The story has been told of a man who bought some land and asked his son to manage and develop it into a farm for him while he traveled. He showed his son the blueprint for the layout of the proposed farm.
The son looked over the plans with admiration. The barns would be spacious, well built, and conveniently located. The house would be a comfortable one with a lovely view. The soil looked rich, and it would have its own water supply from a well. As they strolled across the acres together, blueprint in hand, he could almost envision the finished farm nestled there among the hills. What a haven of rest it would be! It was a good plan he decided. It would be a farm anyone could be happy with and proud of. But, knowing of his son's independent ways, the father stipulated one thing. He would hire his son to build it on condition that he build it exactly as he specified.
Happily the son agreed to take the responsibility for it and to do the best he could. He agreed to follow exactly the blueprint his father had given him.
The father left, and the son immediately set to work to develop the farm. He took hold of the project energetically, and gradually things began to take shape.
As he worked, he often consulted the plans his father had given him. Repeatedly he was impressed by his father's wisdom in the decisions he had made. Often he remarked about how good they were. He carried them out exactly as his father had specified down to the smallest details.
The day came, however, when the well was to be dug. As he looked at the plans, a puzzled expression appeared on his face. "I wonder," he mused, "why Father put the well so far from the house? It will be such a long walk to go clear out there by the barn. He must not have realized what a difficulty that will be. Perhaps it's been a long time since he had to carry the water in himself!" After considering it for some time, he finally decided to change the location of the well. He was certain that his father would be pleased with his decision when he understood why the change had been made.
Finally the farm was finished. Crops were planted and the fields became a lush green. The place looked like a peaceful dream when Father finally returned. The son met him with a proud smile. "See, Father," he said with a wave of his hand, "it's done exactly as you said. Isn't it beautiful?" Again the two ambled across the acres looking at the farm. At each place the father would stop and express his pleasure at what had been done. Finally, they got to the spot where the well should have been. A puzzled expression passed over the elderly gentleman's face. "Why, where's the well?" he questioned. "I thought it would have been right here. Did I make a mistake?"
"Oh, no," the son replied. "The well is right over there by the house."
"By the house?" the father asked again. "I thought I planned for it to be out here by the barn."
"Oh, yes, now I remember," the son replied. "I noticed that. I thought it would be inconvenient to have it so far from the house, so I had them make just a minor change and build it over there instead."
The father looked sorrowfully at his son. "I thought you said you made everything the way I wanted it. You promised me that you would. But now I find that you didn't. You didn't make anything the way I wanted it. Not one thing."
"Father!" the younger man nearly exploded. "How can you say that? I did everything the way you wanted except for the well. But I thought this would be better than the other plan. I changed only one thing. How can you say I didn't do anything at all the way you wanted it?"
"It's really quite simple, Son," the father explained. "That well is significant. It tells me that the only reason you built the rest of the farm as I specified is that you liked it that way. You happened to think my plans were good plans on the rest of the farm. But if your ideas disagreed with mine, then you followed your own way. You actually built the whole farm the way you wanted it, not the way I wanted it."
It was a quiet pair that finished the tour of the farm. The son had little to say. His father's words had made a deep impression. The well was indeed a sign of whether or not he loved and trusted his father enough to follow his requests even if he didn't fully understand or agree with them. He had not set out with the intention of proving his lack of loyalty to his father, but his decision had revealed the hidden motives in his heart. His actions had shown what his motives had been even though the son himself had not understood his own heart.
God also makes it clear to us that our actions display the hidden motives of our hearts, even when we don't understand them ourselves. Many times the Holy Scriptures remind us that a tree is known by its fruits. A good pear tree at the right time will be covered with pears. The pears reveal what kind of tree it is. So the fruits of our lives reveal where our loyalties really are and whether or not we are abiding in Jesus.