The Penalty of Being Useless

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Title: The Penalty of Being Useless
Text: “And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’” (Luke 13: 7 RSV).
Scripture Reading: Luke 13: 1– 9
Offertory Prayer: Father God, we thank you for another week in which to work and for another day in which to worship. We come to your house in the faith that you will meet us and speak to us the words we need to hear in our innermost beings. We come bringing tithes and offerings to express our gratitude for your blessings on us during the past week. We bring these gifts that your work might go forward during the coming week. Bless these tithes and offerings to the advancement of your kingdom in the hearts and lives of people. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Warren Wiersbe says:
The American publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst would not permit anyone to mention death in his presence, yet he died.
In using parables Jesus speaks in a pointed and powerful way about God, people, life, privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities. His parables also contain warnings and point out the various perils we face. In the parable of the barren fig tree, our Lord speaks about the penalty of being useless and fruitless. There is both a national and a personal application in this parable (Matt. 21: 43).
Jesus was speaking to the nation of Israel in declaring that Israel had one more opportunity to bear fruit to the glory of God. Israel was rejecting God’s Messiah and God’s purpose for them as a nation. Forty years later the nation of Israel was to disappear as a national entity and remain so for nearly nineteen hundred years. Jesus spoke to his nation and he speaks to us in a powerful way through this parable of the unfruitful fig tree.
Roman Jewish war 70 A.D / Israel becomes a nation May 14, 1948
I. Jesus speaks of God’s absolute ownership.
The parable is talking about God and the nation of Israel (cf. Isa. 5: 1– 7).
God had been and continues to be rejected as our creator.
Both the people of ancient Israel and modern civilization have, for all practical purposes, rejected God as creator.
God had been and continues to be rejected as owner.
Israel did not see God as owner with a clear title and all of the rights that accrue to ownership.
Many people today do not see the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as the owner of the earth and all of those who dwell in it (Ps. 24: 1).
God had been and continues to be rejected as sustainer.
For all practical purposes, contemporary people believe that everything happens because of natural means.
They do not see God as the great engineer behind this fabulous universe.
By rejecting God as creator, owner, and sustainer, people have made practical atheists of themselves.
II. Jesus speaks of God’s right to expect an appropriate return.
When you rent an apartment, house, or business building, you acknowledge who the owner is in that you always expect to pay a rental fee to that person.
Both Israel and people today have rejected the rights of the divine owner to receive an appropriate return on his investment.
God does not expect impossibilities from his people.
God does not expect fig trees to produce grapefruit.
God does not expect grapevines to produce watermelons.
God does not expect corn stalks to produce cotton fiber.
The fruit of the fig tree is figs.
The fruit of a redeemed human being is conduct worthy of the family of God.
Furthermore, the fruit of a Christian is another Christian.
The fruit of a child of God is another child of God.
Jesus was encouraging his nation and he would encourage us to recognize that the Father God is both pleased and glorified when we bring forth much fruit to his honor and glory (John 15: 8).
III. Jesus speaks of a limitation of divine patience.
“Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?” (Luke 13: 7 RSV).
God is not in the business of encouraging parasites who use up space that could be occupied by productive plants.
God wants to replace parasites with those who will be productive.
The national application in this parable is that God’s patience with a nation can be exhausted.
The personal application is that God’s patience with a rebellious, unfruitful individual who has been blessed with his favor can reach the point of exhaustion.
IV. Jesus speaks of the gospel of a second chance.
“‘ Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down’” (Luke 13: 8– 9 NIV).
When we look back and evaluate our performance, we must admit that there have been periods of time when we have not been very productive as fig trees in the vineyard of God.
We have not brought forth fruit pleasing to God. While some opportunities may be past and impossible to recall, we can rejoice that we do have the present.
Let each of us decide that we will respond to the working of God’s Spirit within our hearts and cooperate with the Father God that we might be productive rather than barren plants.
Let us decide not only to read God’s Word but to heed it
Let us see prayer as something more than a fire escape or a parachute.
Let us determine to listen that we might receive instructions, correction, and commissions to do what God wants us to do.
Let each of us recognize that the church is more than a place.
Let us see it as the body of Christ in the world today through which he carries on his work in the world.
Let each of us rejoice that in and through the church we can serve our Lord.
Let us not neglect or ignore the Holy Spirit.
Instead, let us respond to him positively as he creates within us a hunger for fellowship with God and as he lays on us the blessing of a burden of compassionate concern for those around us.
Let us seize every opportunity for self-improvement through study and training.
Then we will become more competent in the church as members, Sunday school teachers, and outreach ministers who carry the good news of God’s love to people in the community.
Where do you stand with reference to this parable of the barren fig tree?
Does this parable make you tremble?
If you have not been born again, you have not brought forth any fruit to the glory of God.
You breathe God’s air at no cost.
You are alive because of a pump in your chest that God constructed.
You are blessed with an astounding computer between your ears that God engineered and with which you think.
You live off the food produced in God’s garden.
It is time you recognize him as creator, owner, and sustainer and respond to his love by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
If you have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, and for some reason or another you've been asleep and inactive, it is time to awake from your stupor and become productive for God.
Crabtree, T. T.. The Zondervan 2024 Pastor's Annual (p. 62). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
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