Apples and Oranges

A man once owned two very large apple orchards in Florida. As he grew older and traveled more and more, he turned each orchard over to his two sons. One day, though, it hit him: His orchards were in Florida, and he should be growing oranges, not apples. So he called his two sons and told them, "We live in Florida. We should grow oranges. I want you guys to turn my apples into oranges." So his two sons, Esau and Jacob, set to the task.

The first, Esau, anxious to become productive as soon as possible, came up with an ingenious idea. He printed out thousands of address labels reading "Orange Tree". He then went to his orchard and stuck a label on each tree. After a long day's work, his task was complete. He looked out across the orchard and with satisfaction whispered, "All done, Dad. You've got thousands of orange trees already producing fruit!"

Jacob also set to work immediately. He took chainsaw to orchard and cut and burned thousands and thousands of apple trees. The process took an entire week. The next week, thousands of young orange trees arrived, and it took two weeks of hard labor to plant them all. When he was done, though, he looked across the groves with satisfaction and whispered, "All done, Dad. Soon you'll have thousand of orange trees producing fruit!"

It was several years before their father returned to check up on the fruit farm. Both sons were anxious to show off their work. Esau went to one of the trees in his orchard and showed it off, beaming with pride. "Dad, I knew you'd be anxious to have fruit right away, so I came up with a way to produce thousands of trees in a hurry, and all producing fruit. I didn't waste the first couple years like Jacob did!"

Astonished, his father picked a nearby apple. "Esau, this is an apple! I told you I wanted oranges! Does this look like an orange to you?!"

Esau, taken aback by his father's response, stuttered a bit to reply. "Well, no Dad. But these are orange trees! Look right here! What does this say? Orange Tree! Years ago, I put this label on all my trees. And the label doesn't lie! So if it says "Orange Tree", then it's an orange tree! I have no idea how it's producing apples!"

His father, even more infuriated, replied, "It's producing apples because it's an apple tree! Putting a label on it doesn't make an apple tree into an orange tree anymore than saying a prayer makes you a Christian! Turning from Esau, he said, "Jacob, I sure hope you have something better to show me."

Jacob took the two to his grove. As they walked, he told his father what he had done. "It was a painful process that took some time. All the apple trees died; nothing survived that was here before. I then planted new orange trees where the apples had been. It took time for them to mature, but you can clearly tell by their fruit that they are in fact orange trees!" Jacob picked an orange and handed it to his father.

"Well done, Jacob. This is exactly what I had in mind. You have faithfully obeyed me. Obviously I never expected oranges to start growing on apple trees." Turning to Esau he said, "Esau, you're a fool. In your arrogance you have completely disobeyed me, and now you have thousands of apple trees which must be burned and replaced. You have lost me many years of productivity from your fields. I will turn your fields over to Jacob, who was faithful to my requests. Jacob, well done. You recognized that no apple tree would ever produce the oranges I requested, and you set out to kill the apple trees and put in their place new, fresh orange trees, fully capable of producing many, many oranges. For your faitfulness, I am giving you my entire inheritance. Well done."

©2005 Jeremy Wise