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A Chinese Folk Tale

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There’s a fascinating old Chinese folk tale that I want to share with you.

From it, allow me to present you with a case study.

The Emperor’s jade cricket box was stolen from the imperial bedchamber. The chief of the guards had narrowed the suspects down to two palace servants. Because neither would confess, the Emperor decided to execute them both.

Then the court magician intervened. Through his magic arts, he would identify the true thief so that the innocent man could live. The Emperor consented and had both suspects brought into his courtyard.

The magician asked each servant to cut a stalk of bamboo. He then shoved the two bamboo stalks into the ground, exposing only the upper foot of each stalk. He then said, “Each bamboo now holds the spirit of the man who cut it.”

“The stalk cut by the guilty man will magically grow during the night. At dawn, when we return to this spot, one stalk will be exactly one inch longer than the stalk of the innocent man, and we will know which man stole the box.

Now here is the mystery: How did he identify the guilty servant at dawn?

At dawn everyone gathered once more and were amazed to see that one stalk was two inches longer.

The magician smiled and said, “The man with the shorter stalk is your thief.

The chief of the guards protested: “No, no. You said the man with the longer stalk!

The magician shook his head, “My magic was not needed.”

“The thief was afraid his stalk would grow and reveal his guilt. So he sneaked into the courtyard during the night and cut two inches off his own stalk: one inch to compensate for the magic, and one inch to implicate his fellow servant. By trying to hide his guilt, he had proven it.”

Now doesn’t this apply to our times today? Many people I know, in order to hide their guilt, simply prove they’re guilty. This makes me wonder all the time.

Successful people are guilty people who have the courage to admit their mistakes, fix them, and move on.

Losers are those who spend the same amount of time and energy covering up their mistakes. And, many times in doing so, they simply reveal it.

I guess this is why I like going to church and I love meditating on the Word. I get to hear the message and it convicts me. I read God’s Word and it speaks to me.

Revealing my faults and defects, I can assure you it’s painful. But it’s a pain designed to heal not harm. I know I have to deal with it squarely and not to cover up for my mistakes. Over the years, I have concluded that it’s simpler, less complicated, and more effective.

So what do you do when you’re in church and the message begins to penetrate your being? Do you brush it off or do you face it squarely too?

Let me share with you a poem called “Pastor’s Sermon Aimed At ME.” Here’s how it goes.

My pastor shapes his sermons
From A to final Z,
In clear and forthright language
And aims them straight at me.
And when he gets to preaching,
I look around to see
If there might be another
Deserving more than me.
But every soul looks saintly
Their hearts to heaven turn
While I, in my conviction,
Can only sit and squirm.
You know, I often wonder
If I should miss a day;
Would he, without his target,
Have anything to say?

I guess Phillips Brooks was right. He said, “Keep clear of concealment, keep clear of the need of concealment. It is an awful hour when the first necessity of hiding anything comes.

“The whole life is different thenceforth. When there are questions to be feared, eyes to be avoided, and subjects that must not be touched, then the bloom of life is gone.”

Print ed: 08/11


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