The Parable of the Little Gardeners

The kids just wouldn’t eat the vegetables on their plates. They complained, lost their tempers, and, if possible, fed the green beans, squash, and corn to the dog. 

The parents tried not to push too hard, not wanting to ruin every meal. So, they decided only to cook vegetables once a week. So, their kids ate hamburgers, fries, and fruit snacks. 

But, once a week, they tried to appease their parents by eating a few of the green beans on their plates. 

The parents were pleased when their kids were “full.”

One day, those parents met their new neighbors and had the family over for dinner. The neighbor’s kids sat down to eat, and the first thing their children consumed were the vegetables on their plates. 

Shocked, the parents asked, “How did you get your kids to eat vegetables? Ours hardly touch theirs.” 

The new neighbors smiled. “Come to our house next week and we’ll show you.” 

The next week, they visited their neighbor’s home—and it was a great evening. 

All of the kids disappeared into the backyard where a huge garden was growing. The neighbors’ kids walked down the rows of their garden, pointing out the flowers that would one day grow into a squash or cucumber. They pointed to the tomatoes that were almost ready to eat. They hunted for the green beans that were just the right size. Then they peeked through the tassels on the stalks to see the corn cobs below. 

That night, when both families sat down to eat, everyone ate their vegetables. 

Those parents went home and planted a garden of their own. 

Each day, their kids were able to watch it grow and help water the plants. Flowers became the food that was consumed by kids who were hungry to eat and who appreciated the great worth of the vegetables on their plates. 

Healthy faith, healthy life

The story above isn’t intended to be a lesson about healthy eating. It’s a parable about a healthy faith. 

We nurture our kids’ bodies, insisting they eat vegetables each day. We want our kids to be strong and grow. We need to nurture our kids’ souls in the same way.

If we try to give them spiritual lessons each day, they might complain, lose their tempers, and, if possible, throw those words to the dog. They would rather fill their hearts and minds with other things that seem a lot more appealing. We don’t want to push religion too hard, so we settle for once a week, pleased when they get a little exposure to God. 

After all, the Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Healthy choices for their souls

Our kids will never be physically healthy if the only reason they eat a vegetable is to please us once a week. 

They aren’t healthy until they walk the aisles of the buffet and choose to put vegetables on their plates—for their own sakes.

Spiritual health matters

Your child isn’t spiritually healthy until they choose to consume God’s word for themselves. 

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus chose the words hunger and thirst for a reason. 

We aren’t hungry and thirsty once a week. Righteousness means “right with God.” Blessed is the person who wants to be right with God every day, all day. 

Your kids will be blessed when they want the Lord that way. Why? Because they will choose to fill their plates with his word rather than consuming the junk food the world offers. 

Jesus also said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). 

Raise your kids to be “little gardeners.” Help them walk through the verses of Scripture and then together you will watch the flowers turn into food. It will be a joy when you watch them teach their neighbors about the garden one day, and everyone eats from your table. 

Your child’s spiritual health is actually more important than their physical health. 

Take just as much care with what you see their hearts and minds consume as with what you see them consume physically. Nurture their souls too.

How do you nurture their souls?

Teach them to enjoy God’s word and take it into their lives. Start by reading, or having them read, the story above. Let them tell you what that story means spiritually. They might surprise you by what they are able to consume. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” 

Teach them to see God’s word as “food” for their souls, their characters, and their relationships. Spend time in God’s word together, just like you spend time eating together. Show them you need God’s word every day and they will learn they need it as well.

Teach them to need God. When God’s word is at work in their lives, they will grow to see it as a necessity. When you have taught them to “hunger and thirst” for a right relationship with God, you have taught them how to be blessed.

An old saying, with new meaning

Everyone has heard “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” That saying is passed from one generation to the next because it makes a good point. 

So, how do you get your kids to eat an apple every day?

To begin with, you serve it. 

Later, you will smile when they grab one from the fridge for themselves. 

It’s decision time. 

What will you put on your kids’ plates today?