I have stated previously about growing up in Wardensville, West Virginia, in Hardy County. We lived in a house right on Trout Run. This particular stream comes off of Trout Pond and flows several miles from it into the Capon River about two hundred yards from the house and close to the town. The scenery is idyllic.
My parents used to like to sit on the back porch and watch the ducks that took up life along the run. Though they were never pet-keeping people, there was one particular duck that they unofficially adopted. It was a big white duck they named “Arnie.”
Dad would buy corn, and Mom and he would feed Arnie. I guess there is something about feeding a bird that is gratifying for non-pet people. The only thing was that Arnie would often depart from the banks there close to the house, and not be seen for stretches of time. For a while, little did they know that Arnie was eating corn from another hand.
Apparently, Mrs. Funkhouser considered the same white duck as her pet. Mrs. Funkhouser lived along the Capon River close to what we referred to as “the turn hole,” which was a sharp and deep bend of water in the river close to town. It was no big deal to Mom and Dad that Arnie had a home elsewhere and got eats, too. But, apparently it was a big deal to Mrs. Funkhouser that Arnie frequented the Branches.
Dad told me that one day he and Mom were sitting on the back porch watching Arnie doodle along the bank. Surprisingly, they saw Mrs. Funkhouser making her way from the next door property to where Arnie was on Dad’s property. With corn in her hand, and unaware she was being watched, she began luring Arnie close to her, and, when close enough, she snatched him up and hurriedly stepped in the direction she had come.
Dad came out of his chair. Stepping to the edge of the porch, he called out, “Mrs. Funkhouser, leave that duck alone!” He said it must have scared her, for she stumbled awkwardly, and dropped Arnie from her arms. Recovering, she ambled away as quickly as she could. Mom and Dad were indignant that she had tried to snatch their duck away.
In recounting this story, there is something about this white duck, Arnie, that reveals something to us about the Christian ranks. It is found in the fact that the duck had two places where he could be fed. Instead of exclusively feeding from either location, he apparently felt the need – in so many terms – to be fed with corny satisfaction from both locations.
Many from the Christian ranks have this same type of Arnie-the-Duck perspective. Our temporal and emotional and spiritual needs are sought after from two distinctly different sources. Biblically considered, these two sources are God, and this present world system.
The problem that people associated with the Church have is that they do not consider the sources and supplies of God sufficient for completed happiness and satisfaction for their lives. While they might appreciate some of the things that God can provide, it does not quite fill the bill (pardon the pun) for complete fulfillment. They might feed in part from Church or Scripture or prayer, but they still feel compelled to go and be fed by the transient things of this present world system, particularly within the contexts of luxuries and materialism.
The rub is that God expects our “feedings” come from Him exclusively. Scripture reveals it. For example, “Seek you first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” which “things” refer to the superior blessings and providences of God designated for His people. Furthermore, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” which “things” distract Christians from the priority of God in their lives. Jesus insists, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Having alternate sources for being fed corn was no big deal to Arnie. But, by contrast, it should be a big deal for Christians to be committed to the exclusive sources and supplies of God without accompanying desires for and dependencies on the things of this present world system, which is a duck we definitely need to leave alone.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.