This is an old meditation I read again and decided to post.
1 Cor 9:9-10. 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.”
Much ink has been spilt and much furor unleashed in the past several weeks here in North Idaho and throughout the nation. Condemnation has come from all directions: actors, athletes, farmers, politicians, writers. The collective conscience has awoken. “Cruel, insidious, monstrous, criminal, immoral”, these are only a few of the words of censure that have been leveled.
What is it that has caused such a stir in our otherwise calm demeanor? What activity has inspired such prophetic ire? Is it the systematic termination of human life in our abortion clinics? Is it the repeated lying, cheating, and stealing practiced by our public officials? Is it the rank idolatry of our populace? The exploitation of the poor and needy by our welfare state? Or perhaps the exploitation practiced by the Indian Casinos? Or the extreme fighting sponsored in and by them? Is it the widespread growth of prostitution? The explosion of pornography via the internet? The lies and deceit practiced by homosexuals to advocate their perversity in America? No, the nefarious practice that has animated the cultural conscience is dog fighting. It seems that Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has landed himself in a heap of trouble for organizing dog fights at his mansion.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Dog-fighting is a bad thing - for the Scriptures tell us that the righteous man cares for the life of his beast. But the idea that dog fighting is the activity that should be animating the moral consciousness of the public in our day is absurd.
When a culture loses its moral compass, it inevitably strikes out with Puritanical indignation at random “sins” in order to hide the very real sense of guilt and pollution that it senses as a result of its transgression of God’s law. As R.J. Rushdoony in his book, Politics of Guilt and Pity, says, “The guilty person [or culture] conceals a greater crime by open profession of a lesser one.” The question for any civilization is not whether it will be indignant – the question is what it will be indignant over. And what is our culture indignant over? Dog-fighting. Global warming. Homo-phobia. Smoking. Trans-fats. How does this compare to the Scriptural priorities? Should we follow the fad? Should we jump on the band wagon and say, “Yeah, crucify Michael Vick! Let him be the scapegoat for our sin.”
Well Paul offers us a bit of perspective in the text before us today by citing the OT regulation regarding muzzling oxen. “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” God had declared through Moses. And Paul asks, “Is God really concerned about oxen?” Now on one level the answer, of course, is yes – He is. He created the oxen, He gave this regulation regarding the oxen; He expected His regulation to be obeyed. But Paul notes that in another, more important sense, God is not concerned about oxen at all – the regulation serves to highlight the importance of principles that apply to people – those made in the image of God. And what is this principle? That those who labor should enjoy the fruit of their labor. That is why God says don’t muzzle the ox.
And so, why should we oppose dog fighting? Because it highlights the barbarity so prevalent among the men and women in our culture today. What else explains the rise of extreme sports? The rise of battered women? The popularity of reality TV shows like Survivor? Do we really need to repent of dog-fighting? Or do we rather need to repent of the greater sin of hating and despising other men and women who are made in the image of the Triune God, which God we have abandoned that we might bow before our idols?
Reminded of our tendency to hide our guilt under the show of moral indignation, let us kneel and seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing.