Cut it Down



Luke 13:6-9 NIV

[6] Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. [7] So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' [8] “ 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. [9] If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” …



Here in Luke 13 Jesus tells a short story about a fig-tree. However, it would be difficult to know it was a fig tree if it weren’t explicitly stated because, as Jesus points out, for 3 years it has produced no figs whatsoever. Frustrated the vineyard owner tells the farmer to get rid of it: “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” (v. 7)   The tree is taking up space, using up resources, but is producing nothing.  Soil that could be used for some other purpose and nutrients that could feed other trees are being wasted on this unproductive tree.

Jesus here is talking about the Jewish religious system of His day.  It wasn’t producing the life which God desired.  It wasn't pointing the nations to the Light.  It had failed in it's calling to bear the fruit of justice, righteousness and peace.

However, as I reflect on this passage, this could be a picture of any activity, behaviour or habit in our lives which uses up our resources of energy, money, time and emotions, but doesn’t really give us anything in return.  We pour ourselves in, but get little back.  We do all we can to change a person or situation, but the hoped-for transformation never happens.

We may be a bit like the farmer here in Jesus’ story, who says: ‘“Sir….leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’ (vv 8-9)  What he is saying is: Let’s give it one more chance.  I’ll try harder to get it to produce, I’ll invest more into it, I’ll give it increased effort.

We do that so often, because the pain of breaking free from a bad relationship, leaving a job which is destroying you or cutting of that negative voice in your life is so difficult to do and it feels ruthless, unkind and unloving.  So we give it another go, hang in there, one more chance….and more time passes….and nothing changes.  There comes a point when you simply have to say: “No more!”  That normally happens when the pain of doing nothing is greater than the pain of cutting that ‘fig-tree’ out of your life once and for all.

Jesus wants us to be fruitful in every area of our lives.  However, our level of fruitfulness will often be determined by where we invest our best resources – where we pour out our energy and time and money and efforts.  If you are currently wasting your life investing into a ‘fig-tree’ that produces no figs, think seriously about cutting it out of your life once and for all.  The pain of procrastination may end up being worse than the pain of purging that thing that is sapping your strength.