Grace For The Journey
When I was pastoring a church in Iowa, there was a meteorologist at a local television station who always wore a rose on his lapel as he gave the weather report. I heard him say on time that people had asked him why he did that. He said that his mother always encouraged her children to “bloom where you are planted.” When my wife, Kay, and I heard him say that she said, “I have never found that that in the Bible.” And she was right.
It sounds biblical, doesn’t it? The Bible is replete with agrarian references and illustrations, and there’s something about the wisdom of the phrase the makes it sound like it fell straight from the lips of Solomon or Jesus.
The problem, of course, is that there is no such phrase in your Bible. Pull out your concordance, open your Bible-search program, scour the Proverbs and the Gospels – you won’t find “bloom where you’re planted.” The law and prophets won’t help you; neither will Paul, Peter, James, or Jude. The phrase is simply not there.
Many colloquial phrases get tossed around that are often mistaken as biblical statements. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is one with which you might be familiar. It’s not in the Bible. The famed “Footprints” poem isn’t either. How about “Cleanliness is next to godliness”? Nope. “God moves in mysterious ways”? He does, but that sentence is nowhere in Scripture.
As we grow in our walk with Christ, we should desire to know our Bibles so well that we’re able to spot biblical-sounding statements that aren’t in the Bible. This is a matter of basic discernment and the responsibility of every Christian.
But our task doesn’t stop here.
In the case of “bloom where you are planted,”
It’s not enough to object, “That’s not in the Bible!”
We should bring the whole teaching of Scripture
To bear not only on the words of a phrase,
But also on its meaning.
This practice honors Paul’s admonition, “Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). In other words, ask what’s true about a statement – and what’s false.
So, what does “bloom where you’re planted” mean? While I can’t speak for all believers who use it, the likeliest meaning is, “Be content where God has placed you in life and make the most of your opportunity to speak, serve, and live for His glory.” If that’s what we mean, then we’re close to capturing a biblical principle.
Theologically, the doctrine of creation teaches us that God has designed and outfitted His creatures with particular skills, interests, and abilities, and He has sovereignly placed them in their circumstances to exercise dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-31; Acts 17:26).
Martin Luther and John Calvin rediscovered this biblical doctrine and taught Christians to fulfill their individual callings, whether serving society as a banker, farmer, or homemaker. Giving careful attention to your calling will produce valuable goods for the community and, in the case of parents, train the next generation. Careful attention to fulfilling your calling will also help keep you out of trouble. Calvin wrote:
“The Lord bids each one of us in all life’s actions to look to his calling. For he knows with what great restlessness human nature flames, with what fickleness is borne hither and thither, how its ambition longs to embrace various things at once. Therefore, lest through our stupidity and rashness everything be turned topsy-turvy, he has appointed duties for every man in his particular way of life. And that no one may thoughtlessly transgress his limits, he has named the various kinds of living ‘callings.’ Therefore, each individual has his own kind of living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life.”
In other words, constantly daydreaming about a different life, a better line of work, or a new community will lead to instability and lack of productivity.
More importantly, it appears that Paul might have approved the parental counsel I received as a young man. In 1 Corinthians 7:17, the Bible tells those anxious over getting married: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. . . . In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
The Bible doesn’t make this an absolute rule, for he tells the slave to be content with his status in life but to seek freedom if possible (1 Corinthians 7:22). Those married must remain so, but the unmarried are free to either marry or stay single (1 Corinthians 7:9, 27-28).
Nevertheless, Paul recognized wisdom in burrowing yourself into your God-given calling and seeking contentment and productivity there – rather than constantly looking around and pining for something else (cf. Proverbs 17:24). Nor does genuine repentance necessarily require a change in one’s work (Luke 3:10-14). But it might – and that’s where we come to a deficiency in the saying, “Bloom where you are planted.”
The problem isn’t so much in what the phrase says, but what it doesn’t say. Without the larger biblical context, the statement “Bloom where you’re planted” could imply that remaining in your calling is all you need to worry about in life.
But this approach wouldn’t account for stations that are overtly sinful and from which a person must “uproot” if they know Christ. Christians cannot abide in Christ and work in the pornography or abortion industry. In such cases, true repentance would lead to “planting” elsewhere.
Yet we can’t fault a proverbial saying for being proverbial. Solomon’s catchy couplets don’t always give us the whole picture, but we don’t chide him.
Diligence, most of the time, leads to abundance (Proverbs 12:27; 13:4; 21:5) – but not when famines ravage the land.
Generally speaking, a slack hand causes poverty (Proverbs 10:4) – but it’s possible for a sluggard to inherit a large estate.
Whoever keeps his tongue keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23) – unless unsolicited trouble finds him.
In other words, a good proverb doesn’t need to say everything in order to be helpful or true. For Christians, sayings like “Bloom where you are planted” can be insightful and encouraging since we understand them within a biblical framework. That’s the blessing of biblical discernment all Christians can enjoy, no matter where we’re planted.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”