The priest said to the farmer, “If you had a horse, would you give it to the Lord?” “Yes, I would,” said the farmer. “And if you had a cow, would you give it to the Lord?” “Absolutely,” said the farmer. “What about a goat?” “Sure.” “A pig?” “Now, that’s not fair!” protested the farmer. “You know I have a pig.”
Now, there’s a lesson for us. Things are fine for everybody else, but when that something enters our world, well, that’s a different story. Talk about excuses. We can invent excuses faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive! Take a Clark Kent and invade his territory with something he doesn’t want to do, and you will end up with Superman. We all have areas that we don’t like to have disturbed, much less invaded, don’t we?
Jesus ran into that human tendency in a country called Gerasenes. A man who was very sick was living there. The Bible says he was afflicted with a “Legion” of unclean spirits. That’s about 3,000 chaotic problems. He lived in tombs in the city and ran around naked in the town. The townspeople tried to subdue him by putting him in shackles and chains, but he would break the restraints every time. The tormented man was not only a problem to the community but a problem to himself.
When Jesus came into Gerasenes, the tormented man ran to him, proclaiming that Jesus was the “Son of the Most-High God.” The unclean spirits, unable to cope with Jesus, begged Him to release them, which he did. The unclean spirits left the tormented man and went into a herd of 2,000 pigs on a nearby mountainside. The tormented pigs then ran down the steep bank of the mountainside, dove into the sea, and all the pigs drowned. I call that a “swine dive” or “deviled ham.” They were trying to hog Jesus’ limelight. Sorry about that.
What happened to the afflicted man? There stood the healed man, clothed in his right mind. The townsfolk were amazed, afraid and even a little mad. They wanted Jesus to take their town problem but leave their pigs. They wanted their problem solved, but not at the expense of losing their pigs.
I like that phrase, “Take my problem but leave my pig.” We all do this from time to time. Let me give you some examples.
“Take my debt but leave my credit card.” “Take my weight but leave my chocolate cake.” “Take my cholesterol but leave my super-double-size, 70% fat hamburger.” “Take my STD but leave my promiscuous lifestyle.” “Take my drug withdrawals but leave my drugs.” “Take my jail sentence but leave the money I stole.” Hello?
We like to have what we want and do what we want when we want. But we don’t want the negative consequences that come with our decisions. Many times, we blame God for our choices. It’s like the person who wrote a letter to God saying, “Dear Lord, I have a problem. It’s me.”
Now, what about the tormented man? When Jesus came, he got a new start, a spiritual reset—cleaned up, scrubbed up, the torment was gone, allowing him to get on with the life that God intended for him. That’s for us, too. We all have pasts. We have all made choices that maybe weren’t the best. None of us are entirely innocent, but we get a fresh start every day to be a better person than we were yesterday. How does this happen? If you have a pig, admit your pig, quit your pig and move up to bigger, better and greater.
Sometimes we need to give up to go up. There comes a time when we quit saying to ourselves and others, “I’m mad because, whether right or wrong, I didn’t get what I wanted.”
Jesus said, “If we want to save our life, we must lose our life. If we want to be exalted, we must humble ourselves. If we want to be great in God’s kingdom, we must be a servant to all.” Sometimes we need to be depowered to be empowered. Yes, it costs, but the results are heavenly!
Someone wrote the following for people like us. “Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard. Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard. Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard. Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Pick wisely.”
The length of your life is up to God. The legacy of your life is up to you.