The parable is given in Luke 13:1-9 in connection with the call to repentance, inspired by recent misfortunes which should cause the nation of Israel to think, else destruction awaits them.
The parable speaks of a fig-tree, planted in a vineyard. After a lapse of time which would allow the tree to grow to the bearing stage, the owner comes three years in succession, but finds no fruit. Disappointed by continual failure which leaves no hope for the future, the owner orders the tree cut down, but at the request of the vine dresser he consents to try again and to spare the tree for another year. The vine dresser hopes that additional care may help the tree to bear fruit.
The application of the parable to the case of Israel is sufficiently clear to need no further explanation. Like the fig-tree Israel receives special care from God; the mission of Christ is the last of those proofs of the Divine love for the nation, and if the people fail to respond and to heed the call, they are doomed to destruction.
There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Silo’am fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
And he 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, ‘Lo, these three years 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, ‘Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”