“Do you think that the suffering of these Galileans proves that they were more sinful than all the other Galileans?” Luke 13:2 (CEB)
How often have we asked, “What did I do to deserve this?” When we are struck by illness or a loss that leaves us shaking; when we are laid off or feel as if the weight of the world lands on our shoulders, do we ask that question?
It’s so easy to believe in the cause and effect of our actions, and there are many times when our own behaviors bring on consequences. Yet, catastrophic events or life-changing events are often not of our own doing. Somehow, though, we interject our own unworthiness or sinfulness into the mix thinking we might have done something to deserve whatever it is that has befallen us.
In Luke 13, Jesus continues his journey toward Jerusalem, and as he travels, he teaches people about God and how God interacts with us as human beings – as children of God. Pontius Pilate had murdered some Galileans in cold blood, and the people were questioning why this had happened. That’s when Jesus answered with “Did you think they did something to deserve this?”
He went on to say that there was a tower that fell on eighteen people and asked, “Did you think THEY deserved it?” The underlying implication is that we can’t explain why such things happen, and apparently they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, he warns them that they must repent, change their hearts and lives so that they honor God in their living.
The parable of the fruitless fig tree follows this teaching, and although we may think they are unrelated, the story builds on what Jesus had just told them. Most fig trees don’t produce fruit for a few years after they have been planted, so the vineyard owner may have felt that this particular tree had been given enough time. Thanks to the gardener, the tree was given a reprieve, and the gardener promised to nurture it along to see if it would produce within the year.
If we think of God as the gardener, we have a better sense of the second chances we are offered by the grace of God all the time. The parable doesn’t say if the tree would continue to have second, third, fourth, and more chances, but the implication could be that God does, indeed, invite us to turn our hearts and minds toward God over and over again.
So, the next time we are tempted to say, “What did I do to deserve this?” we might want to turn that question around to say, “How will I find God in the midst of this to help me get through it.” Just a thought!
How have you found God in the midst of trials and difficult situations?
In what ways do you “dry up” and need nurturing to repent and turn your life back to God?
How does the parable of the fig tree give you hope in God’s grace?