Dr. Walter Downs is a retired educator, now serving as a Methodist minister. He also raises chickens. This is his first guest blog, so be sure to share some love with him.
(Based on Luke 9 & John 15)
We have begun a new venture at our house. My wife and I bought nineteen baby chickens. They are fun to watch, but all we really get to do is either watch them eat or put them up at night if one or more of them fail to go into the coop after the door closes. Oh yeah, we have an automatic door and it's set to open at 6:30 am and close at 8:30 pm......fancy aren't we?
Did I mention that they are fun to watch?
Early on, just for fun, we would dig up an earthworm and throw it in amongst them. It was ON then! One would grab that worm and run, trying to hog it all up them self. The others chicks would see that hoarding action and the running away. Those are clues that "I have something good and I am not going to share". Well, then the chase was on! Another lucky chick would grab the loose end of the writhing worm and pull against the original culprit that was hoarding the prize! Then we had a tug of war.
Did I mention that they are fun to watch?
All of a sudden the worm would break half in two so now we had two chicks with only half the prize! But that is not the end of the story. Two more chicks wound grab the loose ends of the now half worms, and the tug of war would ensue yet again. It is hard to watch the action when you have two or three tug of wars going on.
Funny thing is: They do the same thing with catalpa worms, or corn ear worms, or blades of grass, or even a useless corn shuck. They know no compassion for the hungry or the weak. It is all about me in our chicken pen.
As a pastor I look for simple truths to share with my congregation each week. Some are better than others! The truth is that chickens and folks are a lot alike. The Bible even speaks about our human condition.
Luke chapter 9: 21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Matthew, chapter 16 records a similar passage: 21 From that time on (after he fed the 5000) Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
As humans we have been conditioned to think that more is better! Much of the time we act like those baby chickens. Corporate America, the capitalistic empire, even drives us to think that way. The key questions become how big is your portfolio of stocks, bonds, etc.
In Agrarian America, we desire more land, more livestock, more offspring, more this, more that.
Regardless of where you work and reside, how much is enough?
Pause and consider that for a bit.
I am reminded of a young entrepreneur who had just gotten out of the service. His name was Forrest Gump. Forrest befriended a fellow soldier named Bubba. Bubba hailed from Bayou La Batre. He grew up in and knew everything there was to know about shrimping and he convinced the simple minded Bubba to go into the shrimping business when they get out of the service.
Despite Forrest saving Bubba in the jungle of Vietnam, Bubba died. During the recuperation period, Forrest learned to play ping pong, and traveled on behalf of the Armed Forces to play ping pong. He even won a ping pong equipment endorsement. With that healthy check he still thought of a friend, old dead Bubba. He could not get that shrimping plan our of his mind, so, for lack of a better plan, when Forrest mustered out of the service, he headed to shrimping country, took the endorsement money, and bought an old shrimp boat.
At first he nearly starved but, due to several blessings that come his way in the form of a hurricane that wipes out the shrimp fleet, and one certain Lt. Dan, he finally enjoyed immense success. The Bubba Gump shrimp company was formed. He named his shrimp boat Jenny. Lt. Dan took the money and invested the extra dollars in Apple Stock. They both become richer than kings!
Lt. Dan mailed Forrest a letter declaring that they never have to worry about money again. The classic line in the movie is this: "Lt. Dan said we don't have to worry about money ever again." To which Forrest replied, "That's good.....one less thing to worry about!"
Why did I share that illustration? Because Forrest and Bubba, since they are friends, made a covenant to go partners, Forrest gave half of the company proceeds to Bubba's surviving momma. An element of trust weaved its way through the movie. Forrest trusted Bubba. He even followed Bubba's dream. Then, Forrest trusted Lt. Dan with managing of millions. Forrest's trust even extended to Bubba's momma.
The bible talks about this business of friendship, too. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Folks, friendships are precious and we must work at them. That last passage from John 15 is Jesus' third major teaching about love. Let me repeat it: 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Back to those chickens. I can tell you this with certainty! Those chickens will not lay down their life for each other. They are greedy guts! They rob, steal, fight, peck, and hoard.
Which will you be this next week as you face the week? Will you be like simple minded Forrest who gave up half of his assets? Or will you be like the chickens who stingily fight for anything of value, hoarding it from your friends? It's your choice.