Three Years and Still no Fruit

And [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'” [Luke 13:6-9 ESV]

© Grant Cochrane |

In this parable, Jesus is showing us there’s a reasonable time to wait for fruit, and there are things we can do to encourage fruit. However, when those actions have been taken and there is still no fruit, the tree is useless.

I think this passage has a warning for anyone who is not being the kind of spouse they should be. A reasonable husband or wife will put up with things for a time. They’ll make a plea for a change and give a little more time. If there’s no change after this, they give up. 

I’m not talking here about the rightness or wrongness of giving up, but rather the inevitability of it. What “give up” looks like will vary from couple to couple, but at best it is the silent death of the marriage that should have been. The marriage will likely continue for a time, maybe for life, but it will be a hollow shell of what is could be.

Has your wife given you “one more year”? If so, are you digging and fertilising? 

Have you given your wife one more year? If so, were you very clear she’s about out of time? 

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7 Comments on “Three Years and Still no Fruit

  1. Yes, exactly. Those who have never done all they know to do, with no change in their spouse or loved one, will never know the self-doubt and guilt that accompany this kind of ‘failure’. Nor will they know the freedom that ‘giving up’ can bring, for having gone through the process of hoping for change.
    It is, of course, better to never have to deal with such things in your relationships
     So, for those humans who are wise enough to know how to avoid inviting toxic human beings into their lives, I will say that you are blessed and that you should be understanding and go easy on those who are not as wise as yourself. After all, anyone with wisdom should know how to learn a thing or two from another’s mistakes.

  2. Paul, I was wondering if you could give some guidance about how to be clear to your wife that she is about out of time in a respectful way but also being stern that you are serious and if it continues you are on the verge of giving up. I know that it is topic dependent but some general guidelines can be useful. 

  3. Oh such a hard topic!  How long to continue to extend grace, patience and forgiveness…  and how to give appropriate “ultimatums” in a God-honoring way.
    Paul, would you please discuss the sovereignty of God in the process of sanctification and how it fits into all of this, as well as our quenching of the Spirit, our hard-heartedness, etc.  Also Paul’s description of the battle with sin as talked about in Romans 7:15-25, especially v. 19 “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”  And, as it says in Eph. 6:12, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
    Thanks – always appreciate your insight!

  4. cej My take on this is that God gives us freewill, and we can do stupid things that hurt us and others. 
    I like the explanation of our lives being “scripted improve” – meaning that we have freewill, but God’s will for the world as a whole will always happen no matter what individuals do. Yes there is a bit of a conflict in that, and no, I cannot explain it.
    The Roman’s passage is certainly one I feel in my own life at times. I hate certain things that I still think and do. I desire to be rid of them, but it is an ongoing struggle. I think we lose when we stop fighting, and the “evil” overwhelms us.

  5. tjchuck I think anything of this nature is best done in writing, as it allows for clarity and keeps the discussion from being sidetracked.
    I would talk about your and your choices, which will be reactions to your wife’s actions or lack of actions. “If you choose to _____, I will _____.”
    A great follow up to this would be to have the discussion with a third party.
    You have my prayers!

  6. Eleutheros Amen! I hear from those who did not do all they could, and then wonder after they give up if they could have done more. Those who give all they have do not deal with such doubts. I think “hoping against hope” is often more for the one who will ultimately have to give up.

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