Just inside our yard, left of the front gate, stands a beautiful flowering bush. Well, it may have begun as a bush, but it now appears nearly like a tree. I think it must now stretch its branches twenty feet across, and I suppose it is almost as high. The long, thin branches arch out over the wall into the lane that passes in front of our house. In the late winter it is suddenly bright with color, crowned with hundreds of small, canary-yellow blossoms. All the color is wonderfully unexpected, for little else blooms in Kathmandu during that time, and the beauty is exaggerated by the starkness of the plants around it.
During our first winter in the house, we would often see the tree shake and sway. Odd, we thought, until we realized what was happening. Passers-by, as they had long before we arrived as tenants, had come to pick the flowers off the tree every year. The flowers are not taken to adorn and beautify a home; they are given to idols. They are taken as offerings to the gods! Even our neighbors, somehow free of the caution that should govern families separated by such a little fence, often came right inside the gate, ignoring all of us, to collect their own offering. Others pull from the tree’s outstretched arms, causing the whole thing to shake and shower blossoms into our yard. Still others climb onto the wall to reach the blossoms out of reach after those on low-lying branches are picked clean. Some who pass by are more polite, knocking on the front gate with inquiry, “May I pick the flowers from the tree?”
I think, “NO! I will not say that you can take them to lay down at an idol’s feet!” However, I could not be warden of the tree and so decided not to say this at all; I decided instead to make such meetings the opportunity to give a witness to those who passed by.
“Who made this tree and its flowers?” I would ask the visitor. At first they would look at me dumbly, but then some would brighten with understanding.
I would answer for them, “God did. So why are you laying them at the foot of a stone?”
I almost feel sorry for the flowers, being torn from their natural place of worship where they give glory to God, to be thrown, to wilt, at the base of a devil’s image. Wickedness. Even more so, I am sorry that God is not receiving the glory He deserves from these eternal souls. Just as Hosea’s wife thought her lovers gave her the good things she had, the people here attribute their corn, and wine, and oil (Hosea 2:8) to the idols instead of to the Giver of all good gifts.
Even more to the point, as the flowers were made for the Lord’s pleasure, so was I. Is God getting the glory He deserves from me, His own child? Am I pleasing to His eyes? Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelation 4:11, KJV). The flowers on the tree wave with the breeze and please the God who made them. Do my actions and my voice praise and please God all the day? Reading my Bible and speaking of God’s goodness to others should certainly not be neglected. Nevertheless, Christ reprimanded the Pharisees for obeying the physical actions commanded in the law without following the underlying principles that were to motivate their hearts to such actions; He also added, though, and not to leave the other undone (Matthew 23:23). The Lord Jesus wants both to match: my heart provoking my actions. .
So, are my motives for Christ and for others? Are my words true, honest, just, pure, lovely, with good report, virtuous, offering praise (Philippians 4:8)? Is what comes from me loving, joyful, peaceful, longsuffering, gentle, good, faithful, meek, and temperate (Galatians 5:22-23)? These actions resulting from the pure love of Christ in my heart will give God praise and glory, and they will be pleasing to Him. The pretty yellow flowers on the tree will wilt and die in a month’s time, but my soul and the effects I have on others will live forever.