Deacon Bob Evans
He Said You'd Do What is Right
It had snowed during the night and Ben sensed a sacred silence in the air as he looked out the window. He’s served as the only teacher in this little schoolhouse for more than 40 years. Well, there’d be no school today. The snow was much too deep for the children in this rural community in the Yukon to make it to the schoolhouse. Just then, Ben noticed someone on horseback heading slowly his way. He estimated that it would be about a half hour before the rider would make it to the schoolhouse. After Ben had added more logs to the fire to warm up the place for his visitor, he returned to the window.
It was then that he noticed that there was a man walking behind the horseman.
It was then that he noticed that there was a man walking behind the horseman. As they drew closer, Ben could make out that it was a young man with his hands apparently tied behind his back. He was being led by the man on horseback. Just about everyone in the area who was younger than 45 had been, at one time, one of Ben’s students. And, as they drew near, he immediately recognized the rider as Deputy Kevin McDermit, with what was obviously a prisoner.
“Come on in, get warm,” Ben shouted as he headed inside to heat two pints of grog. As he handed the hot drink to the deputy, he motioned to have the prisoner’s hands untied. “Who is he; what’d he do?” “His name’s Amed, he’s a thief. He was caught stealing food over at the Parker place the other night.”
Ben looked more closely at the scruffy young man hunched over near the wood stove and thought, “why he must have been starving, he looks like he hasn’t had a decent meal in a long time.” “Where you headed with him?” Ben asked.
The Constable said you would do what is right.
“Well, I’m going back to town, but the Constable told me that you’re to bring this thief to the Mountie station in Dawson. “Me! I’m not a lawman, I’m a schoolteacher.” “I know, but the Constable said you would do what is right.” And with that the deputy left, mounted up and was gone. The deputy’s words rang in Ben’s ears, “the Constable said you would do what is right.” What is the right thing to do here?
“Should I be a ‘good citizen,’ and take him to Dawson - let the law deal with him? What’s a young man with an Arabic name doing in the Yukon, anyway? But, he’s obviously destitute, he’s starving. That’s not a thief, as we know ‘thief.’ Should I just give him some food and put him on a train to parts unknown? O God, help me make the right decision.”
We just encountered a modern-day parable, a story that uses a real-life experience to illustrate a spiritual lesson or principle. In the story, Ben struggles with an age-old problem, one we all face, trying to make the right decision when it isn’t really clear what the right thing is. Just like many biblical parables, this story has no conclusion; the listener/reader must discern what the spiritual lesson is and how it applies to them by following the details used to tell the story..
The very last line was “O God, help me make the right decision.” Was that an expression of exasperation uttered by Ben, or was it a prayer? In the very first line it said: “Ben sensed a sacred silence in the air.” In parable telling, the speaker/writer gives hints on how to interpret what the characters are saying and doing. This hint, at the very beginning, tells us that Ben is one who is ‘in tune’ with the wonders of God’s creation. So, we interpret that last line as a prayer rather than an expression of exasperation. When faced with having to make the right decision, Ben turned to God for help.
Much of Scripture, particularly the Book of Proverbs, was about helping people make right decisions in life.
Why do you think the Constable was so confident that the schoolteacher would make the right decision? Well, he knew Ben to be a man of Scriptures, and much of Scripture, particularly the Book of Proverbs, was about helping people make right decisions in life.
Around the year 330 BC, thousands of Jews had sought refuge from the turmoil in Jerusalem by fleeing to Alexandria, Egypt. But there they were so heavily immersed in the secular world that they were losing the sense of right and wrong that had characterized Judaism for centuries. So, God prompted the author of the Book of Proverbs to gather into one book much of the wisdom advice from their past. In those days, “wisdom” didn’t refer to using one’s knowledge or intellect but rather the ability to make right decisions. And, the main message in Proverbs is that only with the help of God can we consistently make right decisions in life.
The modern-day secularism that surrounds us says that the key to making right decisions is balancing listening to our heart with listening to our head.
Today, we are in very similar cultural circumstances as the Jews in Alexandria more than 2300 years ago. The modern-day secularism that surrounds us says that the key to making right decisions is balancing listening to our heart with listening to our head. And further, nothing is worse than remaining in a state of indecision. But, this is precisely the opposite of the coaching God prompted in Proverbs, for example: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not rely only on your own intelligence; in all your ways be mindful of God, and he will make your path straight” [Proverbs 3:5-6]. And further, “he who makes haste errs” [Proverbs 19:2b].
The author of Proverbs regarded wisdom, the ability to make right decisions, as being so intimately connected to the very nature of God that he saw wisdom as having its own personhood. Indeed, Wisdom speaks as a person in the Book of Proverbs, for example: “When the Lord established the heavens, I was there … when he fixed the foundations of earth, I was beside him” [Proverbs 8:27,29-30].
This is the earliest insight we have into the person and role of the Holy Spirit. And, notice it came in the context of making right decisions in life. So, where do we turn, what will guide us when we have to make the right decision when it isn’t really clear?
“The Constable said you would do what is right.” What will others say about us?
‘Till next time.
Dcn Bob Evans
August 4, 2019
NEWS: My book, Walking the Parables of Jesus is now in print and will soon be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But it is still available at a 20% pre-order discount at http://enroutebooksandmedia.com/walkingtheparables/ there, just click on the yellow “Buy Now” button.
ALSO: on that same site, scroll down a bit and listen to the podcast of my interview with Ray Gerard of WCAT Radio in St. Louis.
Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 8:27,29-30; Proverbs 19:2b