A Dead Mule

muleDuring my youthful years, my dad often used a parable or folk story as a teaching tool for me. On one occasion, my dad gave me an advance on my allowance for my promise to weed and hoe the garden. The money was soon spent on attending a ballgame and a movie. The promised work seemed to slip my mind. After a while, my dad called me to his version of a ‘come-to-Jesus meeting’.

My dad told me the following true story:  As a young farmer, he was trying to scratch out a living on a 39-acre farm.  He had a team of horses and a mule. A neighbor with a dubious reputation for hard work and trustworthiness approached him with a plaintive story. He desperately needed a mule to tend his garden and a small tobacco crop. He had a large family who would go hungry if my dad didn’t sell him the mule. Against his better judgment, a tender heart prevailed, and he sold the neighbor the mule. Poor treatment and overwork led to the demise of the mule within a few months. The promised payments never came. When my dad quizzed the fellow, his response was, “Lloyd, it’s awful hard to pay for a dead mule”.

Permit me to apply the lesson I learned that day to the spiritual dimension of life. Many of us have found ourselves in a seemingly hopeless situation. Perhaps it was a critical illness, financial crisis, or family tragedy that overwhelms us. We cried out to the Lord for help. In desperation, we promised to go to church, read the Bible, and live an exemplary life, if only the Lord would help us. The crisis passes and things come to a successful conclusion. All of the promises and commitments then seem to slip our minds and we settle back in to life as usual.  With the stressful predicament over, we find it is “hard to pay for a dead mule”.

God’s word issues stern warnings against making rash vows to God. I’ll share just one: “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God…When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-6, NIV). 

Prayer: Lord, when we urgently need your help, let our petitions be based on a right relationship with You, not shallow promises as we seek mercy and grace.

~ Brother Roy

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