A father desired to give his four young children a gift. He called them all together and gave each child a small Lego set. To his first child he gave a Lego boat set. To the second he gave a Lego car set. To the third he gave a Lego plane set. And to the fourth he gave a Lego truck set. They all enthusiastically ripped open their boxes and set to work.
The first child dropped the set of directions for his boat and instead picked up the instructions for the car. He looked in vain for the pieces in his pile that would match those in the instructions for the car, but soon gave up in frustration having built nothing.
The second child, in her pride, tossed aside her car instructions. She knew what cars looked like. She didn’t need the instructions. She set to work immediately, but after putting the wheels together, couldn’t think of how all the scattered pieces could fit together properly. She tried for a number of minutes then left the pieces on the floor in disgust.
The third child happily poured out her Legos and set to work on building her airplane. Since the set was small, and the pieces were few, she felt confident that she could build her airplane using only the picture on the box. She worked for over an hour. At times she felt she was nearly finished, only to discover a critical piece was missing. Finally she stopped. It was close enough. But there were still a scattering of pieces on the floor, whose purpose was a mystery. She began to play with her new toy but soon gave it up and wandered out of the room, leaving the airplane behind. Those mystery pieces left her feeling unsatisfied with her work.
The fourth child was as excited as all the others. He tore open his box, poured the pieces on the floor, carefully unfolded the instructions and diligently set to work. In no time at all, the truck was complete. It looked just like the picture on the box. He then picked up his new toy and in his joy ran off to find his siblings.
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
– Ephesians 2:8-10
In Jesus, we have been given a wonderful gift. A gift of grace, and mercy and love. That gift was freely given. Like the children in the parable of the Legos, that gift is given not as a reward for good behavior, or hard work, or even because we thought to ask for it. The Father simply desired to give his beloved children a gift and did so.
The first child is the one who receives this gift but doesn’t understand it. And because it is not understood, the joy of the gift is taken from him. The second child is the one who receives the gift, but in her pride believes that she can decide for herself what this gift will be. In the end she walks away from the gift in disgust, never knowing fully what she had been given. The third child is the one who receives the gift with joy, but having only the image and not the step-by-step instructions for the gift endures for a little while, but then abandons it because it didn’t bring the contentment she had imagined. The fourth child is the one who receives the gift and fully understands what he has received. He completes his Lego truck and in his joy, goes out and searches for his lost siblings that they might join him and return to the gift their Father gave them.
***I am indebted to my wife for the idea behind this story. The parable is based loosely on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower in Matthew chapter 13.***
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”