*Artwork: “The Dog and the Shadow” by Raphael Tuck.
A Dog was crossing a bridge over a lake with a piece of flesh in his mouth, and saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another dog. In the silhouette, the piece of meat in its mouth seemed to be double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own piece, and fiercely attacked the fictitious dog to get the larger piece from him. But in the process, he lost two things: That which he grasped for in the water, because it was a shadow, and his own portion, because the stream swept it away.
Application #1: What a curse covetousness is! If we could gather all the stories concerning the loss many have already experienced due to this malady, all human resources would be exhausted in the writing of it. Yet, godly contentment is the greatest enemy to covetousness (1 Timothy 6:6). If we would discipline ourselves to be content with what God has placed in our mouths, we would not be so eager to chase the world’s shadows and risk losing what we already have.
Application #2: Even as you read this, many in the world have lost their rational and moral sense, and have cast aside the succulent meant of Christian truth and wisdom in order to gain the shadowy and illusive meats of vain philosophies. They pursue what they perceive to be a better ideology that will justify their immoral actions, but in the process lose their right of way and eventually their souls (Romans 1:21-22).
The Ants were spending a beautiful winter’s day drying grain that they collected in the summertime. A Grasshopper, dying from hunger, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food. The Ants asked him, “Why did you not store up food for yourself during the summer?’ He replied, “I didn’t have enough time. I passed the time away in singing.” They then chided him and said, “If you were foolish enough to waste time and sing all summer, you must dance supperless into your bedroom in the winter.”
Application #1: Proverbs 6:6 commands us to “Go to the ant, O sluggard!” Look and consider how they work diligently to sustain themselves so that in times of winter, they are well taken care of. Many of us, in times of trouble, may find ourselves like this Grasshopper for no other reason than we wasted our time upon leisure and recreation when we should have been diligently preparing for the future. Whether economically or spiritually, if we ignore or neglect to discern and make provision for ourselves or our family, it will be no wonder when our poverty comes upon us suddenly and we find ourselves hungry (Supported Reading: Prov 13:4; 20:4).
Application #2: It’s inevitable that spiritual winters will come. Not every season in our lives will be noticeably joyous. Many of us may even have to face wintery years. But when times of peace and sunshine come, don’t squander it! Meditate and treasure up for yourselves rich truths from God’s word. Do not forsake God when prosperity occurs, as is the propensity for many to do (Deut. 6:12; Prov 30:8-9). Graze and gather wheat from the luxurious field of God’s word and store up in your heart Scriptures great and small (Psalm 119:11). So that when the winter comes again, you do not end up dying for lack of knowledge (Prov 10:14).
Wolf and Crane by Milo Winter (1919)
A Wolf had a bone stuck in his throat. Looking for help, he hired a Crane. And for a large sum of money, she put her head into his mouth and drew out the bone. After the Crane had extracted the bone, she demanded the promised payment. The Wolf, grinning and gritting his teeth, said: “Surely you already have had a sufficient repayment! By me allowing you to pull your head out of the jaws of a wolf with safety.”
Application: This story illustrates some of our good works among the wicked. Whenever we endeavor as Christians to do good for the wicked, remember that our reward should be in God himself (Psalm 73:26). Let’s be happy in simply serving the lost because we want to help rather than looking for some reward from them (Prov 11:18). Sometimes, we may be sorely disappointed that we don’t get what was promised to us, but we should nevertheless be thankful that we have not been harmed by them if they have the power to do so. Oftentimes, what we don’t realize, is that what was once a potential persecutor has now been made a neutral ally because we were able to help them in their time of need. Because of this, let’s not require any repayment, but pray for their reconciliation to God, and look to heaven for our reward (Matt 6:4).
A Rooster, while looking for food for himself and his hens, found a precious stone. He shouted, “Oh precious stone. If your owner had found you before I did, he would have joyously taken you, and set you in your rightful place. But indeed, I have found you for no reason. Because I would rather have one grain of corn than all the jewels in the world.”
Application 1: Truly this is the creed of the foolish at heart when he has found wisdom. His only concern is for his belly and to please those who are of his nature. If it were a righteous man to find wisdom, he would exalt it in its right place and use it to the glory of God. But since the foolish have no stomach for wisdom, they would forsake the grandest jewels that wisdom has to offer for one grain of sin (Prov 17:16).
Application 2: The sinful do not discern the value of the eternal gospel. Because their god is their belly, and their glory their shame (Phil 3:19), they are unable to perceive the immeasurable riches in Christ (Eph 2:7), who is our wisdom and righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Since their heart is not regenerated to spiritually discern the goodness of God, they treasure the pleasures of sin, over and beyond the treasures of heaven. And like this rooster, they may stumble upon The Precious Stone, but unless a miracle replaces the heart of flesh, they will reject His worth.
A father had a family of sons who were perpetually fighting among themselves. When he failed to resolve their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunity. So one day told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed a bundle into each of their hands, and ordered them to try and break it in pieces. They tried with all their strength, and were not able to do it. He then separated the bundle into individual sticks, one by one, and put them into his sons’ hands, upon which they broke them easily. So he addressed them in these words: “My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle when it’s together – uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies. But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”
Application: Who does not know the universal principle of strength in unity? Even the weakest strand ever created, when bound together as a rope, will serve as the best testament to this truth. It would be the best advice for all Christians everywhere to bind themselves together in gospel unity and Christ-centered theology so that we develop into one mind in Christ! (Phil 2:1-11) That way, when the world wishes to break us one by one, they would find it harder to break us because we are united in our love for one another (John 13:35; Eph 4:1-2 & 13-16).
A Charcoal Burner was working his trade in his home. One day he met a friend, a Fuller, and begged him to come and live with him, saying that they should be far better as neighbors so that their housekeeping expenses would be lessened. The Fuller replied, “This arrangement is impossible! Because as far as I am concerned, whatever I should whiten, you will immediately blacken again with your charcoal.”
Application: What impossibility is it for the wicked and the righteous to dwell together in unity? (2 Cor. 6:14) Though it may seem feasible for a season, most of the time will be spent in opposition because of contrary desires. For the Saint wishes to keep his manners, motives, and actions clean, while the wicked has not the slightest care concerning who or what they stain or even sense whether or not they must be clean themselves.
A Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but instead found some strange reason to justify to the Lamb the his right to eat him. He thus addressed him: “Sir, um, last year you grossly insulted me.” “How?,” bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, “I was not born yet.” Then said the Wolf, “Well, um, you fed in my pasture.” “No, good sir,” replied the Lamb, “I have not yet tasted grass.” Again said the Wolf, “Very well then. You drink of my well.” “No,” exclaimed the Lamb, “I have yet to drink water, for my mother’s milk is both food and drink to me.” Upon this last statement, the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying, “Well! I won’t remain supperless, even though you refuted every one of my allegations.”
Application 1: This is a perfect picture for those who wish to commit sin, yet try to find a reason to justify their sin. With every correction and rebuke from their conscience or God’s people, the wicked will bounce from one reason to the next, only to find themselves without excuse. Then, when the river of pretense runs dry, there is no other excuse for their sinful appetite other than they love and choose to do it, because it is their nature to do so.
Application 2: The False Teacher’s appetite to consume the sheepfold of God will never be tempered by correction. Regardless of how much folly you reveal in them, their nature will be to not spare the flock. This will be made plain the most by their ferocious behavior when they are challenged about their false doctrine.