Following closely on the heels of the previous similitude, this parable looks at trees in the spring or summer. Now the trees that are budding are clearly distinct from the trees that remain whithered and dead. Simply put, “those which are budding are the righteous who are to live in the world to come; for the coming world is the summer of the righteous, but the winter of sinners. When, therefore, the mercy of the Lord shines forth, then shall they be made manifest who are the servants of God, and all men shall be made manifest.”
There are plenty of examples in Scripture of what it means to be ‘fruitful,’ as well as warning that those who prove unfruitful will be burned in fire. So the content and style and warning of this parable is right on par with Jesus’ teachings. What makes this distinct from many of its related biblical versions is that it is followed with a brief exhortation on how to start going about being fruitful: “refrain from much business.” This isn’t so much an economic statement as it is a time management statement: don’t be too busy!
… for they who are occupied with much business commit also many sins, being distracted about their affairs, and not at all serving their Lord. How, then, can such a one ask and obtain anything from the Lord, if he serve Him not? They who serve Him shall obtain their requests, but they who serve Him not shall receive nothing.
This hearkens back to some of the commandments which put forth that living simply was better than pursuing needless luxuries, as well as the importance of praying faithfully and expectantly. If we’re distracted by too much wealth or work or worry, then our trust (and resultantly, our faith) in God will wane. So we need to exercise very intentional time management, making certain that we give ourselves to the work of prayer sufficiently often to engender a fruitful relationship with God. If that means cutting back on our schedules or belongings, so be it; we’ve got treasures to store up in heaven!