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Snakes, Scorpions, and the Spirit

(63)

Sermon shared by Joseph Smith

May 1997
Summary: Jesusí parable helps parents distinguish between the needs and the wants of their children, and teaches us how to invest attention in them.
Denomination: Baptist
Audience: General adults
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that a few dollars for movies and popcorn, never mind the R rating, buys a cheap break for Mom and Dad? Have we decided that when our children need something that would grow them and stimulates them, we will give them not fish but snakes, not nourishment but garbage?

Oh, I remember what itís like. I know what itís like to try to persuade kids about something worthwhile. But I also know that when they are exposed to something positive, they will respond. One spring, about this time of the year, when our children were small, they announced they didnít have anything to do. Weíre bored! Letís go somewhere, Daddy. Letís do something, Mom. So we decided we would take them over to see the National Arboretum. Well, that was not what they had in mind. They were thinking more in terms of maybe rides on the water flumes and spins in the bumper cars. When we told them we were going to see a bunch of trees and shrubs, well, you can imagine the objections, the grumbling and the pouting. Until, that is, we actually got there. And when we let those kids out of the car in the midst of all that color, all of Godís creative glory, they ran into the woods, shouting for sheer joy, and I thought we never would get them home again!

You see, children will respond to something real, given half a chance. Children really do want fish and not snakes, they really do want something nourishing and not something worthless.

Jesus asked, ďIs there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?Ē Letís be very sure, on this Motherís Day, that we who parent and we who grandparent and we who are responsible adults provide wholesome things for the mind and the spirit, fish, and leave out the slimy snakes.
II
But Jesus takes His questions a step further. The issue gets even deeper as He continues to ask what we really want to do for our children? Itís not only fish versus snakes, the nourishing versus the worthless. Itís something deeper as well.

ďIs there anyone among you who, ...... if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?Ē An egg or a scorpion? Again, the answer seems obvious. But maybe it isnít.

From earliest times eggs have been the symbols of life. The reason is obvious. Everybody is fascinated by watching eggs hatch. Thatís why eggs are used at Easter; symbols of life. But scorpions are among the most poisonous and dangerous of creatures. Some varieties of scorpions inject a venom that can cause a very painful, agonizing death within minutes. Eggs and scorpions, powerful contrast between life and death. Jesus is asking, which parent, which adult, if a child asks for life, would deal in death?

Is the answer obvious again? It is not. Sadly, the answer is all too often: death. An eleven-year-old boy has his chest crushed because he couldnít tell time correctly. Two sisters were buried yesterday because someone just took them and wasted them. On and on it goes in our
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