“Who will help me plant my seeds?” asked the Little Red Hen.
“Not I,” said the dog.
“Not I,” said the cat.
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Then, I will plant them myself,” said the Little Red Hen, and she did.
This tale about a chicken’s long bread-making process is a story most of us are familiar with, and apparently (based on a quick Google search), people have had different theological responses to this fable. Some consider it in line with a biblical warning against idleness—You don’t work, you don’t eat. Others condone that Little Red Hen as a Pharisee who doesn’t understand the undeserved grace of God. And others approach it more with the caution of nuance, addressing it in light of all of Scripture.
But my personal experience with the version my mama read me as a child, the one written by Beverly Capps Burgess, has shaped and perhaps overshadowed my reaction to the traditional version. In her version, the Little Red Hen offers her friends on the farm the metaphoric bread of life, but these friends, who are described as Christians, refuse her invitations to read the Bible, pray, and help prepare each other’s homes for winter, but when that God-loving, Bible-obeying hen sees the snow on the ground and imagines her neighbors hungry and cold, she invites them to join her. All winter long, as she cares for their physical needs, she feeds their souls with the Word of God, and when spring comes, they are no longer spiritually lazy. They have become doers of the Word, and the Little Red Hen and all her neighbors enjoy God’s blessings together.
Although I—like the commentators mentioned above—could dissect the theology of this version of The Little Red Hen, I am instead going to consider how it challenges my own views of Jesus as the Word being the Bread of life and myself as a minister of that Word. Over the years, I have led dozens of ladies in DNA’s (which we call Fight Clubs) and have encouraged lots of other women in more informal counseling settings. Some of the most rewarding experiences have been seeing women who have seen Jesus as He truly is through His Word, captured with a first or new love for Jesus. These women have gone on to feed themselves and others the truth of the gospel.
Yet, not everyone I’ve discipled has fallen (or is fighting to fall…or stay) in love with God’s Word and the good news of the gospel. Sometimes the person doesn’t seem to realize her need because either she’s made her life too comfortable or because she’s attempting to block out feelings or cover up the reality that shows her need. But, it can be difficult and frustrating when someone who seems to be drowning in disaster and despair refuses to go to God’s Word for herself, instead preferring to hold onto my faith like a red rescue tube.
Of course, I don’t want to deny that there are seasons when a sister in Christ needs us to be like the paralytic’s friends who by faith were willing to dismantle a roof for the sake of getting him to Jesus. We all have seasons when we need someone else to bear our burdens (Galatians 6:2), and we cannot forget that 1 Thessalonians 5:14 calls us to “encourage the fainthearted” and “help the weak.” But my pharisaical, Little Red Hen heart has more trouble with the first part of that verse: “admonish the idle.” I want to self-righteously (and conveniently) obey 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and keep away from that sister walking in idleness.
I’ve heard my mama quote the KJV version of Matthew 7:6 a thousand times: “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” But because of my own judgmental heart, which Jesus admonishes in the verses immediately before the one about pigs and pearls, I have had trouble discerning how to apply Jesus’ warning to not continue proclaiming the gospel to someone who rejects it at the expense of proclaiming it to those who are open.
For that reason, I have often turned to Jesus’ response to the crowd who came seeking Him after He miraculously fed them with five loaves and two fish. He knew they came because of what He had given them—their fill of the loaves. Yet, He still offers them something more. He offers them the Bread of Life. Himself. Eternal Life.
But what happens when He proclaims He has come down from heaven and commands that they eat His flesh and drink His blood if they want this eternal life?
Many disciples turn back.
Yet, not all His disciples turn back. Some remain.
Therefore, this Little Red Hen, by the power of this Spirit is learning, not to be stingy with what God has given me, especially the truth of His gospel, while also learning to hold the promised blessings, or results, with an open hand by remembering:
- I must check myself if I’m annoyed by someone else’s spiritual idleness. I have to ask if I’ve let that person cast the responsibility for her soul on me. And if I have, I should repent for attempting to be what only Jesus can be, and I should admonish her in love and truth.
- God will give us the wisdom to discern the difference between the weak sister and the pearl-trampling pig if we ask. He will protect us from our own judgmental nature, convicting us when we don’t go after the weak ones and when we keep going after the unresponsive ones.
- If we give people Jesus and call them to obey His commands, some will leave—and that doesn’t mean we haven’t been faithful.
- My desire to share the Word with someone can also be “food that perishes” if I’m doing it to get something instead of doing it because I am enjoying and being strengthened by the Bread of Life.
- Since even Jesus who was the Bread of Life acknowledged that the “true bread of heaven” comes from the Father, I must trust the Father as the one who draws people to Himself and His Word.
When we are tempted to feel like we are responsible for planting the seeds, harvesting the wheat, baking the bread, and making others enjoy it, we have to remember there is only one loaf—Jesus Christ, our Savior (1 Corinthians 10:17). And that loaf was broken so that all who He calls might be participants in the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).
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