The Carrot and the Horse

by May 29, 2012

In his last public sermon, Jesus is talking to people who go to church regularly, give generously, strive for holiness, and evangelize passionately. The kind of people every pastor would love to have in his church. But even righteous people like that can still reject the love and compassion of Jesus: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 24:37).

How is that possible? How could someone so devoted and generous toward God not receive his grace? Charles Spurgeon explains with this story:

Once upon a time there was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.”

The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.

But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?” The next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and simply dismissed him.

The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”

Are you serving God or serving yourself?