Sunday, November 2, 2008

Have you been planted in good or bad ground?

In Jacob 5 we are given the Allegory of the Olive Tree from Zenos. There are a few interesting verses that I’ve noticed:
21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.
22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.
23 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Look hither; behold I have planted another branch of the tree also; and thou knowest that this spot of ground was poorer than the first. But, behold the tree. I have nourished it this long time, and it hath brought forth much fruit; therefore, gather it, and lay it up against the season, that I may preserve it unto mine own self. (Jacob 5:21-23)
This scripture seems to say that one of the things that contributes to our spiritual growth as individuals is the environment that we grow up in.

I was blessed with a pretty good environment. I feel that I was in a very loving family. Yet it wasn’t perfect. Public school was very challenging for me. Though I didn’t yet know exactly how to draw strength from the Lord, I knew enough to get some support from my family and I knew enough to look for good friends that would help me choose the right. I learned to draw strength from seminary too. Gradually I learned that strength comes from God.

There are many people that grow up in very challenging environments, suffering abuse where there should be love. It is hard to imagine how anyone good could come out of a bad environment.

In the scripture above, the servant of the vineyard asks the Lord of the vineyard why he decided to plant trees where the ground was bad. The Lord replies that He knew the ground was bad and that He worked hard on it to compensate. “I have nourished it this long time”. The Lord did two things; He amended the ground to make it better, but He also amended it over and over and over again for “this long time”.

This teaches me that people who have been in bad environments need to be nourished again and again and again in order to rise above it to the point that they can do good works. It teaches me that the harder it gets to do what is right, the more nourishing church must become and the more strong and loving families must become, and the more the Lord will need to help.

This teaches me that even though we may find ourselves in a very hostile place, the Lord will find ways to nourish us again and again and again and again. We have to search for good activities and good entertainment that increases our strength to do good. When we take our strength from the Lord, we will not just do a little bit of good, we will bring forth MUCH fruit.
25 And he said unto the servant: Look hither and behold the last. Behold, this have I planted in a good spot of ground; and I have nourished it this long time, and only a part of the tree hath brought forth tame fruit, and the other part of the tree hath brought forth wild fruit; behold, I have nourished this tree like unto the others.
26 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Pluck off the branches that have not brought forth good fruit, and cast them into the fire.
27 But behold, the servant said unto him: Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer, that perhaps it may bring forth good fruit unto thee, that thou canst lay it up against the season. (Jacob 5:25-27)
I think it is interesting in these verses that the tree that was planted in a good spot of ground received nourishment and soil amendments too. It almost seems like it is too much and not quite fair. But maybe the lesson is that the Lord doesn’t take it for granted that a good environment will give all the needed nourishment. Even the best environments may neglect to teach certain important principles, because they are so fundamental they seem already understood.

That the tree has part of it that gives good fruit and part that gives wild, bad fruit seems to teach us that we have some choice in how we make use of the nourishment we receive. We may ignore it, or we may use it. But the danger of have such great nourishment in such a great environment is that there is no longer any excuse for bad fruit. The Lord is justified in cutting us off if we don’t yield good fruit. Fortunately, the Lord is easily persuaded to be merciful and try the less extreme measures before He has to use the most extreme measures. He will try chastising us (pruning) and try to nourish us a little longer to see if we change for the better.