Covetousness

Reading: 2 Samuel 12:1-10

The following story was written by Thornton W. Burgess and published in Mother West Wind “Why” Stories in 1915. Now out of print, the book can be read free online.


WHY BUSTER BEAR APPEARS TO HAVE NO TAIL


Peter Rabbit had something new to bother his bump of curiosity. And it did bother it a lot. He had just seen Buster Bear for the first time, and what do you think had impressed him most? Well, it wasn’t Buster’s great size, or wonderful strength, or big claws, or deep, grumbly-rumbly voice. No, Sir, it wasn’t one of these. It was the fact that Buster Bear seemed to have no tail! Peter couldn’t get over that. He almost pitied Buster Bear. You see, Peter has a great admiration for fine tails. He has always been rather ashamed of the funny little one he has himself. Still, it is a real tail, and he has often comforted himself with that thought.


So the first thing Peter did when he saw Buster Bear was to look to see what kind of a tail he had. Just imagine how surprised he was when he couldn’t make sure that Buster had any tail at all. There was something that might, just might, be meant for a tail, and Peter wasn’t even sure of that. If it was, it was so ridiculously small that Peter felt that he had no reason to be ashamed of his own tail.


He was still thinking about this when he started for home. Half way there, he paused, saw that the way to the Smiling Pool was clear, and suddenly made up his mind to ask Grandfather Frog about Buster Bear’s tail. Off he started, lipperty-lipperty-lip.


“Oh, Grandfather Frog,” he panted, as soon as he reached the edge of the Smiling Pool, “has Buster Bear got a tail?”

Grandfather Frog regarded Peter in silence for a minute or two.


Then very slowly he asked: “What are your eyes for, Peter Rabbit? Couldn’t you see whether or not he has a tail?”


“No, Grandfather Frog. I really couldn’t tell whether he has a tail or not,” replied Peter quite truthfully. “At first I thought he hadn’t, and then I thought he might have. If he has, it doesn’t seem to me that it is enough to call a really truly tail.”


“Well, it is a really truly tail, even if you don’t think so,” retorted Grandfather Frog, “and he has it for a reminder.”


“A reminder!” exclaimed Peter, looking very much puzzled. “A reminder of what?”


Grandfather Frog cleared his throat two or three times. “Sit down, Peter, and learn a lesson from the tale of the tail of Old King Bear,” said he very seriously.


“You remember that once upon a time, long ago, when the world was young, Old King Bear ruled in the Green Forest, and everybody brought tribute to him.” Peter nodded and Grandfather Frog went on.


“Now Old King Bear was the great-great-ever-so-great grandfather of Buster Bear, and he looked very much as Buster does, except that he didn’t have any tail at all, not the least sign of a tail. At first, before he was made king of the Green Forest, he didn’t mind this at all. In fact, he was rather pleased that he didn’t have a tail. You see, he couldn’t think of any earthly use he would have for a tail, and so he was glad that he hadn’t got one to bother with.


“This was just Old Mother Nature’s view of the matter. She had done her very best to give everybody everything that they really needed, and not to give them things which they didn’t need. She couldn’t see that Mr. Bear had the least need of a tail, and so she hadn’t given him one. Mr. Bear was perfectly happy without one, and was so busy getting enough to eat that he didn’t have time for silly thoughts or vain wishes.


“Then he was made king over all the people of the Green Forest, and his word was law. It was a very great honor, and for a while he felt it so and did his best to rule wisely. He went about just as before, hunting for his living, and had no more time than before for foolish thoughts or vain wishes. But after a little, the little people over whom he ruled began to bring him tribute, so that he no longer had to hunt for enough to eat. Indeed, he had so much brought to him, that he couldn’t begin to eat all of it, and he grew very dainty and fussy about what he did eat. Having nothing to do but eat and sleep, he grew very fat and lazy, as is the case with most people who have nothing to do. He grew so fat that when he walked, he puffed and wheezed. He grew so lazy that he wanted to be waited on all the time.


“It happened about this time that he overheard Mr. Fox talking to Mr. Wolf when they both thought him asleep. ‘A pretty kind of a king, he is!’ sneered Mr. Fox. ‘The idea of a king without a tail!’


“‘That’s so,’ assented Mr. Wolf. ‘Why, even that little upstart, Mr. Rabbit, has got a make-believe tail.'”


Grandfather Frog’s eyes twinkled as he said this, and Peter looked very much embarrassed. But he didn’t say anything, so Grandfather Frog went on.


“Old King Bear pretended to wake up just then, and right away Mr. Fox and Mr. Wolf were as polite and smiling as you please and began to flatter him. They told him how proud they were of their king, and how handsome he was, and a lot of other nice things, all of which he had heard often before and had believed. He pretended to believe them now, but after they were through paying their respects and had gone away, he kept turning over and over in his mind what he had overheard them say when they thought he was asleep.


“After that he couldn’t think of anything but the fact that he hadn’t any tail. He took particular notice of all who came to pay him tribute, and he saw that every one of them had a tail. Some had long tails; some had short tails; some had handsome tails and some had homely tails; but everybody had a tail of some kind. The more he tried not to think of these tails, the more he did think of them. The more he thought of them, the more discontented he grew because he had none. He didn’t stop to think that probably all of them had use for their tails. No, Sir, he didn’t think of that. Everybody else had a tail, and he hadn’t. He felt that it was a disgrace that he, the king, should have no tail. He brooded over it so much that he lost his appetite and grew cross and peevish.


“Then along came Old Mother Nature to see how things were going in the Green Forest. Of course she saw right away that something was wrong with Old King Bear. When she asked him what the matter was, he was ashamed to tell her at first. But after a little he told her that he wanted a tail; that he could never again be happy unless he had a tail. She told him that he hadn’t the least use in the world for a tail, and that he wouldn’t be any happier if he had one. Nothing that she could say made any difference–he wanted a tail. Finally she gave him one.


“For a few days Old King Bear was perfectly happy. He spent all his spare time admiring his new tail. He called the attention of all his subjects to it, and they all told him that it was a very wonderful tail and was very becoming to him. But it wasn’t long before he found that his new tail was very much in the way. It bothered him when he walked. It was in the way when he sat down. It was a nuisance when he climbed a tree. He didn’t have a single use for it, and yet he had to carry it with him wherever he went. Worse still, he overheard little Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Possum making fun of it. And then he discovered that the very ones who admired his tail so to his face were laughing at him and poking fun at him behind his back.


“And then Old King Bear wished that he hadn’t a tail more than ever he wished that he did have a tail. Again he lost his appetite and grew cross and peevish, so that no one dared come near him. So matters went from bad to worse, until once more Old Mother Nature visited the Green Forest to see how things were. Very humbly Old King Bear went down on his knees and begged her to take away his tail. At first Old Mother Nature refused, but he begged so hard and promised so faithfully never again to be discontented, that finally she relented and took away his tail, all but just a wee little bit. That she left as a reminder lest he should forget the lesson he had learned and should again grow envious.


“And every bear since that long-ago day has carried about with him a reminder–you can hardly call it a real tail–of the silly, foolish discontent of Old King Bear,” concluded Grandfather Frog.


Peter Rabbit scratched one long ear thoughtfully as he replied: “Thank you, Grandfather Frog. I think that hereafter I will be quite content with what I’ve got and never want things it is not meant that I should have.”


For Further Study:

  • Read Colossians 1:9-12. If David could have read these verses before seeing Bathsheba, how would they have helped him avoid sin?

  • What do you wish you could have/own? What are the things you wish you had money to buy? It’s so hard to deny yourself things, but we can’t own everything we want. And today we studied about how miserable David made himself by wanting something and forgetting all the things he already had. What do you already have? What are the things you can focus on being thankful for so that you won’t dwell on the things you wish for?

“Uncleanness”

Reading: Leviticus 11:41-45

Louis was looking at his picture book from Bible class.  He was looking at a picture of the tabernacle.  Men in the picture were dressed in special robes, and they were leading different animals to the tabernacle for sacrifice.

“I’m glad I didn’t live in Bible times, Daddy,” said Louis.

“Why is that, son?” asked his father.

“There were too many rules!  I don’t think I could remember them all.  Wasn’t it an awfully strict way to live?”

“It did have many rules,” agreed Daddy.  “We have to remember that God had a special purpose for the Israelites.  Do you remember the special Person who would come from their nation?

“Jesus!” said Louis.

“That’s right,” said his father.  “And because such a special Person was to come from their family, the Israelites had to live in a special way.  All of these rules made them different from the idol-worshippers around them.  It made the Israelites realize that they had to be holy and special, like God and their future Messiah.”

“It would still be a hard way to live,” said Louis, looking again at the picture in his book.

“I agree, son, and I’m thankful God freed us from that way of life when Jesus died and taught us to live as Christians.  But God’s people still have to think of God as holy and special, and we still have to live in a way that shows we belong to Him.”

“Why, how can we do that, Daddy, when we don’t have the same fancy clothes or other rules that those people had?” asked Louis, pointing to the picture of the priest.

“Well, the New Testament still teaches us how to act, and talk, and dress in a way that shows people we belong to God.  We talk about the Bible, we act kindly, and we dress modestly.  People will notice how different we are, even if it’s not as obvious as it is in your picture book.  The way we spend our time, the things we spend our money on, and the way we treat others, all show people what is in our hearts.  And Who is supposed to be in our hearts, Louis?”

“Jesus!” said Louis, who felt this was a safe answer since it worked before.

His father smiled and hugged him.  “You are right again!  Jesus Christ is in our hearts, and we must show Him to everyone because we love Him.”

Memory Verse: Therefore be ye holy, for I am holy.  Leviticus 11:44 (also quoted in 1 Peter 1:16).

For Further Study:

  • In the book of Leviticus, from chapters 11-15, the word “unclean” is found more than 100 times. Read Acts 10.  Peter was told by God that the foods which were once unclean to the Jews could now be eaten.  What did that tell Peter about Cornelius and other Gentiles?
  • Have you ever heard the saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness”?  Read these verses to see what God says about “cleanliness” today:
    Matthew 23:27-28 ~ What does God really want us to cleanse?
    Acts 22:16 ~ How are men able to “wash” themselves on the inside?
    2 Corinthians 7:1 ~ What happens when a person washes his soul?
  • How often do you wash your hands?  How often do you wash your face?  How often do you wash your body? Do you pray this often?  Prayer for help and forgiveness helps cleanse our souls from disobedience.  It lifts away the filthiness of our sins, and also the guilty feelings we may carry around.  It can refresh and revive our spirits!  We give up many benefits when we neglect prayer.  Make a plan today to pray more often (not just at mealtimes, and not just with mom and dad).  Can you put up reminders or have people help you?
Posted in Heart, Holiness/purity, Idols, Modesty, Prayer, Priesthood, Repentance & Forgiveness, Savior, Worship. Comments Off on “Uncleanness”