Since deciding in the summer of 2020 to become an Italian pizza master, I am in constant need of fresh basil since every pizza I make requires at least three or four fresh basil leaves. Instead of buying a package of basil every week, I maintain three basil plants at home. From taking care of them, I learned a lesson on how God treats us.
Walmart sells little plastic pots of basil for about the same price as a bunch. Rationally, I bought the pots so they can provide me a continual supply of basil at no extra cost for the rest of my life, but basil is a finicky plant. It hates to get its leaves too wet but at the same time needs a lot of water. The result is that I must check on my basil plants every day as if they were babies. I prune them regularly so dead or malformed leaves do not weigh the whole plant down. I lift up the pots often, rotating and examining them, measuring out water based on need. Where do the basil leaves put all that water that I give? I wonder.
When I bought the three plants, they were roughly equal in leaf density, but once in my care, one of the plants started to greatly lag behind the other two. Half of its stems died and the remaining ones produced tiny leaves that I couldn’t use in my pizzas. The plant had become worthless.
As it was winter, sunlight into the house was limited. One spot by the window received the most amount of light. A second spot received slightly less and a third spot received the least. I put the struggling plant in the prime spot to get all the light. The other two plants, which were producing far more leaves, were placed in the spots that received less light. I wanted to give the lagging plant a chance to grow like the others.
The lagging plant refused to grow. The leaves remained small. The other two plants, I noticed, also stopped growing. The result of giving the slow plant favored treatment was that the two strongest plants began to starve. I could not tolerate this state of affairs. I moved the lagging plant to the back and allowed it to receive the least amount of light. I put the strongest plant in the prime spot. Its leaf density nearly doubled in only a week, giving me a bountiful crop for my pizzas. I had given the lagging plant a chance to produce, but it did not, and so it has remained an unproductive plant.
Now as they heard these things, [Jesus] spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’
“And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’
“Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’
“And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’ ” —Luke 19:11-27
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 7:19
I did sympathize with the lagging plant, and gave it a chance underneath the full brightness of the sun, but it refused to grow while the other plants meekly begged for more sun to show me their full glory. As a pizzaiolo, I require basil leaves on schedule and without compromise, and so the basil that did not produce must be given much less even though I strongly desire it to give me a rich bounty. The strongest plant will get the prime spot of sun, and the middle plant, which I neither despise nor love, will get just enough to avoid the trash heap.
I can’t help but wonder if God treats us in a similar way. He gives many chances for us to reach our full glory that comes only when we repent and commune with him, but how many people do you know, despite receiving many gifts, choose not to grow? We spiritually lag, and forsake the grace that he gives us to pursue the rewards of Satan while God’s faithful children prosper with fewer gifts by choosing to work with God. God moves the wicked servant to the back of the line and brings his bountiful servants forward for a full complement of grace, and those servants grow to amazing heights while their doomed peers are thrown into the fire.
Which plant am I? Am I the lagging plant that will be condemned, the middle plant that does just enough to get into Heaven, or the bountiful plant that pleases God the most with my spiritual production? I have been the lagging plant for many decades of my life and am deserving of not one further drop of water or ray of sun based on how I so ignorantly and persistently rebuked God, but God’s mercy is great, and I was not thrown into the fire. Today I serve God as the plant in the middle, and hope that I can grow higher to approach a morsel of the greatness of the saints that have come before me and given God such a bountiful crop.
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