Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Barren Fig Tree

Photo courtesy of LDS Media Library
An old gardener named Thomas tended a vineyard in Japha. He had wrinkly fingers and dirt-encrusted knuckles and kind, but firm, eyes. He has worked all his life for a great master who has a wide and sweeping vineyard. He had dedicated the past twenty years of his life to caring for the vineyard with his son, Peter.

While the son was young he would follow his father all the day and learn how to tend the fig trees. Thomas taught Peter how to prune and tend the trees so that the soil was lively and the tree could bring forth new buds. But most importantly, Thomas taught Peter, that the trees needed love.

Peter was assigned to care for one fig tree. But, he would often forget to dig about the tree, and he hated dunging it. The pruners were too big for him to cut the tree correctly. But Peter always sat with his tree. Many afternoons, after attempting to care for the tree, he would fall asleep under its leaves and dream of great things. He would tell his father about these dreams and endure his scolding for loving too much and caring too little.

Years passed and soon Peter became interested in “so-called” prophets. To Thomas’s frustration, he could not speak sense into Peter, and when Peter turned 21 he followed after an Essene named John the Baptist, and Thomas was left alone to make his rounds in angry loneliness.

The gardener did his best with the vineyard, but he was now old, and he had to cycle through which parts of the vineyard he could visit week by week. Most of the garden did quite well under this system, but Peter’s fig tree waned no matter what Thomas did. Whenever Thomas saw that fig tree it reminded him of the lost sunny days when Peter would follow him, and they would talk of life and trees. Soon Thomas avoided the tree completely.

Three years after Peter had left, Thomas was surprised by a visit from his master. The master stood by the barren fig tree. Thomas thought, “Of all the trees in this beautiful garden, my master has to notice this barren tree for which I can do nothing.” Nervously, Thomas approached his master and the tree and wondered if the tree would have become barren if Peter had stayed.

The master looked up at Thomas with a sad smile and said, “This morning I wanted to taste the fruits of my garden to calm my troubled heart and noticed this tree is still barren. On many mornings such as this, I have come walking and have noted that all these trees produce well except this one tree. It takes up needed space, in an otherwise plentiful vineyard. It is time to cut the tree down, Thomas.”

As the master turned to walk away, Thomas found himself saying, “Wait. Let me care for it one more year. I will dig it, dung it, and prune it, and we will see if it can bring joy to the vineyard once more.”
“You have one year.” And the master walked away.
Later that year, the news went abroad that a new religious leader has risen up and that John the Baptist had been beheaded. But Thomas remained in his vineyard, pruning, digging about, dunging, and loving the tree, hoping.


  1. Wow I loved this. Such a simple yet beautiful telling of this story. Your description and imagery were wonderful and your ending provides an interesting view of hope. I love how you described the relationship between Thomas and Peter as a pretty typical relationship between father and son. I am interested to know if Thomas gets what he is hoping for!

  2. I loved the tone of this story. It was so gentle and flowing, almost reminding me of a story in a picture book. Great portrayal of a beautiful story!