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The Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree

By Pastor John Mateos Ong and Pastora Monique Lopez Ong

Figs can be seen in the Middle East, especially in the Mediterranean area. There is something so important in the figs that it is mentioned several times in the Bible. First, it was mentioned as the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil and in Genesis 3:7, when Adam and Eve’s eyes were naked, they sewed fig trees together to cover their nakedness. In Deuteronomy 8:8, the promised land is described as “a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey.” During Solomon’s reign, each man was under his own vine and fig tree, as mentioned in 1 Kings 4:25. The fig tree was a symbol of national wealth and prosperity. At the same time, in 2 Kings 18, when Hezekiah was in battle with the King of Assyria, the Assyrian commander attempted to bribe the army of Jerusalem by offering them their own vine and fig tree. It was that important. In Proverbs 27:18 it says that when you look after a fig tree, it was like looking after your own master. Solomon mentions a fig tree in his garden in Song of Solomon 2:13. Jeremiah and Micah also mention these fig trees.

In the Bible, figs represent Israel.


Luke 13:6-9 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.’ ”


Owner- God

Caretaker- Jesus

Fig Tree - Us


The owner went regualrly to check the figs.

Fruit bearing is an issue to God.

Owner wanted the unproductive fig tree cut down.

The vinedresser asked for more time.


  1. We are in His vineyard. (Luke 13:3 “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard.”) We are in our Father’s vineyard. All of us. Many think that whatever we have right now is coming from us, even that God owes us. The authority, influence, power, resources and talent you have all came from God. We need to know who our authority and source is and honor this source because God owns everything, including you. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.”This is our truth. Whether you admit it or not, God allowed you to do it and He let it happen because it all came from Him. If you do not know that everything comes from the Lord, you will feel and look entitled because you will feel that it is all coming from you.

  2. God gives us second chances. (Luke 13:8 “Sir, the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.”) As the owner, when God saw the unproductive figs, He actually wanted them to be chopped down. But Jesus, the vine keeper said,”Wait! Let’s give them another chance.” Without Jesus, we will all be dead. The parable said Jesus did not just give us time. He said He will do something else, will “dig” and “fertilize.” What does this mean? Digging is very important in planting. It means breaking up the soil so that the seed grow in it. 1 Cor. 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Jesus makes sure that the soil we are planted on will be soft enough that we can grow and bear fruit. Even if we have troubles, God has already filtered the process to be sure that we can go through it. Digging means removing obstacles that will prevent you from bearing fruit. Fertilizing means giving the soils giving proper nutrients. God is adding on to the soil where we are planted. Philippians 4:19 says “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” What are examples of fertilizers? These are things that help us grow. God’s word, believers around us, prayer, worship, writing in your journal and memorizing verses are ways in which you can get blessed and helps us not to be proud of ourselves because we need to be dependent on God. Remember that fertilizers will not have any effect if you are not planted in the soil. You must be planted first, allow God to remove all the hindrances that d o not allow you to grow and fertilize you. 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God does not want anyone to be eft alone and left behind. He extended and keeps on extending His deadline so that all may bear fruit and enter the kingdom of heaven.

  3. We must bear fruit. (Luke 3:7 “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down.”)

What fruit are we talking about here?

A. Fruit of the Spirit - Like Father, like Son indeed, we want to be more like Jesus. And Jesus actually came on earth to represent the Father. Everything you want to know about God, you can see in the person of Jesus Christ. It was mentioned that we are to be more and more like Christ. What does this mean? Jesus did not leave us in the dark. Gal. 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” These are the things God wants to see in us because we see that in Jesus and He wants it in us also.

B. Fruits of Your Labor - 2 Cor. 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” As Christians, we are expected to work and the results are the good work that we do. Serving in church and evangelizing people are fruits of our labor. Do you think if you don’t bear these you will be chopped down? This verse talks about the judgement seat of Christ called the Bema Judgment or the Judgement of Believers. In the parable, it was still talking about whether the tree will be left standing or chopped down. Believers will not go to hell anymore because they already have Jesus in their hearts. This verse was written to the church in Corinth, who were already believers so it is not actually talking about the fruits of their labor.

C. Spiritual Children - Matt 7:18-20 says “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” A pastor once said, if you cut an apple in half, you can count the seeds inside it; but you cannot count how many fruits the seeds will bear. The potential of multiplication is endless because that belongs to the Lord.

Is this the question about bearing fruit which the Lord asks and wants to see? Talking about having spiritual children and being able to pass on what you know from generation to generation, it is actually none of these.

If it is none of the above, then what fruit is Jesus talking about in this parable? For us to know the answer, we need to read a little further back and ask why Jesus told this parable anyway.

Luke 13:1-3

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Are the bad things happening a punishment for the sins of the people? Jesus said it has nothing to do with that. These do not come from the Lord. It is not yet time for God to give any punishment. God is giving us the time right now, a chance to repent. After judgment, there will be a time for punishment.

What does this mean? Where is everything that is happening to us coming from? The answer is it is coming from people and their work. You look at their lifestyle, their “context”. Cancer might be the result of long term smoking in your early years. Still, if things do not work out, it becomes God’s fault. After judgment, God is not the one who will punish us. The mere fact that He gave us a choice and is still giving us chances to repent means that we are actually bringing the punishment to ourselves. God did not lack in reminding us.

The way God deals with sinners is not through death or even punishment but by digging, fertilizing and waiting. God is always good. He does not punish. That is not His style. His style is to redeem you, give you second chances, heal you and deliver you. That is the God we serve. That leads to Luke 13. It is in the hope of digging, fertilizing and waiting that Jesus says, “One day, this fig (you and me) will bear fruit!”

The fruit that God is talking about is real repentance! Luke 13:18 says, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” There is punishment. God will not punish you. It is you who will bring yourself to that punishment unless you repent. This changes everything. You cannot have the fruit of the spirit, fruits of your labor and spiritual children if you did not repent. Repentance is the fruit that God gave when you receive Jesus.

What is repentance? Matthew 3:8-10 says, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Your lineage does not matter. Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Metanoia, the greek word used here as with the parable, means the journey of changing one’s mind, heart self or way of life. If we change our mind, our actions follow.

Repentance is a fruit produced when we receive Jesus. Jesus is the light that enters us and dispels all darkness, shows us our wrongs, convicts us and allows us to change. This is true repentance. The renewing of our minds.

John Calvin said, “Repentance is an inward matter which has its seat in the heart and soul. But afterwards yields its fruit in a change of life.” Metanoia happens when there is a change in the mind that affects our heart and souls and it shows by the way your life is lived. This is a big deal because Jesus said in John 15:8, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Bearing fruit is our way to glorify our Heavenly Father.


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