In social media and internet interactions, many individuals relentlessly criticize and attack others without considering their behavior. These cyberbullies and trolls often lack self-awareness and empathy while being overly judgmental of others. The same was true in Jesus' day; while there was no social media, there was plenty of complacent trolling.
Like when some onlookers (seeking to justify themselves) questioned Jesus about the terrible manner in which some people had recently met their death. In Luke’s eyewitness account, Jesus responds to those culturally blinded to the urgent response God seeks. Luke writes,
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”(NIV, Lk 13:1–9)
People believed that a group of Galileans were greater sinners because of the terrible way they died. This faulty perspective was common in Jewish culture during the first century, with the same logic applied to people with birth defects.
For example, when Jesus restored a blind man’s sight, as recorded in John 9, his disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v.1) In this instance, Jesus explained that that man was born that way so that “the works of God might be displayed in him.”
In today's text, Jesus rejected the cultural norm saying, "No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (v.5) and explains that if their logic were true, the same could be said of those who died in a terrible accident when the tower in Siloam fell.
In other words, Jesus says that how a person dies, no matter how diabolically, does not necessarily speak to their standing before God. This is because all of mankind is under sin’s curse, inheriting our impulse to rebel against God from Adam. The apostle Paul explains,
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” (NIV, Ro 5:12)
Jesus confirms that we are all sinners needing repentance. And, we do ourselves no favors by evaluating our standing with God by those we consider worse sinners.
To address this faulty point of view, Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree that hasn't produced fruit for three years, which the vineyard owner wants to cut down. But the caretaker asks for a one-year reprieve for some direct care and fertilization.
The fig tree was made to produce fruit, but when it doesn’t, it siphons nutrients and depletes the potential fruit-making from the other trees.
We, too, were made to bear fruit but of the spiritual kind.
Jesus says that instead of judging yourself by how others live or die, examine your life by the measure of spiritual fruit produced, beginning with the first fruit of repentance. Otherwise, your example of Jesus following could diminish the fruit that others seek to make.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for answering life's big questions and guiding us into your perfect will. Thank you for your patience with me and all of the ways that I’ve rebelled against your perfect will. Teach me how to accurately assess my fruit-bearing according to your standards and not my culture. Empower me to acknowledge ways that I’ve fallen short and to repent so that your fruit can manifest itself through me without getting bruised.
Questions for Application:
1. What questions do you have for Jesus?
2. Are there ways that you feel good about yourself when judging others?
3. How is the Holy Spirit revealing ways to bear spiritual fruit to those around you?
4. Have you considered repenting of sin and trusting Jesus to reconcile you with the Father?