As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. Proverbs 26, verse 11.
Here’s a cheery Wednesday verse if ever I saw one. I have a dog at home; I call him “4-Legged Josh” since my daughter’s fiancé is named “Josh” (and he is “2-legged Josh”). I got the dog before the son-in-law but didn’t have the heart to rename the dog once the man became part of my family. 4-Legged Josh is part pit bull, part Catahoula, and he’s sweetest dog I’ve ever owned. He’s very loyal, extremely gentle, and very intimidating given that he looks like the kind of dog Michael Vick might have fancied not too long ago.
And he’s also as dumb as a bag of hammers. He runs in circles that have made a huge rut in my backyard. He bites himself even though he has neither fleas nor mange. He will drink out of the pond that is acrid at best. And then he will get sick…and then come back to lap it up.
Ick. Let’s say that again: ick.
Nice visual, eh, even though it’s of my sweet, black, blue-eyed and very lovable mutt? You’ve seen it: dogs will eat anything, including what they upchuck. They will retch, walk away from it, and then if the urge so strikes them, they will walk back and eat up what they just threw up. Say it again: ick. Repulsive, gross, sickening, disgusting: take your pick. It’s ‘ick’.
That’s what it is when you and I repeat our sins. It’s repulsive, gross, sickening, and disgusting to God when you and I keep repeating our same pet sins. Maybe it’s your tendency to swear; maybe it’s my desire for companionship; maybe it’s spending money; maybe it’s hatred. Maybe it’s whatever sin you do that you keep doing. You and I are fools for doing the same things over and expecting a different outcome; by Einstein’s definition, we’re insane; by God’s definition too. Yes, we are no different, no more icky, than a dog returning to lick up its own vomit when we, as fools, keep doing the same foolish things over and over.
Paul struggled with this too, you know. The greatest missionary in history, perhaps the greatest hypocrite ever turned for Godly use, was a fool who was just like a dog and its puke. Check out Romans 7: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Are you or I any different? I didn’t think so. What’s the antidote to this? Got Jesus? Any questions? I find it amazing that it was a proverb, written hundreds of years before, that (like the rest of ancient Scripture) served as a reminder to the people of old of why they needed God to redeem them. And it’s a proverb today that reminds you and I, modern people of today, of the exact same thing. The verse isn’t prophetic; it doesn’t forecast the coming of the Messiah. But it is a subtle reminder of why that Messiah is so important and why He was so needed then and now.
So on a cheery Wednesday, I’ll think of 4-Legged Josh (and 2-Legged Josh as well) and remember that I’m no different if left to my own devices. The nature at work within me is always trying to get me to repeat my same mistakes, my same common sins. What is also at work within me – and what will always overcome my nature – is the Spirit of God who teaches us to follow Him and put off the old ways. The old ways can tempt, and they do. But they can’t overtake us when we’re robed in that Spirit, and empowered with its glory and love.