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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.’”

Could someone explain what the parable means?

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Some help from the intratext – Peter Turner Sep 1 '11 at 13:18
I can give you no help on what lesson to draw from this tale, but I've heard that the tale itself is reasonable, as there was a tax on fruit trees. Incidentally, fresh ripe figs are delicious. My mother has a fig tree in her greenhouse. Mmmm .... – TRiG Oct 7 '11 at 12:01
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The normal way to find out what a Bible passage means is to look at a Bible Commentary. These are detailed books, explaining each passage of the Bible. Any Christian bookstore will have many to choose from. There are also a number online, though they tend to be old ones that have gone out of copyright.

I'm going to direct you to Matthew Henry's Commentary, who is well-known and generally reliable. Some of the things he says may have been superceded by more up-to-date scholarship, but for something like this he is pretty solid.

This parable primarily refers to the nation and people of the Jews. God chose them for his own, made them a people near to him, gave them advantages for knowing and serving him above any other people, and expected answerable returns of duty and obedience from them, which, turning to his praise and honour, he would have accounted fruit; but they disappointed his expectations: they did not do their duty; they were a reproach instead of being a credit to their profession. Upon this, he justly determined to abandon them, and cut them off, to deprive them of their privileges, to unchurch and unpeople them; but, upon Christ’s intercession, as of old upon that of Moses, he graciously gave them further time and further mercy; tried them, as it were, another year, by sending his apostles among them, to call them to repentance, and in Christ’s name to offer them pardon, upon repentance.

That is the exposition - i.e. what the passage meant when it was written. It is also a reasonable interpretation for us to take this warning for ourselves - that God expects us to "bear fruit", and there may be consequences if we don't.

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God is always telling us that we need to bear good fruit and that every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 3:10 NIV

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

However, at the same time God is kind and patient with us. Even tho he expects that we bear good fruit, he is also willing to fertilize us, so that we may have every chance possible to bear the kind of fruit that He's looking for.

1 Corinthians 3:6

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

Mark 4:27

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

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God is the one who planted the tree, Jesus is the vine dresser or "the man who took care of the vineyard" - God does expect us to grow the spiritual fruits of the holy spirit. (Gal 5:22) After three years even a little seedling of a fruit should have appeared, that means that after three years of following God, he should see repentance and some signs of becoming a person showing the characteristics of someone who has the holy spirit. If that doesn't happen, then that person is doesn't have the goodness, kindness, etc. Yet, Jesus who is working with us is willing to work up to the end and give us all we need to become those things, even when we are not bearing fruit he is patient but at a certain point if we are not bearing fruit, then you get cut off.

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In 1948, Israel became a nation. The good and bad fig, was sat-out. This started the last generation of man, awaiting CHRIST'S return! The Shepherds Chapel, Pastor Arnold Murray.

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Welcome to the site. As you're a new visitor, I'd like to recommend the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page, How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? – David Jan 1 '14 at 22:02

I will say after God has supplied us with all we need through Jesus Christ and Holy Sprit expect us to bear good fruits and if we are not bearing good fruits,he is calling us to repentance to be productive Christian in our words and actions;unless he will uproot us.2Peter 1:5-6,Psalm 86:5,Galatians 5:22-27.

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Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Please see What this site is about and How this site is different to help you learn how the site works. Also see the help center and take the tour to learn the site functions. I hope to see you post again soon. – fredsbend Jan 17 '15 at 23:10
This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? – Mr. Bultitude Jan 17 '15 at 23:53

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