Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Parable of the Rice Paddy

The parable of the vineyard, found in Jacob 5, is one of my favorite sections of scripture. But now, after reading Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, I have an added appreciation for the Zenos's parable.

According to Gladwell, rice paddies are a unique phenomenon in that the output of a given plot of land is directly related to the time that a farmer spends working the land. For most crops, this is not the case--once the weeds are gone, it doesn't matter if you continue to hoe your rows of beans; if you don't believe me, just ask Thoreau, who was more than happy to walk away from his beans when the necessary work had been done and who still reaped a bumper crop. For rice paddies, however, additional work leads to additional rice. This is because the plots of land that rice grows on must be perfectly level--the water with which the farmer floods the field must rise to a uniform height on each plant or else the yield decreases. Since no field is perfectly flat, there is always additional work that can be done which will allow each individual rice plant to flourish.

Jacob's vineyard, however, is no rice paddy. Recall that "the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?" when he discovered bad fruit on his trees even after he had dug and dunged and pruned (Jacob 5:41). In the Lord's vineyard, the work of his servants is not directly correlated with the fruit that his trees produce. This should be comforting on two levels. First, when we are acting as his servants, we should recognize that bad fruit happens, even when there is nothing more we could have done for the vineyard. This shouldn't be an excuse for laziness, but it should provide comfort to those who have worn themselves out in the Lord's service without the comfort of seeing good fruit come from their labor. Second, inasmuch as we are the trees of his vineyard, we can take comfort in the knowledge that our salvation doesn't depend on our own ability to make the rice paddy perfectly level, metaphorically speaking. The Lord doesn't require a perfect effort from us, and yet he rewards us with the perfect fruit of his love.

Not that Jacob or Zenos had ever even seen rice before...but aren't you glad that Jacob 5 isn't the parable of the rice paddy?


Jo Jo said...

As always a very thoughtful, provoking commentary. Sorry I couldn't chat on Friday. Some days are like that.

Jenny said...

You're funny. I'm sure that question would never have entered my brain on its own... :)
I will appreciate rice with a new level of appreciation now.
Thanks, Z.

Becky said...

good stuff. i had no idea about the rice paddy. thanks for enlightening me Z, and YES! i'm glad that jacob 5 isn't the parable of the rice paddy. :)