Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush?

Recently I have been re-reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  It is an allegory and it’s amazing.  In an allegory, there is always a deeper abstract or spiritual meaning contained within the story.  In this particular story, it is most obvious what the allegory is alluding to as each character’s name directly reflects what kind of a person they are meant to represent in ‘real life’.  For instance, “Christian” (the main character) is meant to represent a Christian, and “Hypocrisy” is meant to represent a hypocrite, and “Sloth” is meant to represent a lazy person.

Bunyan wrote the book while in prison, suffering (unjustly) for his unwillingness to deny his faith and to stop preaching the gospel.  He had a poor wife and a blind child to care for but his allegiance to Christ would not be wavered.  He was not willing to look back after having placed his hand to the plow (Luke 9:62).  The book is about “Christian’s” journey.  At first, he is weighed down by a heavy burden which lay upon his back (sin/condemnation) and so he ventures out to find a remedy.  Along the way he meets various people who either help and aid him or harm and deceive him.  In the scene I will quote from, Christian has met a man named “Interpreter” who is a friend, an aid and a wise guide.  Follow along with me…

Passion and Patience

“I saw, moreover, in my dream that the Interpreter took him by the hand, and had him into a little room, where sat two little children, each one in his chair.  The name of the eldest was Passion, and the name of the other Patience.  Passion seemed to be much discontented, but Patience was very quiet.  Then Christian asked:

CHRISTIAN:  What is the reason of the discontent of Passion?

INTERPRETER:  The governor of them would have him stay (wait) for his best things till the beginning of next year; but he will have all now; but Patience is willing to wait.

Then I saw that one came to Passion, and brought him a bag of treasure, and poured it down at his feet; the which he took up and rejoiced therein, and withal laughed Patience to scorn.  But I beheld but a while, and he had lavished all away, and had nothing left him but rags.

CHRISTIAN:  Expound this matter more fully to me.

INTERPRETER:  These two lads are figures; Passion of the men of this world, and Patience of the men of that which is to come.  As here you see, Passion will have all now, this year, that is to say, in this world; so are the men of this world, they must have all their good things now; they cannot wait till the next year, that is, until the next world, for their portion of good.  That proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” is of more authority (truth) with them that are all the divine testimonies of the good [men] of the world to come.  But as you saw that he had quickly lavished all away, and had presently left him nothing but rags, so will it be with all such men at the end of this world.

CHRISTIAN:  Now I see that Patience has the best wisdom, and that upon many accounts (for many reasons).  (1) Because he waits for the best things.  (2) And also because he will have the glory of his, when the other has nothing but rags.

INTERPRETER:  [Not only that], you may add another; to wit, the glory of the next world will never wear out; but these are suddenly gone.  Therefore Passion had [no reason] to laugh at Patience, because he had his good things first, as Patience will have to laugh at Passion because he had his best things last; for first must give place to last, because last much have his time to come; but last gives places to nothing; for there is not another to succeed.  He therefore that has his portion first needs a time to spend it; but he that has his portion last has [time] lastingly.  Therefore it is said of him, “In your lifetime [you] received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented (Luke 16:25).”

CHRISTIAN:  Then I perceive it is not best to covet things that are now (temporary), but to wait for things to come.

INTERPRETER:  You speak truth:  for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).  But though this be so, yet since things present and our fleshly appetite are such near neighbors one to another; and again, because things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another; therefore it is, that the first of these so suddenly fall into amity (peaceful harmony, friendship), and that distance is so continued between the second (Romans 7:15-25).”

So…Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush?  Or is a bird (the treasure of this world) in my hands (in my possession in this world) really worth two in the bush (the doubly impressive eternal treasure prepared for those who patiently wait)?

I think not… Wait.  Be patient.  Endure.  “Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).”  Focus on Jesus.  Do not be ashamed.  “Consider, as Moses did, the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (or America); for he was looking to the reward (Heb. 11:26).”

“All these (the great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 11) died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own (heaven).  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”!!!!!!!!!!  (Heb. 11:13-16)

And lastly, “…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).”

What is the reward?  In one word:  Christ.  He is more glorious than all our perceptions of Him combined.  What worldly thing(s) would you dare exchange for Him?  Get all you can of Him during your brief stay on earth; that is, explore by faith all the mysteries of the gospel, all the indescribales of His glory and all the secret realities of His promises.  May it be your insatiable desire to know Him, love Him, learn Him and wait for Him.  Be Patient, not Passion…

With my hand to the plow and my head forward (Luke 9:62),

 

John

One Comment

  1. Jim Shaw

    John, your dad asked me to read your blog and I did. Great job of taken a well known historical Christian book and bringing a contemporary application to it. I found it refreshing, inspirational and biblically sound. To quote Paul Harvey, “Writing is a lost art..it is what is missed most in America in producing quality products. Continue to write God has given you the ability to communicate through the written medium. God bless, Jim Shaw

    Comment by Jim Shaw on June 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm

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