I was passing through Lafayette County one morning when I passed by a big sign out in this field that said, “Kudzu Control Demonstration.” I had seen those signs in other places, and for some reason this one just captured my attention and brought a flood of memories to the forefront of my brain. It is not unusual to run into someone who is a visitor to our state or passing through Mississippi and in certain areas sees this incredible vine growing all along the sides of the road, and they want to know what in the world is that. Whether it’s in Yazoo County or on I-20 from Vicksburg to Jackson or up in the northeast hills of Mississippi, you’ll run into kudzu, but the reason the kudzu control sign got my attention is because I used to live in the vicinity of where that sign is. I was in the fourth grade at Oxford Elementary School and some people came to our school with some boxes with pieces of a vine. They told us that we lived around where there might be some gullies, to take several of these plantings, and just go out in the area and stick them in the ground.
Well, where I lived there was a lot of erosion, and we used to love to play in those gullies, climbing the walls and finding rocks and clay. Since most of the other kids were getting some cuttings of kudzu, I did too, took them home, and said that the people from the government instructed us to plant them out there near the gullies and it would help stop the erosion. So I, along with hundreds of other kids, took our little pieces of kudzu and stuck them in the ground all around Lafayette County and beyond. Now we didn’t see immediate results, of course, but now that’s it’s been a long time since I was in the fourth grade, I looked back and learned some lessons from planting kudzu.
One lesson is we did a good job. I had no idea what kudzu was or how fast it grew or how it would take over the land and hills and trees, but if they wanted it planted and to cover the landscape, a bunch of elementary kids, especially the fourth grade boys, did a good job. I did not realize at the time, but through the years I found in that experience and many others that there is a great reward, a great delight that comes to your heart, from doing a good job. The Bible says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Eccles. 9:10). I know that our Lord was not talking about planting kudzu when he said that one day if we serve well we will hear those wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matt. 25:23), but there is great joy ahead if we serve well.
The second thought that came to my mind when I saw the kudzu control sign was that every decision in life has consequences. Sometimes they are good consequences and sometimes they are bad consequences, and sometimes there are consequences that you’re not sure which one they might be. I often talk to teachers and parents who are trying to, in every way possible, instill in children the importance of making right decisions because decisions have consequences. Consequences may be immediate or it may be years before you see the full blown result of your actions. Sometimes you live and die and still have never seen the full impact of your decisions and actions. In the case of the kudzu, it was just a little cutting with some roots dangling that if you stick in the ground, it seems to grow ferociously. I’ve seen it climb up and overtake large trees to the extent that the tree cannot get any sunlight and eventually dies. I have seen kudzu cover up buildings. Of course, it will stop erosion, but as you talk to some folks who live around kudzu, you will quickly understand it starts some other problems. Every action has consequences. Some parents never understand that their decision to not go to church and not to be faithful to the things of God will bring consequences in their children. It may take a lifetime before those parents see those consequences, but they will come. Everything has consequences and fallout. Getting married, getting divorced, going in debt, getting out of debt, filing bankruptcy, going to college, studying hard, applying yourself at work, being lazy and slothful, taking drugs, encouraging your children to drink moderately, being too lenient with your children, being too strict with your children. Yes, they all have consequences.
A third thing came to my mind as I saw the kudzu sign that even good things, good decisions with good impact, may also have some unintended consequences. It is important that a person develop a spiritual sense of evaluation and judgment about things because whatever you do will have some unintended and maybe not even thought of consequences. Who would have ever dreamed that decades ago when some guys from the U. S. government encouraged some kids just to put out some kudzu vines so that they could stop the erosion of the land would then see a program develop to try to control the kudzu they had unleashed? Momentary decisions need to have some projected thought about the possibilities that may lie ahead if this works or in some cases, doesn’t work.
The news is filled every day with people who made decisions that maybe in retrospect were dumb decisions; maybe when they come to light in the public, just absolutely stupid decisions. All of that because in time what they did had unintended consequences, consequences that they had not factored into the equation. Now here is a fact: anytime, anywhere, anybody who makes a sinful decision knowingly, deliberately disobeying God in doing the wrong thing or the self-willed thing, there will be consequences that you hadn’t thought about or never even dreamed of. At the moment, it may seem expedient, pleasurable, a great reward is on the way, but there are other things that will accompany it that you may have never heard of.
One example from Scripture is at the end of Jesus’s life and one of his disciples decides the best thing to do is just to get what you can because this ministry and this discipleship business isn’t going to work out. Judas connects with the religious leaders who are plotting against Jesus and agrees on a payday. Thirty pieces of silver, a payoff, a pocketful of money and he can go on his way. You can’t make that decision, you can’t go that direction, you can’t cut that deal without some unintended consequences. For him it was the tragedy of a dumb, willful, sinful decision and the consequences would be the burden of guilt, a tortured mind, and in some ways an irreversible tragedy. What he thought was so good was absolutely so bad. Sometimes when you see kudzu on the roadside you might remember and think about the great blessings that were going to come for Judas. It’s more like kudzu gone wild.