It was an innocent question. Here it was January and my yard was filled with what appeared to be every leaf in a twelve-mile radius. Something had to be done and so I asked one of my deacons—an elderly gentleman—if he knew any tricks to quickly getting them out of my yard. He’s the type of guy that’s great at figuring that stuff out.
He had informed me the night before that he didn’t know too many tricks on that one. So, I was very surprised the next day when my wife informed me that this guy was in our front yard taking care of our leaf problem. I felt kind of bad—a man fifty years my senior working his tail off getting leaves out of my yard. I thanked him for doing such a kind thing for our family. Here is what he said to me:
When I was a little boy, my daddy told me, ‘if ya see a skunk in the road you’d better take care of it or it’ll stink up the whole neighborhood for months’.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
This verse was really messing me up. I see in my heart a tendency to turn the other cheek. Not to my own suffering, mind you, but to turn my cheek away from situations which seem too bleak to deal with. Situations where folks are being taken away to death and stumbling to the slaughter. I shove down the horrors of hell, the atrocity of abortion, and the other terrors ravaging our world.
Proverbs 24 tells me that this is cowardice. And the Lord isn’t fooled by my silly excuses. And so I spent a bit of time repenting and praying that the Lord would help me to put off the sin of selfishness and to put on the grace of fighting for those who need rescued. I started thinking about specific action points to help with this.
Then I hit a wall…
How do you obey Proverbs 24:10-12 in our information-saturated age in which almost everything seems to be taken away to death?
As I mediated on Proverbs 24, several specifics came to my mind.
Those orphaned by AIDS.
The list could go on and on. Each of them could take up an entire life and it only make a dent. I know about all of these things. And I know about them probably in more detail than anyone would have known 100 years ago. Every morning as I scan through my Feedly I’m hearing about tons of cases which fit under the umbrella of Proverbs 24…and I move on to the next thing. Every. Single. Morning.
So how do I rescue them? How do I hold them back?
I can’t move on and say I didn’t know…so where does that leave me?
Then I thought again about my friend and his helpful skunk quote. I thought about how he doesn’t get in his truck every night and drive through the community looking for dead skunks. But if he sees one, he responds. He sees it as God’s opportunity to serve. If he smells a skunk he doesn’t assume that somebody else will fix it—he realizes it is now his responsibility.
I’ve got a ton to learn from his generation. My generation likes to go off and do the epic things and leave skunk cleaning to others. But I’m starting to believe that maybe my friend knows a bit more about being epic than we do. I fear that we’ll waste our lives trying to find that one thing big enough to captivate our awesomeness. And we’ll miss the blessing of loving our neighbors by picking a skunk up off the street.
The next time you smell a dead skunk, consider it your problem.
Maybe a million small and faithful decisions like that will go a long way towards ending those big ugly things like abortion and global hunger.