A modern American parable
A little boy went to a parade and heard a band for the first time. He liked the horns—the trumpets, the trombones, the baritones, and the tubas. Especially the tubas.
That summer, his grandpa took him to the park where a band played as part of the celebration of Independence Day. When the band played Sousa’s, The Stars and Stripes Forever, the little boy decided he would one day play the tuba in a band.
His grandpa owned an orchard. They had apples, peaches, and cherries. He loved to eat the fruit when it ripened. As he grew older, he learned to drive the tractor, pulling the wagon for the hired helpers to load the fruit. He decided, when he grew up he would like to be a fruit farmer.
Even though he lived in the city, the boy loved the oom-pah of the tuba, and the juicy fruit from his grandpa’s orchard was delicious. After a long day of taking fruit to the roadside stand to be sold, the little boy put some of the left-over fruit in a large, wooden bowl his grandma kept in the house. He planned for the day he would have his own bowl and thought about nothing but filling it with the biggest, sweetest apples, peaches, and cherries. He thought he would always keep it full, so he would never want for fresh fruit.
Many years later, after playing his tuba in the band, thrilling the crowd with a rendition of The Stars and Stripes Forever in the 4th of July concert, the boy—now a man—laid down on the blanket to watch the fireworks display with his wife and their three children. They had a beautiful picnic spread, complete with a bowl of fresh fruit from his growing orchard business. Life was perfect.
His little boy had a small twig in his hand. The father asked him where he got it, and the child answered, “I broke it off the apple tree at home. I’m going to wait for the fruit to grow and ripen, and then I can start my own orchard.”
His father smiled and told him they would need to plant it later. They put the twig in water in the bowl after they had emptied it, sharing the fruit with those around them.
Many months went by. Winter snows drifted across the fields, and when spring arrived, all the trees pushed out their blossoms and then their leaves, and, finally, that summer they had a bumper crop.
It was then that the small boy came crying to his daddy. “Daddy, we never planted my tree, and I don’t have any fruit. Here is the twig we were going to plant, and when I picked it up it broke into all these pieces.” He was very sad.
“I’m very sorry, son,” he explained, “but there is no way this will ever bear fruit. It did not stay in the tree, and we didn’t plant it to grow roots of its own. All we can do is throw it in the fire.”
His little boy was inconsolable, but the twig was dead, and his treasured bowl was empty. There was no fruit to be had from the dead twig.
Now his father was a man of faith, so he told his boy that he could not make fruit grow on a dead twig. His little boy had told everyone his daddy could do anything. People loved to hear him play the tuba, especially in The Stars and Stripes Forever. The man had become proud of his ability, and he had come to think he was pretty special. He grew the most beautiful fruit that could be found, he had a lovely wife, and remarkable children, but he forgot that it was all a gift from God.
Recognizing his failure, and the disappointment of his little boy, he knelt down to look into the boy’s face, eye to eye. He said, “Son, I’ve been busy blowing my own horn, when I should have been using every breath in my body to give thanks to God for his blessings. I forgot about planting that twig, even though I knew that unless it was carefully placed in good soil and grew roots of its own, it would never give you any fruit. Now your bowl is empty. I should have emptied it last summer when we took it home. If I had, we might have fruit from your little tree. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
The little boy wrapped his little arms around his daddy’s neck, hugged him real tight, and said, “We can take a different twig, and we’ll grow that fruit another year. Let’s make sure we empty the bowl when we break a twig off the tree.”
The Psalmist said, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” The sound of the trumpet, the harp, the lyre, the tambourine, strings, flute, cymbals, the voice, and, yes, the tuba should be to praise the Lord, not ourselves. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches . . . remain in me and you will bear much fruit.” When we become proud and forget that our life comes from God and His Son, Jesus Christ who is the vine, we cannot produce fruit on our own. As branches, we must remain in the vine. Much fruit comes through us, but we are the conduit, the means through which the Holy Spirit can produce His fruit in us, namely, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Toot your own horn to praise the Lord. Remain in the Vine and bear much fruit, and your bowl will be filled with much good fruit, indeed. —By Larry Weber, pastor, Grace Brethren Church, Waynesboro, Pa.