Fig trees were important products and symbols in ancient Israel. For the first three years of its life, a fig tree rarely bore fruit and for the next three eating its fruit was forbidden. (Lev 19:23) The seventh year's fruit was dedicated to God, but after that fig trees ought to produce fruit for 10 months a year. That the fig tree in Luke's Gospel has no fruit might have implied that it was already 9 years without fruit and needed to be cut down to make way for another tree. Still, after being entreated to give it another year to produce, the owner, like God, waits. (Pilch) God always waits as long as we are intent on transformation.
While some are troubled by the apparent harshness of Jesus' story, in fact it is about the mercy of God. Though Israel has failed to produce fruit, God wants to give the nation and its leaders more time to plant and nurture the Torah, and Jesus tells this story to assure his listeners that the God of whom he speaks will also be patient. His disciples will have time to interiorize and live the Good News, but eventually they must produce fruit for the hungry people they will encounter.
The same is true for believers in the 21st century. Unless Christians today help create a world in which people eat, are housed and enjoy basic human rights, then we can be sure the Gospel we are preaching is little more than words. Only when the power of the Good News changes the hearts and behavior of its adherents, and those to whom they announce the Gospel, will it be able to spread and take root all over the world.
Today, ask yourself whether your life has been fruitful.
What or who has helped you produce fruit in your life?