A Turnip for the King

by Angie Washington on March 16, 2014

Two brothers lived in a kingdom long ago. One survived off the land as a poor farmer. The other was very rich.

While tending his crops one day the farmer noticed one of the turnips had grown huge. He pulled it from the ground and it filled a wheelbarrow. The idea occurred to him to present this unusually large turnip to the king as a gift. The king, touched by the generosity of the peasant, received the gift with gratitude. The king sent the poor farmer on his way with gold, treasure, and other fine gifts.

Upon hearing about how the king so greatly rewarded his subject for a mere vegetable, the other brother prepared a gift, too. He presented the king with thoroughbreds, special silks, and rare spices. The kind king told the wealthy man that he had only one thing to give him to match the rarity of the gifts he had presented. The king had the servants roll out the cart-sized turnip and gave it to the man.

The man had no choice but to receive the enormous turnip from the king.


In two recent books I read the authors recount this ancient tale. They used the principles to make their separate points. I am sure many variations of this same story can be found in a variety of cultures. One site attributes the Brothers Grimm (here).

Looking at the heart motives of the two brothers gave me pause to turn my eyes inward. I asked myself why I do the “good works” that I do. I wondered if I regarded my years of service as the wealthy brother did his gifts for the king.

Do I feel as though God owes me something?

Am I attempting to purchase the favor of God?

Could my jealousy or greed be dirtying the efforts I have set my hand to?

We read in Isaiah a description of the works we consider righteous:

When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.

The the Apostle Paul tells the Romans:

Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

What would change in the way we do things if we considered every effort our hands produce as nothing more than a surprisingly large turnip? We could humbly come before the King and tell Him, “Hey, look, I was out there working and kind of by accident this great big crop grew out of the ground, and I just want you to have it.”

We live extreme and exotic lives overseas doing great and wonderful exploits. Be encouraged today that God is pleased with you. May our good works be the overflow from a heart of gratitude to our Lord. Peace.

[photo credit: cape cod life]

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About Angie Washington

Co-Founder, Editor of this collaborative blog site: A Life Overseas
  • Richelle Wright

    Amen Angie! ! Just love this and thankful for the reminder.

    • Glad to oblige, Richelle. I seem to grasp things more through stories. I am grateful, too.

  • Elizabeth Trotter

    I’m glad you talked about this, Angie. Lately I have felt really challenged in my motivations (which is good, but not particularly fun). The thoughts no one but God sees — *am* I jealous or greedy? Am I doing XYZ for others, or for myself? I want to make my life a song of worship for Him, but it is so very tempting to make my life about my glory, wanting to make my “song” be the most beautiful. And sometimes, I’m not very comfortable with the answers to those questions. Thankful for the questions, because I don’t want to stay the same forever, with hidden, but wrong, desires. But also thankful God is patient and His mercies are new every morning.

    • Elizabeth, the idea of our lives as songs of worship brings such a sense of peace. Yes, and amen to that. I, too, am grateful for His mercies, renewed every morning. Thanks for interacting with this post. Peace to you.

  • Marilyn Gardner

    So good Angie! Better still because I hate turnips…. I love your words “Hey, look, I was out there working etc.” That’s so what I want my life to be and too often there’s this subtle – “hey there look at me, look at me” I hate it but struggle to rid myself of it. That alternates with despair that I’m no good at all. They are both destructive. Thanks for your words that God is pleased with us, pleased with me.

    • Yes – the pull to both extremes takes a toll. Thank you for engaging in this little post. You always encourage me with your words, Marilyn.

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