Going to The Dogs?

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Ages ago Aesop told the story of a dog crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth. The dog saw his own reflection in the water and thought it was another dog, with an even bigger piece of meat than his own. Bold and aggressive, he immediately jumped to attack the other dog and win the larger piece of meat, dropping his own as he lunged. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because it was not real, but only a reflection; and his own, because the stream swept it away.

Aesop wanted to stir our thoughts with this little story to realize among other things that we should appreciate what we have, that in craving what others have we lose, that greed or lust is a motivator that destroys more than it produces. The dog in Aesop’s fable is rather like the people the Bible speaks of who “don’t care anymore about right and wrong and have given themselves over to impure ways. They stop at nothing, being driven by their evil minds and reckless lusts.” (Eph 4:19 TLB)

Aesop’s dog, like too many people, wasn’t troubled with an inconvenient conscience, wasn’t bothered by notions of right and wrong, and so was freely driven by appetite. Inevitably, this sort of freedom from guilt really becomes slavery to appetite or passion that can never be satisfied. The question of the moment becomes “Can I get away with it?” rather than “Is it right?” In time, “getting away with it” may become an assumption rather than a question, but there will always be something else to lunge for, and always something lost that may be irreplaceable. “For wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil.” (James 3:16 TLB)

Solomon observed that “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the stomach of the wicked is in want.” (Prov 13:25 NAS) His point was probably not that the righteous have more than the wicked, many other passages of scripture observe that wrongdoers often seem very materially successful. Rather, Solomon’s point seems to be that the righteous know satisfaction with what they have, and the wicked always want more. This is true in the areas of possessions, and relationships, and sensuality, and power. But for those who know God, contentment is not based on what one has compared to another, but on confidence in Him who has all things. The writer of Hebrews said, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Heb 13:5 NIV) The one who has this confidence need not be ruled by appetite or passion, but can in fact be satisfied with the good things at hand, rather than always lunging for the illusion of something more.

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