There was once a farmer who had a son and a horse. One day his horse ran away and the neighbors exclaimed, “Such bad luck—you lost your only horse!”
“Who is to say whether it’s good or bad,” asked the farmer? “All I can say for sure is that my horse has run away. Time will tell whether this is good or bad.”
A week later, his horse returned home, followed by 20 more horses. His neighbors shouted with delight, “What good fortune for you! Not only did your horse return, but he brought with him 20 more!”
“Who is to say whether it’s good or bad? All I know is that my horse has come home along with 20 horses, and I must leave it at that.” His neighbors shook their heads and scoffed, “Of course it’s good luck you old fool!”
The next week the farmer’s only son was out riding one of the horses when he fell off and broke his leg. Upon hearing the news, the neighbors came over to give opinion. “You were right. Those horses were not good fortune. Now your son has broken his leg, and it time for the harvest. Such bad luck!”
Once again, the exasperated farmer replied, “Why do you people constantly want to label something as good or bad? Why can’t you just say, ‘Your son has broken his leg while riding a horse,’ and leave it at that? Who is to say whether it is good or bad?”
Upon hearing this, the neighbors were indignant. “Listen, you crazy old man. It is obvious that your son’s broken leg at this time is a sign of bad luck. You are such a fool to think otherwise.”
The following week, the army came and drafted all the eligible young men, sending them off to war. They did not take the farmer’s son on account of his broken leg. Afterwards, the people were heartbroken and came to the farmer in tears. “You are so fortunate. Our sons are gone, and we’ll probably never see them again. Such bad luck we have encountered!”
The old farmer once again said, “Why do you continue to insist an event is good or bad? We do not know the end from the beginning. Why can’t you just say, ‘Our sons have been drafted, and only time will tell if it is good or not?’”
I have thought of this fable many times in my adult life, because so many things that I made inaccurate judgments about. There is always a temptation to make a judgment too soon, but we do not know the end of the story, so how can we know if one individual event is good or bad, out of context of the greater whole?
This truth can be seen with greater clarity as we consider history. For instance, was “the fall of man” good or bad? Was the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt good or bad? Was the sin of David with Bathsheba good or bad? Was Judas’ betrayal good or bad? Was the crucifixion good or bad?
In Genesis 2–3, we find two trees, right together. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the Tree of Life. As I learn to patiently take in the Story, I see that many things once considered good or bad are nothing more than the “other side” of a two-sided tree. On one side of the tree, we find “good,” but on the other side of the tree, we find “bad.” I believe that God fully intended the happenings in the Garden, and that He fully intended Adam and Eve to experience the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why? Because before we can know, fully appreciate, and partake of LIFE, we must have fully experienced good and bad. It is the experience of good and bad that reveals to us exactly what LIFE is and is not.
The last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, also features the Tree of Life, though the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is noticeably missing. It is the Tree of Life that is chosen to open and close the Story of the plan of ages.
“Happy are the ones following His directions, so that they may have the authority upon the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14).
As we face the challenges of life, let us remember not to make judgments, for we cannot fully know until the end of the Story. At that time, I’m confident that all the good and all the bad will merge into one all-important lesson—how to find full enjoyment in the tree of LIFE.
Share a time you were too quick to make a judgment about something in your life—an event that brought unusual or unexpected results.