This book is about a young Chinese boy named Ping who is unsuccessful in his attempt to grow a flower from the seeds distributed by the Emperor. The Chinese Emperor is searching for a successor to the throne; whoever can grow the best flower in a year's time will be the successor. Ping, despite his effort, talent, and dedication, can not grow anything in his pot. Ping is very sad and doesn't want to present an empty pot to the Emperor, especially upon viewing the apparent success of his friends; they had grown BEAUTIFUL flowers. Ping's father tells him,
"You did your best, and your best is good enough to present to the Emperor."
AS SOON as I read this line, I sensed that it holds a significant meaning that spans time and place. about doing your best. being the best person you can be. and coming before "the Emperor" without shame and just as you are.
A pretty weighty theme for a children's book. But a perfect one. I read on.
As the Emperor examines the beautiful flowers brought before him on the final day, his face expresses nothing but disapproval. Finally, approaching Ping, he asks why his pot is empty. Ping explains that he did his best, but to no avail! The Emperor then reveals that the seeds he had distributed had been cooked, and therefore could not grow. Clearly, the cultivators of the beautiful flowers had been dishonest and used different seeds; Ping was the only one who had been honest and showed integrity. Ping was the successor to the throne because the Emperor admired Ping's "great courage to appear before [him] with the EMPTY TRUTH."
Immediately, my mind flashed to the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector from Luke 18:9-14:
 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Ping's friends who had pompously taunted him as they ran by with their beautiful flowers were much like the Pharisee: self-righteous, proud, and creators of counterfeit appearances. Ping is much like the tax collector who was able to come before The Emperor without false pretenses. with simply an honest representation of himself and his efforts. the empty truth.
He humbled himself...and was exalted.
How good it is to know that our best is good enough to present to the Emperor.