Why the Scorpion?
Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Luke 11:11-13 compare with Matthew 7:9-11)
I have read and heard this teaching of Jesus for all of my life. But yesterday it suddenly came alive for me in a new way as the Holy Spirit impressed it strongly on my heart.
Quite obviously Jesus is contrasting here the natural love that a human father has toward his children with our distortions about how our heavenly Father feels towards us. The truth is, for His listeners then the very idea of even thinking about God as a Father was a rather shocking notion. They had been taught to view God as so austere and holy and distant that the idea that He wanted to relate to them with an intimacy that should be shared between a father and a child was quite foreign. So when Jesus began talking so much about viewing God as a loving Father, it seemed almost heretical.
Unfortunately I'm afraid that religion is still doing the same thing today, only using a different technique. Since most religion is now based on the New Testament writings which includes these teachings of Jesus, the numbness with which we often read these words comes from having a disconnect between our head and our heart. We read words of Jesus, we hear the words but we still don't experience or perceive the true meaning of the words.
A large part of this is due to the increasing pervasiveness of abuse committed by many of our earthly fathers. For too many of us, the very word 'father' can resonate with negative memories. Because human fathers have such confused and selfish perspectives about what it means to be a father, the way children are treated and grow up to perceive the word transfers to how they perceive God. For it is unavoidable that those who raise children shape their internal perceptions about what God must be like.
Yet in spite of this, Jesus appeals to the fact that even though we are born and grow up in an evil world that has influenced the way we act as parents, most of us still have an intuitive sense of what a good father should look and act like. The effect of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil on our nature has not left us completely depraved but often just very confused. Recall that half of that tree was labeled as good, and though that goodness is not the genuine kind of goodness that is found only in God's agape love, it is still similar enough to the genuine that God uses it to get our attention as He seeks to show us the far superior ways of His kingdom.
What really interests me in these verses are the specific things that Jesus mentioned. I suppose He could have picked any number of illustrations, and in Matthew's version of these teachings a couple different items are mentioned. There it says if a child asks for bread you would not offer him a stone, would you? But unlike Matthew's, here in Luke's account Jesus talks about an egg and a scorpion.
As I mused over this teaching in my mind on the way to work yesterday, I began pondering what, if any significance there might be in the specific things Jesus chose to mention here. Why did Jesus contrast bread with a stone, fish with a snake and an egg with a scorpion? And suddenly the revelation that exploded in my mind left me stunned and appalled. When the implications of these words of Jesus came alive with new meaning I was overwhelmed when I saw how directly they apply to what we have so long assumed and taught as 'the gospel.'
Bread and fish and eggs are all things we associate as potentially life-giving food that can bring us nourishment. And although fish and eggs are a bit more suspect 2,000 years after Christ lived on this earth because of increasing disease and contamination, the point still needs to be clearly seen. Jesus called Himself the bread of life and He personally oversaw the feeding of thousands of people using bread and fish. Eggs don't seem to show up very often in the Bible, but I am sure they were utilized as food then just as they are today. The point here is that all of these things relate to life and thriving.
In addition, there is something else connected to the idea of eggs that might be helpful to note. Eggs are often associated in our thinking with the idea of new life, with proliferation, with fertility even. Eggs convey an essence of life in contrast with the opposite illustration used by Jesus for a very specific point He didn't want us to miss. But maybe we have missed it anyway because our own views of God are still so darkened that we have overlooked the significance of why Jesus chose these items.
What do we usually think about when we think of a scorpion? A scorpion is best known for its excruciating sting that can often even lead to death. No one wants to encounter a scorpion. The very name elicits fear in our minds and most of us try to stay as far away as we can from having to deal with such creatures. A scorpion has a reputation for inflicting pain and even death on anyone that crosses its path or gets too close to it.
So why did Jesus choose a scorpion as the alternative to giving a child an egg to eat? And likewise, why did He chose a serpent to contrast with bread?
The implication suddenly struck me with stunning clarity and overwhelming force. God has been increasingly impressing on me the tragedy that we have long been presenting Him as ready to treat His children more like a scorpion than like a loving Father. Pervasive in nearly all popular teachings about God it is not uncommon to hear descriptions of a God ready to torture and punish and inflict unthinkable pain and suffering and even death on anyone who might cross His path or offend Him. In essence, our thinking about how God feels towards sinners too often reflects more the attributes of a scorpion and a serpent rather than what Jesus came to show us.
And what about the stone? Why did Jesus choose a stone to contrast to giving a child bread?
I really wonder if it might be possible that there could be an inference in the way Jesus presented this reminding people of the common practice of stoning offenders. Stoning was a common form of punishment for those who had committed offenses, even for things such as talking back to one's parents in a spirit of rebellion or any number of other Old Testament regulations that prescribed stoning as punishment. More than once the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for His radical claims about God and about Himself as the Son of God. So I wonder if Jesus might have meant something like, “If your child asks for bread, you wouldn't give him a stone to the head, would you?”
What really grabbed my attention here is that the main point of what Jesus is trying to teach us in these illustrations is that God is radically different than we have typically thought He is like. And just because we call ourselves Christian or because we can parrot the words of Christ with great expertise in no way means we have gotten the main point of what He came to teach and show us about the Father. The reason Jesus came to this earth to start with was to expose the real truth about the Father's heart toward lost sinners, not in order to change the mind of God about how to treat His estranged children.
I am deeply convicted by these teachings that, if we in the slightest way embrace of convey concepts of God to others that involve stones or snakes or scorpions, then we are guilty of cooperating with the great accuser that has for so long kept us afraid of our loving Father. It was because all other prophets and teachers and leaders throughout history fell so far short of conveying the real truth about God that Jesus came in person to show us the Father accurately.
The importance of this must not be obscured by diluting the truth that Jesus is seeking to convey here. God is not at all like what His great enemy, the arch-deceiver has for so long claimed about Him. Neither is He like what religion has made Him out to be, including many of His friends throughout history, even though they made good attempts to improve what people thought about Him in their time.
Only Jesus can be safely relied on to show us the real truth about God, for as Jesus told Philip, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” And what is clear is that Jesus never treated anyone the way most religious people of His day perceived that God intended to treat them. Jesus never advocated stoning anyone for their offenses but always taught and demonstrated the attitude of forgiveness. Jesus never treated anyone like the great serpent, Satan does, but instead He allowed that serpent to abuse Him both directly and indirectly through the human agents under his control. But all that accomplished was to expose even more clearly the true character of the Father. And most certainly, Jesus never treated anyone or taught that sinners should be punished with pain and suffering to satisfy some sort of punitive justice on the part of God.
The more clearly I see the truth about heaven's true kind of justice and the original principles of the Kingdom of God that have been counterfeited by Satan, the more clear it becomes that we need to embrace the real truth as it is in Jesus and dispense everything that reflects the nature of the negative examples Jesus used here. We desperately need to purge our thinking and teachings of all notions about a god of wrath and anger and violence and allow Him to transform our lives and beliefs into a better reflection of the true nature of His character of selfless, agape love even for His enemies.
There is a great scorpion that is eager to inflict pain and suffering and death at every opportunity he gets. There is a serpent that is ready to strike and harm, intimidate and terrify. There is a devil who will stop at nothing to try to keep our hearts as hard as stone through misrepresentations of our loving heavenly Father as being more like His enemy than like what Jesus came to reveal. But we should not allow ourselves or our influence to any longer be infected with this false views about God.
Notice that Jesus specifically mentioned that we are evil, even though we still know how to give good gifts. In sharp contrast to that He emphasized that our heavenly Father is much more – that is, totally good, far beyond our narrow ideas of what is good for our children. Jesus is not saying here that our ideas of good are how we should define what God is like. Oh no! Jesus is explaining here that God is far, far better than we have ever allowed ourselves to believe or hope for or imagine.
Father, continue to cleanse me of these lies about You that till make me afraid of You. Thank-you so much for continually bringing these fresh insights and warming my heart with the real truth about You. Keep healing my heart and retraining my brain to see Your true glory as revealed in Christ. Do all of this for Your name's sake, for Your reputation.