“Then He told them a story: ‘A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it, expecting to find apples, but there weren’t any. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years I’ve come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple I have found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’ The gardener said, ‘ Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then chop it down.'” Luke 13:6-9.

Lest we are left thinking that God is harsh and unjust, Jesus slips in one of His little gardening stories to reassure His hearers that He does not make arbitrary decisions. He always acts within His own character, giving us the benefit of the doubt as long as He can without contradicting His ways.

When a man plants a fruit tree in his garden, he does it for one purpose – to enjoy its fruit when it has matured. Fruit trees are not meant to be decorative but productive. If it does not bear fruit after years of cultivation, why would he leave it in his garden? It is nothing but a parasite, using up the moisture and nutrients in the soil and giving nothing back.

Unlike religion which is parasitic in nature, our relationship as sons to our heavenly Father ought to produce fruit. God created us for one supreme purpose – to put His glory on display. He gave us the capacity to be like Him in many ways, in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Sound familiar?

God continually ‘fertilizes’ us with His mercy and grace, not treating us as our sins deserve but showering on us His favour every day. We have been planted in the soil of His goodness and fed and watered by His word. Is it not reasonable to expect fruit in our lives in keeping with what He has lavished on us? Should we not be broadcasting Him to the world by the fruit that grows in soil that is nourished by such lavish care and provision?

When we persistently produce nothing but selfishness and greed, sucking up God’s goodness, living on His generosity and giving nothing in return, does He not have every right to chop the tree down and throw it on the rubbish dump? And yet He is merciful. ‘Let’s give it another year,’ He says, ‘just in case it does bear an apple or two to prove its worth.’

If it still does not come up to His expectation, He has no option but to chop it down to make room for trees that will give Him the satisfaction of bearing luscious fruit. God does not enjoy throwing people on the ‘rubbish dump’ of wasted potential but, once again, He leaves the choice to us. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV).

Both the news item that people brought to Jesus about Pilate’s brutality and His response, show us that He was more concerned about what we do than what we think of others. ‘Don’t point fingers, look inside,’ He insists because we cannot answer for others but we have to take responsibility for ourselves.

Luella Campbell

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