Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Boy Who Cried Wolf Revisited

     Most of us have heard the old story about the boy who cried wolf.  He was a bored shepherd boy who decided to pull a prank.  He cried out that a wolf was attacking the sheep under his care.  The people in the village came running to help him, but soon found out that there was no wolf.  After a brief scolding, the people went back to the village.  A little while later, the boy decided to cry out again that a wolf was attacking his sheep.  Once again, the people came to help him.  Of course, there was no wolf so they went home even more annoyed at this needless prank.  When a real wolf came and the boy cried out, no one came to his aid.  The sheep were scattered, and the boy was heartsick.  One of the elders of the village reminded him that no one believes a liar even when he tells the truth.
     Lying to others is certainly one of the morals of this story from Aesop's Fables, but I believe there is another pattern we can see in it as well.  One of the serious pitfalls in our culture today comes when people do not stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for their lives.  In the fable, the boy told a lie to get attention, but in real life, there are people who claim they have a great need so that others will pity them and provide for their comfort.  If it stopped there, it would not be an abuse of the kindness of others.  Often,  however,  these same folks ask over and over again for assistance.  Eventually, people weary of always providing for them just as the villagers in the fable tired of the boy crying wolf.  At some point, everyone needs to take responsibility for his own life.  Lets look at a couple of key scripture verses that deal with this.
     2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 reads:  "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."  Some folks are down on their luck and need a helping hand, but in this passage, Paul is addressing those who could find gainful employment and did not.  Instead, they stood around getting into other people's affairs rather than serving the needs of the community or their family.  They cry wolf so that others will feel sorry for them, but sooner or later, people will turn a deaf ear to their cries because they have worn out their welcome.  In addition to working to earn a living, the Bible also speaks to the issue of laziness or slothfulness.
     Proverbs has a good deal to say about the subject of being lazy and hating work.  Prov. 21:25 reads:  "The sluggard's craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work."  In addition, the lazy person gives all kinds of excuses:  "There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets" (Prov. 26:13).  A lazy person also wastes time and energy:  "He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great waster" (Prov. 18:9).  The end result of someone who is slothful can be a sad one just as the boy who cried wolf too many times found out.  Here is what the Bible says about that lazy person:  "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor" (12:24); "A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing" (20:4);  "The soul of the lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich" (13:4).  To sum it all up, a lazy person will go into debt, eventually end in poverty and have nothing to show for his life.  This is the very antithesis of what God calls us to be in Christ.  Yet, there are people who call themselves Christians but do not attempt to serve the Lord by working to serve others and repay their debts.  So if we meet someone who seems to be "crying wolf" by asking for help repeatedly without trying to change their circumstances, how do we help them?
     This is where it can be tough.  We need to be able to draw a line like the people of the village did with the shepherd boy.  They answered his call twice but the third time they did not come.  To put it another way, they did not enable him to continue with his pranks.  We have to have the wisdom to know when to help someone and when to draw back and let them face the consequences of their decisions and behavior.  There is a balance to be found.  We do not help others when we continually give in to their calls for assistance due to either their laziness or poor stewardship.  Instead, we have to show tough love that encourages those around us to accept responsibility for their actions and lives.  My father-in-law was fond of quoting a saying: " If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime."  Let us teach those in our sphere of influence how to fish rather than feeding them for a day, and let us show our love for them by allowing them to face the consequences of their decisions.  This will break the cycle of the "boy who cried wolf".  Selah!

Please share your thoughts and insights with me.  I enjoy hearing encouragement from you and appreciate your visit.


Petra said...

There's a big difference between the sluggard (someone who is able to work and help himself but won't) and the oppressed (those who wan't but can't, or are not allowed). Yes, one can teach another how to fish, but only One can change the heart to make it want to catch something. Blessings!

Barbara Thayer said...

You are absolutely correct Petra. There is a difference between those who could help themselves and others who cannot. It is important for us to discern which one falls into what category. I do agree that only Christ can change the heart to give us the motivation to obey. Sadly, there are many in our society (we see them in our office upon occasion) who like to live off of others. They are on disability but they appear very able bodied. This hurts those who really have serious needs. My prayer is that God will help me to see the genuine needs and to avoid being fooled by those who do not.
Thanks for sharing your perspective!!!