It’s one of those stories in the Bible that you may remember with little prompting. Jesus had traveled across the lake to Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). He and the disciples are greeted by a demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs. The towns people had tried to bind him with chains, but he broke free. The demons drove him to cut himself with stones.
When the demons saw Jesus they knew who He was and they made the man kneel as they cried out asking why Jesus had come to torture them. The demons were fearful of being sent away. My assumption is that they feared no longer having anyone to torture. They came upon the idea of Jesus sending them into a herd of nearby pigs. Jesus complied. But their nature was destruction and they drove those two thousand pigs off a cliff and into the lake to drown.
The townspeople knew the state this man had been in. However, when they see him “in his right mind” they are afraid. Yes, seeing someone with the power to heal that man might be unnerving. But when they heard about the pigs, they actually asked Jesus to leave! Commentators suggest that the towns people were upset by the loss of the pigs.
The people cared more for pigs than people, more for safety in what they knew than safety with Jesus.
Granted, the loss of 2,000 pigs was probably a huge economic issue. But sometimes, I fear I can get a bit smug because I want to believe that I would always choose people over pigs.
Confession: I recently struggled with wanting to choose the pigs.
A number of years ago, I started sponsoring two children through Compassion International. Kayirangwa is from Rwanda. Delia was from Ecuador. Sadly, a year or so later, Delia left the program. Her parents no longer wanted her to be part of it. Compassion asked me to sponsor Ambar.
Finances have been tight. I have a stable job, but with no merit or even cost of living raises and mounting costs in fuel, water, food, etc, it is tight. I had already been wondering about the wisdom of sponsoring two children. But I was attached to both and how could I choose between them?
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Compassion to tell me that Ambar had left the program. The good news was that her family’s economic situation had changed for the better and they felt the spot should be used for a more needy child. The even better news was that over the last year, Ambar had accepted Jesus! Yeah! Go God!
I was saddened to lose her, but immediately felt like the decision about sponsoring two children had been made easy. However, when a child leaves the program, Compassion sends a packet of another child in the same country for you to consider. It came a couple days later. When this had happened with Ambar, I had immediately opted to sponsor her. This time I was more hesitant and held onto it for several days, mulling and praying.
God brought this story to mind. As much as I love children and believe in Compassion, I “really wanted to choose pigs.” I could think of several ways to use that $38 a month. If nothing else, it might make living feel ever so slightly “less tight.” Yes, I struggled because like the towns people, I thought of the economic angles.
Pigs or people? Pigs or a little girl named Margarita with solemn face in her picture?
Heaven help me, Margarita. And after much haggling with God, I made my decision. Margarita. My little girl named Margarita.
Now it is time to send that check. The anxiety is there. At moments the pigs call out in the form of anxiety or fear.
This check is not a bill. It is an investment in the life of a little girl and if God moves in her heart, eternity.
Where do you have the option to choose people over pigs? I would love to hear!