Wednesday 30 June 2021

Bible Book:

'Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' (v. 7)

Luke 13:6-9 Wednesday 30 June 2021

Psalm 6:1-9


The word ‘perish’, with all the absolute and terrible finality of its meaning, sets the context for this parable. Taking two well-known and poignant examples of many lives being cut tragically short (Luke 13:1-5), Jesus works the indisputable fact of their perishing into a means to help the disciples focus on the priority of the task he has set them. He tells them “But unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did” (Luke 13:5). So the need to acknowledge where we are going wrong in our lives and to turn to God to enable us to put this right, so that we are renewed and can play our full part in renewing the world, is of primary importance to Jesus. It is the living heart of the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:14-15)

 Repentance is what will save us from perishing. Indeed, as Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree, it seems to be the flourishing that flows from such a radical change of heart that is foremost in his mind, a way of life that is the very opposite of perishing. Truly this is indeed good news, because Jesus offers life in its abundant fullness (John 10:10) here, now and for eternity (John 3:16).

 So before the axe is wielded there is one last chance to redeem the situation, a final investment of care to see if this tree will flourish. As a story that allows the imagination to make numerous connections this short parable is superb. Perhaps the characters of owner, gardener and tree are ones we are invited to inhabit, so that God’s grace can impart fruitful wisdom and we can turn our lives around. Applied to the life of the faithful, we discover three underlying role models that will inspire and enthuse us.

The owner has a vision of flourishing and expects this to be fulfilled. This is the motivating purpose and direction of travel for the whole enterprise. “Where there is no vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). The gardener acts with compassion and has the flourishing of the tree at heart. There is real grace here and a belief that things can be turned around. The gardener enables the tree to realise its full potential. As person-centred psychotherapists know, such empathy is powerfully fruitful and promotes growth. In the right conditions the fig tree’s nature is to be fruitful, producing new seedlings for the future and providing nourishment for the surrounding community.

As Jesus tells the story he has the discipleship and mission of the faithful in mind. The grace of 'one more year' and the attention given to the roots is a poetic expression of the gospel’s wholehearted desire for flourishing to blossom within the lived reality of everyone’s lives, not least the downtrodden, marginalised and poor. As a comparative warning to the faithful who lead their lives without reference to the needs of others and the priority of the kingdom, however, the parable is chilling. They are already perishing.

To Ponder:

  • Where in your life do you feel yourself to be perishing?
  • What radical change of heart is God asking you to embrace?
  • How might God’s loving-kindness enable you to really flourish?


God of new life and author of compassion, may your tender grace enable me to be ever more securely rooted in your love for me, that I would resist all that would perish my spirit, and flourish as your blessing to others.

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