Smart

Cabbages and Kings

Are people smarter than animals?

The answer is not as one-sided as you might think. Solomon had a pretty high opinion of ants (Prov. 6:6). Agur observed that ants, coneys, locusts, and lizards, although small, are wise (Prov. 30:24-28). In the story of Balaam and his donkey, it was the donkey that came out smelling like a rose (Num. 22:21-34).

True, there are a lot of dumb clucks in the animal world. But owls are wise, and elephants can remember. Not all people yearn for God as the deer does for streams of water (Ps. 42). The serpent outsmarted Eve. Speed, a strong sense of smell, telescopic vision, the art of camouflage—these traits and more the Lord has distributed liberally among us animals.

St. Noah is highly venerated among us lower creatures because without him we would not exist. So we were taught Noahtic lessons in the academy I attended.

For example: Don’t miss the boat. Our ancestors, along with other animals’ ancestors, following an inner compulsion, all marched aboard the ark.

By contrast, some members in our congregation do miss the boat. They drop out of school, marry too soon or unwisely, and don’t save their money for a rainy day.

There is a member in our church who repeatedly refused to serve as a member of the church council although he was eminently qualified. He said he would serve when he retired and had time. Now he does have time. But he has Alzheimer’s. He missed the boat.

A second lesson we learned was to keep in mind that we are all in the same boat. Some members of our church haven’t learned that yet. They fight each other, thus forgetting our common enemy. Sometimes the preacher, dealing with human foibles, says that for two cents he’d quit. But the two cents never materialize.

Speaking of the preacher, I was astonished one Sunday to hear him refer to us mice. It was a sermon on education, based on Deuteronomy 6:6-9—a passage that holds that training and teaching children is a full-time, round-the-clock job. In that connection, he made a reference to my world. Listen to what I recorded.

“A mouse is born a mouse just as our children are born into the covenant. Yet a mouse, born a mouse, must nevertheless be taught about mousemanship. See how the mother mouse with diligence and sustained attention . . . devotes herself to teaching the science of mousemanship and the world-and-life view of mice to her little darlings.”

Paraphrasing his text, he said that “she must teach mousemanship while sitting in her house, walking by the way, when she is lying down and rising up. She must write mousemanship on the doorframes of her house and on the gates. It’s a full-time thing. She can’t send her children where they will be taught by elephants or kangaroos, because what do elephants and kangaroos know about the mousian world-and-life view?”

A powerful message! I thought that if George Orwell, in his book Animal Farm, could deal profitably with the subject of communism and if Solomon writes about ants in dealing with the subject of enterprise, then the preacher can deal with mice in speaking about Christian education.

I think the preacher hit the bull’s eye. Pardon the expression. He could have skipped those big words like assiduity and indefatigability. Even so, it was a great message.

So, are people smarter? Like I said, “The answer is not as one-sided as you might think.”

About the Author

Rev. Jacob D. Eppinga was pastor emeritus of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He went to be with his Lord March 1, 2008. This column concludes his popular “Cabbages and Kings” series, which he wrote for 40 consecutive years. Watch for It’s All Grace, a collection of his best and more recent columns to be published in book form this fall by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
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