I saw a little contest in our backyard the other day between a couple little animals that I want to share for the sake of the lesson in it.
The contestants were our Sheltie dog, Prisca, and a backyard squirrel.
Prisca is relatively small, 20+ lb, but she’s really strong and very lively on her feet. When it isn’t raining, Prisca holds sway over an outdoor carpeted area behind our house that is maybe 50 ft square. She is tethered to a raceway that is mounted over the deck and has a pulley attached to it. She can run the length of the carpeted area freely back and forth and side to side, and that’s all. The length of the rope stops her.
The squirrels, of course, are free to run wherever they choose. And they are all around.
Being free, the squirrels love to taunt her. They know she’s tied, and that they’re safe, so they can come within a few feet of her extended range and know they’re safe because she has to stop when her rope runs out. This gets Prisca furiously upset with them. She jumps and barks and makes a furor, but they stay just out of her range and make noises at her because they know they’re safe. She can go only as far as her leash allows.
Well, this particular day a squirrel came dashing across the middle of Prisca’s carpeted area. Right across the middle. Prisca knew it. She knew immediately that she was able to get that squirrel because that squirrel was on her territory.
Prisca sprang toward the squirrel with all her power. She lunged after it, and—she almost got the squirrel. Almost. It was a high moment of danger for that squirrel, dangerously close, too close for comfort.
Now what would have happened if she had caught the squirrel is another story, but it looked to me like the squirrel almost lost his tail, she was that close to him.
Nothing more happened. But it left Prisca frantically barking after him, and I do think the squirrel was scared. It was too close for comfort.
Prisca and the squirrel will never be “friends” because their natures are too different. And if she had grabbed the squirrel’s tail, the squirrel would likely have attacked her and given her the worst. Instant defense. Prisca’s victory would have been only a moment’s satisfaction. No victory at all. Only consequences for her foolish chase. The squirrel by retaliating would have had the “last word.”
Isn’t there a lesson here for us? In fact, there are several lessons. Among them, from the squirrel’s side,
1- Keep off the “devil’s” turf
2- Don’t do anything to stir up strife. Let it go.
3- Don’t be overconfident of your ability to “outrun” evil
From Prisca’s side,
1- don’t chase after strife – wiser to let it go!
2- pursuing a temptation will have consequences;
First point: Keep OFF the “devil’s” turf!
It is the wrong place to be. Why expose ourselves to danger and risk when we do not need to? The advice from Proverbs is clear:
Proverbs 4:14–15 14Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not walk in the way of evil. 15Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on.
The Psalmist gave the same advice at the very beginning of his book.
Psalm 1:1–2 1Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
Don’t walk, stand or sit with the ungodly. Rather, fix your mind in a certain place. That is what the godly one does:
2But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
Another proverb repeats the advice to keep away from the evil way. Social distance, and then some!
Proverbs 1:15 15My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path;
Another proverb suggests you might be invited. Does that mean go with them? It does not.
Proverbs 1:10 10My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.
Solomon was certainly wanting the chase. If there was something on his turf that he wanted, he pursued it. But when it was all said and done, what did he have in prospect? Only the judgment of God. This is his conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 14For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.
Proverbs contrasts the way of wisdom with the way of what it calls the “strange woman,” the way of folly and pleasure. The basic point is: don’t stir up strife with her, and keep your distance. Don’t go near her house. It is written as an appeal to children, all of us, who need instructing.
Let us read it from Proverbs 5.
Proverbs 5:7–13 7Therefore hear me now, my children, And do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8Remove your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house,
Why? Because of the danger.
It is sure to come to grief. Proverbs goes on:
9Lest you give your honor to others, And your years to the cruel one; 10Lest aliens be filled with your wealth, And your labors go to the house of a foreigner; 11And you mourn at last, When your flesh and your body are consumed, 12And say: “How I have hated instruction, And my heart despised correction! 13I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!
Only regret, regret, regret if we try to keep company with the world or pursue pleasure with them. It will only weaken our resistance and open the door to compromise. It isn’t God’s way, and it isn’t worth it.
Second point: Don’t do anything to stir up strife. Let it go.
Where does this advice come from? Proverbs again:
Proverbs 15:18 18A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
Proverbs 29:22 22An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression.
Passages like these tell us there WILL be situations that would stir up strife. TO keep calm and controlled at all times is a challenging task. But a soft answer on our part will go a long way toward keeping peace. Proverbs 15:1 has the key:
Proverbs 15:1 1A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
A soft answer, calm, controlled, one that cannot be answered harshly. Proverbs says it again:
Proverbs 26:21 21As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Harsh words only kindle more strife. We have all done it. There is no victory in having the last word. There is no victory, only defeat in retaliation.
Proverbs 26:20 20Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.
Here is the best part: Let the fire go out—for lack of words! The simplest reply may be—none!
Third point: Don’t be overconfident of your ability to “outrun” evil
Here is a third lesson from our little animals. A lesson from the squirrel’s obvious overconfidence.
The squirrel had likely taunted Prisca so many times—successfully—that he was careless about keeping a safe distance, and didn’t even worry about getting on her turf! The result? Real danger. Too close for comfort.
Paul gives the same advice:
1 Corinthians 10:12 12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
We can THINK we are secure—because we haven’t looked closely at the danger.
Why check our footing? Why keep a safe distance? Because we want to avoid the conseuqences. We CAN stumble. We CAN fall. We need confidence, but not TOO MUCH.
Recall Peter’s confidence that last night with Jesus before the crucifixion?
Matthew 26:33 33Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
But Jesus knew what was coming. He knew Peter’s weakness.
Matthew 26:34 34Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
These lessons seem so basic, but they are for all of us, because we are all made of the same clay. They are serious life and death issues for us as Christians. We are forbidden to have strife, contention, anger, wrath, and any of these “works of the flesh” as Paul called them. We are to let it all go. And not have too much confidence in ourselves. The commands are direct:
Ephesians 4:31 31Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
Let it ALL go. As life-seekers, most of us are not by nature the calm, placid kind of personalities. Can you picture the apostle Paul naturally patient and placid? He excelled early in life because of his push, his determination and –his fire!
When Christ called him to serve, He did not change Paul’s nature, he only changed Paul’s direction. And from then on he was a fighter for Christ.
Let us follow his example, and one day we can share his crown, be among those he included as he looked forward and said:
2 Timothy 4:7–8 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Any time we get near the world it should be “too close for comfort.” But we can’t always keep the world out of our territory, and we sometimes have to go into their territory because they have things we have to have.
But we have good advice that will keep us safe. Do not enter the way of wickedness or walk in their way. In other words, don’t do as they do!––Prov. 4:14-15. Learn early on to hate evil. “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate” (Prov. 8:31).
Avoid wrath with a passion. If confronted, respond kindly. Let them do the talking; they will eventually calm down. Prov. 26:21 says it well: “As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.” Don’t add wood to a fire out of control. Paul has some good advice: Don’t think you can’t fall. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Avoid compromising situations. And above all, reverence the Lord to the point that you hate evil just as He does. You are not apt to mingle in what you hate.