Some phrases are so familiar—and so often repeated in church circles—they are sometime mistaken for Scripture. That’s a good thing if the phrase underscores biblical teaching, but a bad thing if it is taken to hold the same authority as Scripture. That’s the case with bloom where you’re planted.
Bloom where you’re planted has the folksy appeal of Grandma’s loving advice. Its origins go back to a common French saying from the 16th century. But is it God’s advice?
The Two Sides of Bloom Where You’re Planted
Bloom Where You Are Planted – The Good Side
Although this homespun phrase appears nowhere in the Bible, it certainly has godly overtones. After all, at the opening of Genesis, God himself planted a garden and blessed both the garden and those who tended it. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. “ (Genesis 2:15) We are garden people, connected to God’s good creation and charged with a holy stewardship of the earth. It’s not just a metaphor. Men and women are created in God’s image. Eden is the environment God planned for us. Now, millennia later, when we are in the place God has chosen for us, doing the work God has given us, it’s the best thing for us. We will bloom!
When we trace the garden theme throughout Scripture, we will discover time and again that the Creator has a place in mind for each of us. Finding and fulfilling that place causes the goodness of God to flower-forth. For example, check out these examples:
- In Isaiah, God’s people are “the planting of the Lord.”
- In Amos, God’s rescue results in God’s planting, “never to be uprooted.”
- Jesus himself tells us that good seed, planted in the right place will bear fruit, “30, 60, or 100-fold.”
But it must be noted that these are metaphors, not commands, because when a perfectly biblical metaphor is misused, it casts an ungodly shadow.
Bloom Where You’re Planted – The Shadow Side
Sadly, throughout the centuries, in every age of the church, the godly image of bloom where you’re planted was also used to manipulate God’s people. America’s legacy of chattel slavery was justified by hired “preachers” who instructed Christian slaves to stay put in their condition. Paul’s letter to Philemon was often preached as proof that slaves should not seek their freedom—and that their lives on the plantation were evidence of God’s “planting” them there!
The Apostle Paul’s beautiful and nuanced words regarding singleness and marriage (1 Corinthians 7) have been used in cult-like situations to urge people to abandon hopes of marriage and family in order to “serve the Lord,” all the while pressing devout-but-gullible believers into service of a charismatic leader.
Bloom Where You’re Planted – Sweet Words, But Not Bible Words
We are called to read and apply the Bible with all the wisdom and imagination that the Spirit gives. But our starting point must always be to understand the Scripture as it presents itself. Properly understood, the Bible is filled words of life. Let’s embrace folk-wisdom and appreciate its insight, but let’s never mistake it for the authority of Scripture.