Summary: Parables for Stewards, Pt. 4
TO BE OR NOT TO BE? (LUKE 13:6-9)
The fig is highly valued not only by the Jews but also her neighbors (Ps 105:33). The Israelites were promised fig trees in the Promised Land (Deut 8:8). In Palestine and other warm climates the fig yields two crops annually- one about June and one about August. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried. Fig cakes are worthy presents even for kings (1 Chron 12:40). (“Figs,” International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)
The Jewish Virtual Library says: “Fig trees, along with wheat, barley, grape, pomegranates, olive oil and honey, were historically one of the seven species of Jewish diet. The biblical seven species were the staple foods consumed by the Jewish people in the Land of Israel during biblical times. They still characterize the local landscape, although only wheat remains a staple. However, the seven species dominate large areas of the countryside, accentuating a sense of continuity between the biblical Land of Israel and the modern state.”
In biblical times the fig was eaten fresh or as a seasoning, in addition to being used to make honey and alcohol. The fig itself is today an expensive delicacy. In fact it is best eaten straight from the tree in the late afternoon after being baked naturally by the sun. Dried figs covered in sugar are also a popular item.” www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/Judaism/species.html
The fig tree that bore no fruit in the parable has traditionally been referred to Israel, the landowner who planted the tree is God and the caretaker who pleaded for the tree is Christ. Leon Morris explains: “The owner has been looking for fruit for three years, which seem to indicate a well-established tree. A failure to bear for three years sounds ominous. It was unlikely that such a tree would ever again.” (Luke, 222).
What is God’s expectation of His people, Israel or Christians? Are we to live in the past and live on others’ glory? Why is it important to bear fruit?
Make the Landowner Proud
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. (Luke 13:6)
The saying that any seed grows in Southern California soil is not true in my case. A few years ago my wife and I were excited about planting trees in our backyard. Our gardener bought us two trees - orange and nectarine. The gardener charged us $50 for each tree and another $20-$30 to plant it. The first year the tree bore small oranges – the size of limes – and the nectarine was worthless.
The next year I told my wife that I was going to have the nectarine tree chopped down because it was an eyesore in the middle of the backyard. The orange tree was spared, because it was a small tree next to the rose tree, but she pleaded for the tree: “Give it one more year before you cut it.” Another year passed but the results were worse. Both trees had no fruits, but just buds. So we asked the gardener to put the nectarine tree to rest. In the meantime the orange tree was safe because it was in a corner and it was no bigger or taller than the neighboring rose tree.
The landowner in the parable had his work cut out for him and a big project ahead of him, I discover while researching on tree planting. Planting a tree is neither easy nor hard, but it requires work. The planter has to locate a site that is directly in the sun. Then he has to dig a hole twice as wide as the root diameter of the tree already wrapped with mud like a ball and dig it deep to cover the height of the root ball. The soil dug out of the hole is later used to backfill around the root ball. A 4-inch tall berm or wall of earth is built around the edge of the hole, with mulch (i.e. shredded bark, compost) filling the berm, making it easier to water the tree and reduce weed competition.
If the tree trunk is not sturdy enough, the gardener has to use two stakes, one on either side of the tree, to give the trunk support in its first year. Right after planting, the planter has to fill the dug basin with water to settle the existing soil around the root ball. The tree requires about one pint of water each day in its first week, one quarter the next week, two quarters of water every third day in its third week, and back to one quarter of water week four and beyond to wean the tree slowly off supplemental irrigation and get the root system large enough for the tree to thrive on natural rainfall.