July 4, 2021
There once was a man traveling to the top of a mountain. A snake approached and begged the man to let him rest in his pocket on the way up. The snake promised not to bite him, so he agreed. When they reached the top, the snake bit the man. His last words were, “How could you? You promised not to bite me!” To which the serpent replied, “You knew I was a snake when you put me in your pocket.”
When Joe was feeling mean or mischievous, he said his ankles were itching. They itched often.
I am incredibly ticklish, especially on the bottoms of my feet. I have to engage in a very serious discussion before I get a pedicure or massage. I just can’t take it! 🤦♀️ Knowing this, Joe did his very best to torture me in this manner. One evening, I stretched my legs across his lap while we were sitting on the couch. I thought he was too engrossed in a tv show to bother me. I was mistaken. Before I knew it, he had my legs in a vice grip and held me there while he tickled my feet. I screamed, I gasped, I begged, but he chose this moment to seek retribution for all the tricks I’d ever played on him. Finally, I told him I was about to pee on myself, knowing that would make him stop. But he didn’t stop, thinking I had cried wolf. I was a wolf with a tiny, fragile bladder…and, well…I peed in my pants right there on the couch.
I was FURIOUS. I asked him if he had anything to say to me, fully expecting a profuse, sincere apology. His reply was as follows: “You knew I was a snake when you put me in your pocket.”
He was my sweet Joe with a mean streak a mile wide. 😂
This week, Joe’s lesson is about good and evil, and how we are all a little bit of both.
Good and Evil
It is only natural for us to wonder why the Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side. I would think that we all wonder and ask ourselves, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if the Lord would just destroy everything evil and allow only good to exist?”
To me, that is an easy conclusion (or maybe solution) to the problems we see in society—but then we have to consider that maybe our idea of what is good doesn’t line up with what God’s standard is for good. This idea of doing away with evil is great in theory, but then I ask myself where I might fall in the division of good and bad? I’ll let you ponder on that for yourself, but personally, I know that I fall short of the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior. I know that I am sinful by nature, and according to the Bible, a sin is a sin, and sin is evil.
In Matthew 13: 24-30, Jesus tells a parable about weeds: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
The Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side because He loves us. Instead of dealing with us right away, swiftly and justly, He provides grace, and only through grace can we come to know Jesus and His gift of forgiveness.
He wants all of us to know Him, and He knows that in knowing Him, each of us will require grace. 1 Timothy 2: 3-4 states: “3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
But I am here to tell you this morning that there will come a day when His grace will end—He is going to separate the wheat from the weeds, and we must be ready! The weeds will be bundled and burned, but the wheat will go into the barn. I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to end up in the barn.
So, when we consider good and evil, let it remind us that the only way we can overcome our own evil is through the love and grace and mercy of Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness, and for giving us grace to be prepared for the day you bring in your harvest.
I spent several years working in school administration. My first year as a principal, I periodically sent Mr. D, who was the principal of the high school where I taught for many years, an email containing two simple words: I’m sorry.
He knew what I meant.
I was sorry because I know I worried that poor man to death when I was a teacher. Joe often referred to me as bossy, and said my personality was a bit intense. Well, Joe exaggerates, but I do own a shirt that says, “I’m not bossy. I’m aggressively helpful”. 😜 So, I kept Mr. D’s office chair warm. If he assigned a student to In School Suspension and I knew he/she had something going on at home, I’d make a plea on their behalf. If, bless his heart, I sent him a student for disciplinary action and he didn’t put them in ISS, I’d question his decision🤦♀️(I know. I know.). If he made a schedule change that didn’t suit the English department, I’d gently suggest a better way. He always listened quietly and patiently. Sometimes he did what I asked. I thought he was so smart on those occasions. Sometimes he did what he thought was best, regardless of my opinion. Thus, sometimes I’d pout for a day or two. It never swayed him. 😂
When I became a principal, I realized that I was so caught up in my little world as a teacher, that all I could see was the small picture. Meanwhile, Mr. D was tasked with keeping all the plates spinning at once. He made decisions based on the big picture. I also realized that Mr. D was really good at his job, and because he never made me feel like I was getting on his last nerve (when I know good and well that I was), he was also pretty much a saint. 😇
Mr. D gave me a piece of advice I have used over and over again. He said if I’d make every decision based on what is best for students, I might not win every battle, or be everyone’s favorite person all the time, but I would ultimately win the war.
So, Joe’s lesson made me consider the fact that I probably owe Jesus Christ a two word email as well. And I’m not calling you out, friend, but I am leaving some space on the signature line just in case you need to send one, too. 😊
How often do we approach God with our lists, in hopes that He will do it our way? How often do we make a plea on someone’s behalf (or our own) when God’s actions don’t seem fair? How often do we question His decisions? Gently(or not so gently) suggest a better way? And when He doesn’t change it…doesn’t fix it…when it seems that good continues to suffer and when it seems that evil might prevail, how often do we retreat in a far away corner instead of running into His arms? Maybe it’s just me. But maybe it’s you, too?
I might never understand why God doesn’t serve up swift justice for all of the evil in this world. But what I do understand is if He gave us exactly what we each deserve for all of our sins, well….I’m afraid we’d find ourselves in a heap of trouble. So, I’m trying to focus on the way my cup is forever overflowing with God’s sweet mercy and grace, and I am trusting in Him as He keeps all the plates spinning. He hasn’t dropped one yet.
Mr. D is pretty intimidating before you get to know him. Yet, in reality, he has a heart as big as the ocean, and bottom line—he does his job better than anyone I’ve ever known. I believe God is much the same. Just like like Mr. D taught me to do what is best for students, our Lord is out there, every single day, doing what is best for us. So, while it may look as if He isn’t winning every battle, while His decisions may not always be popular, this I know for sure. Sweet friend….God will win the war. Joe said, “The weeds will be bundled and burned, but the wheat will go into the barn. I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to end up in the barn.”
Dear friend, if I don’t see you again before, I’ll meet you at the barn. ❤️
-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe