or even sixty years and yet have no fruit. This is very, very sad.
B. A Future Was Envisioned By the Planting of the Tree.
A tree is not planted for the present; it is planted with the future in mind. The patient gardener is willing to wait several years for a tree to bring forth its fruit. Most trees take several years for the fruit to appear. But this was a fig tree and a fig tree is expected to produce fruit immediately. The first year that I planted my fig tree it just had a few figs and then the next year it had a lot more. That is the way that we should be after our conversion. There should be fruit and then much fruit.
C. A Fruit bearing Was Implied By the Planting of the Tree.
The purpose for planting a fruit tree is to bear fruit. (John 15:5) “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Galatians 5:22,23 tells us what the fruit of the Spirit is:
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
II. THE TRAGEDY OF THE TREE (V. 6b.) “he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.”
The transplanting of the tree showed how GOD”S PURPOSE was at work by the planting of the tree…
One who studies this parable cannot help but see the purpose of God at work. God is a God of purpose and He does things on purpose. It is no accident that you are here today and those of you who are members of this church, God has a purpose for you. It is His purpose that you bring forth fruit and that, more abundantly.
A. Finding No Fruit Brought a Definite Disappointment to the Owner of the Vineyard.
Finding no fruit on the fig tree after going to the vineyard for three years, and finding none, he wanted to cut the tree down. He asked: “why cumbereth it the ground?” He meant by that question, “Why, this tree only takes up space but yields no fruit”. A fig tree with only leaves is a symbol of hypocrisy. Slightly, before the leaves appear on the fig tree the fruit begins to appear. For a fig tree to have leaves, during its fruit bearing season, but no fruit is unnatural. By implication, for a Christian to be a Christian and have no fruit is also very unnatural. Just as the owner of the vineyard was disappointed in this parable, even so is the Lord when He looks inside His church and sees its members having no fruit. Within the church, there are all the necessary ingredients for its members to have fruit, but sadly many of our churches are populated with members having little or no fruit.
B. Finding No Fruit Brought a Difficult Decision to the Owner of the Vineyard.
For the tree to be fruitless, meant that the tree was to be cut down and cast into the fire. A study of what it means to abide in Christ, as it appears in John 15, is pictured here:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:1,2) Abiding is more than just a casual relationship to the Savior. To abide is to have a vital relationship as the branch must have to the vine. There can be no fruitfulness if this is not so. The branch cannot survive without the vine. I believe for one to continue without bearing fruit is to place oneself in danger of committing “the sin unto death”. I believe that this describes the difficult decision by the owner as he thought to cut down the vine. For the Lord to look in His churches and to see unfruitfulness causes Him, in respect to His longsuffering, to make the difficult decision of cutting down the unfruitful tree.
III. THE TRIAL OF THE TREE (Vv. 8,9) “after that thou shalt cut it down”
The transplanting of the tree showed how GOD”S PROBABTION was at work After the planting of the tree…
The owner was going to cut down the tree, but the dresser of the garden asked for one more year. We could say that the tree was on probation and had one year in which to prove its fruitfulness. The dresser of the garden was going to dig about it and to dung it. This is a severe attempt on the part of the gardener to bring about the tree’s survival. To dig meant that he was going to break up the hard ground. Soil is likened unto the heart in the Scriptures. Such was so with the soil mentioned in the parables. Unless the seed fell on good ground, there would have been no fruit. There are many things Spiritually that can harden our hearts. Ephesians 4:30-32; 5:1-5 gives examples of such things:
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)
1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. to flee fornication
3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:1-5)
A. The Probation Showed God’s Longsuffering. “let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:”
We have already shown that to dig means to do that which is necessary to soften the heart. The Lord has numerous ways that he can soften us. He may touch our finances. To feel financial pressure can certainly have a softening effect. Even if we lose everything that we own, He will get us to the where we must depend on Him alone. He can touch our families; He can do this in so many ways. I heard of preachers who had gotten away from the Lord only to come back when God touched their loved one’s health. I remember a preacher friend who prayed all night long for his child’s recovery and promised God that he would be more faithful if He would spare the child and God did. God can touch our own flesh to get our attention. We can get so out of focus and have nothing but leaves, yet God knows just how to touch us. He is longsuffering.
To dung around the tree is to give nourishment and fertilizer. God nourishes us with His word. When the preacher preaches, he does it with all longsuffering and doctrine.
B. The Probation Showed God’s Limit. “Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it”
Now we come to the strong warning that is given to the Christian who has no fruit. I want to remind us that one reason that a person will lack fruit is that there is no life at all. Until you are converted to Christ, you can never hope to bring forth Spiritual fruit. The warning that is given to us in our Text is found in Luke 13:3,5: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” In verse number five, the same thing is said again: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” This warning is true for both the saved and the lost. The lost will perish in the Lake of Fire and the believer can commit the “sin unto death”. We must take the warning that even though God is a God who is longsuffering, He will say: “That’s enough.” That was the warning that he gave the people of Noah’s day when He told them that His spirit would not always strive with them. May we be warned?