Why should It Use Up the Ground?

The Hook

Some of Jesus’ parables are frightening.

The Book

His parable in Luke 13:6-9 certainly is. The owner of a vineyard was seeking fruit from his fig tree, but when he came to it he found none. He told the Gardener, “Three years I have sought fruit from this tree, and still I find none. Chop it down! Why should it use up the ground? The Gardener says, “Let it remain for a year, and I will dig deep and put in fertilizer. If it grows fruit then it is good; if not, then chop it down.” ~Luke 13:6-9. This parable Jesus told is alarming when you realize the tree is given to mean you.

The Look

The Vineyard owner does not merely like trees for decoration. He wants fruit, sustenance, profit, continuation. He does not want the earth gone to waste. Indeed the word in Greek for “use up the ground” gives the idea of taking all its usefulness so that it is wasted and useless afterwards: like a soiled tissue, or a an empty pizza box. Another important thing about the phrase “use up the ground” is that the ground is the word for Earth. In Hebrew and Greek the word for earth, ground, and dirt art synonymous. A possible rendering of Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew is “In the beginning, God created the [ground] and the [sky].” It is much less a rendering of a material planet here and now and an immaterial place somewhere far away where God’s throne is, as it is talking about the concrete and immaterial reality that makes up life today around the world. In the Old Testament this idea of Heaven and Earth is vital to understanding the whole story, and God’s plan for a new Heaven and Earth in both Testaments.

The Took

Jesus gives a a story about what life is worth and what is worth ending life for the sake of life. The Gardener and the Vineyard owner in this paragraph demonstrate the Justice and the Forbearance of God.

JUSTICE: says “This tree belongs to me and it is not doing what it is meant to do. It must be removed and extinguished because it is using up the good and making it bad!”

FORBEARANCE: says “This tree is worth investing in and waiting a little bit longer to see if it is fruitful, so that this good thing may produce more good. If however, after further investment and patience it does not improve, then we will know for sure that the problem is with the tree itself, not the soil or the owner. So then it will be right for it to be removed.

“Behold the Kindness and Severity of God.” ~Romans 11:22. God is true, and requires a good accounting; He is also loving and gives all he can. In the end, all glory goes to His name, and all creation be filled with the glory of His goodness.

Application:

  1. That being said, I believe this parable is meant to draw our attention to the earth, the tangible concrete reality in which we live. “Why does it use up the ground?” is another way of asking, “Why does this even exist?” God has poured out his blessing on Humanity, and made a good world, and has charged mankind with the task of making making it good extremely! (See Genesis 1:28-31). This is part of what has been called the cultural mandate given to humanity. All humans are called to continue the growth of God’s good world.
  2. Specifically for Christians, God has called us to be the salt of the earth to preserve it. We are to take the good and make more good of it in concrete tangible ways. As the Holy Spirit guides us, He breathes life into all the the dead and dying things and from them creates new things through which His life can nourish others. Believers must learn to be led by the Holy Spirit so they can be a part of this preservation of Life.
  3. Specifically for Christians, God has in mind for us to invest and make good those things which will last unto eternity. This does not negate the need to accomplish physical restoration and healing of our concrete tangible reality. Jesus after all did not only preach about the life to come, nor value purely the souls of humankind, but also their physical needs he met and their infirmities he restored. All this he did with a view to the praise of His Father who expects a good harvest of Earth and Heaven before he makes all things new. So then, believers must not work for temporary ends of the kingdoms of men, but rather for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ which is filling the whole earth, starting in the hearts of men, and flowing out from them in all that they touch.
  4. For all Humanity, we must learn to fear the God who made us, planted us, owns us, and seeks results from us. He is forbearing and kind, and He is also exact and just. His patience will come to an end, and He will act for the good of His beloved people and creation, and the sake of His name, so that all the world may give praise to the Lord, “for He is good, and his Love endures forever.”

God’s Servant, It’s Time to Love God F.O.L.K.S.

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

So how shall God’s servant represent His God? It is in this Acronym. It is first by Fearing Him, Obeying Him, Loving Him, Knowing Him, and Seeking Him.

Love
Obey          Know
Fear                               Seek

In brief, this is what each word entails as you go up the mountain to the pinacle: Love.

 Fear— Depart from Evil (Prov. 16:6)
        Obey— Do Good (Ps 34:14)
                 Love–With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Deut. 6:5)
        Know–Intimately share (Phil 3:10)
Seek–Turn toward, look to learn (Jer. 29:13)

Starting with the bottom of the mountain:

  • Fearing God means you recognize Him as Holy, Just, and Powerful. He is good, and that is a terrible thing for us, because we are not good. We fall so terribly short and lack so severely the glory of His Image with which we were first endowed, that we deserve nothing at all but the tormenting fires of hell, reserved for everything the bears the Evil One’s resemblance: corruption, weakness, selfishness, and sloth. Therefore, depart from evil, which receives from God the just recompense on anything unworthy and oppressive to what is good.
  • Obeying God means serving Him as your Ruler, your master, your Captain, your boss. In obeying him, you recognize your responsibility of being His image bearer on earth. He is the one you represent, therefore do as He does! He is the Sovereign lord of creation, and he has made you sovereign lord over the earth as His representative, so serve as He serves, work the ground to bring forth life the way He does. Do good to your neighbor as He does. Outwardly and temporally and definitely show the world who God is by doing the good that he commands you to do.

From the other direction:

  • Seeking God is more than just looking for Him. It is trying to find him. Seeking recognizes that God is infinite and you are finite, and so you are like a cup constantly dipping into the ocean of His eternity, but simply for the reason you want to Know Him. Seeking the Lord means turning your face upward to behold him, it means looking for Him trusting that He will reward the one who diligently seeks him. (Heb. 11:6)
  •  Knowing God means intimately sharing with God all that you are, and allowing Him to share all that He is with you. It recognizes that you are related with Him, and He wishes you to know Him, just as you wish to be known. (1 Cor 13:12) To know Him, is to be familiar with Him in relationship as a friend, as a confidant like the disciples were to Jesus while He walked among us on the earth.

At last the Summit:

  • Loving God is the final goal: It means to live for Him, where He is your everything, and everything in your inner and outer life is completely devoted to Him. Love means, you wouldn’t do anything that would be against Him. Love means that everything you do is for Him. Love means you are actively engaged in seeking Him out and pursuing Him. Love means you treasure the intimacy He shares with you with a tender and faithful heart.

All five of these dimensions are indispensable to fully representing God.
Fear acknowledges, “I am sinful.”
Obey acknowledges, “I am purposed to do good.”
Love acknowledges all these things and says, “I am Yours, You are my God.”
Know acknowledges, “I am related with Him.”
Seek acknowledges, “I am finite.”

You cannot say you love God without fearing and obeying Him. You cannot say you love God without seeking Him and knowing Him. Most of us will rise up the slope to the summit of love from one direction, but without the Moral and the Relational, without the Internal and the External, without the mind and the heart, without the soul and the strength, our love will be only one-dimensional or two-dimensional. Never will we represent our God fully as His Image bearer on earth as Jesus did.

My call is to you–you who wish to be one of God’s servants as described in Isaiah 42. Grow in the fear of the Lord, and seek Him while He may be found. Obey Him to share His work, and know Him to share His heart. Above all let it be love which crowns you with the seal of His image.