My favorite Dr. Seuss book is The Lorax. The eponymous main character looks something like an angry groundhog with a walrus mustache. Claiming to speak for the mute trees, he stands in the gap when the story’s narrator, The Once-ler, rides into the pristine forest with profit on his mind. As the Once-ler has his way with the world, despoiling every last square inch of land, chopping down every tree, forcing the forest creatures out, only the Lorax remains to stand up to him.
Many years later, in relating the sad tale of the destruction of the last truffula tree to a boy, the chastened Once-ler speaks these haunting words:
The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance…
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance…
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.
And I’ll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.
And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with one word…
Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn’t guess.
That was long, long ago. But each day since that day
I’ve sat here and worried and worried away.
Through the years, while my buildings
have fallen apart, I’ve worried about it
with all of my heart.
But now, says the Once-ler,
Now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
The lesson of The Lorax goes far beyond a simple environmental message. It reinforces a Biblical truth that today’s Church in America best heed—the reality of UNLESS.
UNLESS we Christians share the message of Christ with the lost, they’ll endure eternal punishment for all eternity.
UNLESS we feed the hungry, they’ll succumb to malnutrition.
UNLESS we fight for justice for the disenfranchised, they’ll continue to be exploited.
UNLESS we visit the prisoner, they’ll die in a prison of their own loneliness.
UNLESS we minister to the sick, they’ll get sicker and perish, forgotten.
UNLESS we show the world love, it’ll never know what true love is.
We can fill in a thousand statements behind that UNLESS, can’t we? The job Christ left us to do is vast and not getting any less so. We are the Body of Christ—His hands, His feet. And UNLESS we do the work He’s called us to, it simply won’t get done.
8 thoughts on “Unless…”
My, your mood has been all over the map this week! I’ll leave here part of what I left at the Conservative Brunette when she asked about the leading causes of poverty in the US: Jesus Christ is the only catalyst for positive change in this (or any) country, and He is being withheld by a self-centered, pleasure-seeking Christian community. If the church would get off their collective pew-warmers, stop getting high at praise fests, and actually go out into the world, making disciples and baptizing in the name of God, Christ, and the Spirit, imagine the change that would be wrought in this country! What need would there be for nursing homes and hospices? What need would there be for prisons? Why would people watch TV or buy video games? Why would abortion or welfare be a political issue? What need for giant SUVs for one person, or 5000 square foot homes for three people? We would be the body of Christ; feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, defending the defenseless, nursing the sick. Read Isaiah 58, and see if this does not apply to your question.
Once again, your comments are right on the mark. And here’s Isaiah 58 for any who wish to read it:
Isa 58:1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
Isa 58:2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.
Isa 58:3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
Isa 58:4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Isa 58:5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
Isa 58:6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Isa 58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Isa 58:8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Isa 58:9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
Isa 58:10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
Isa 58:11 And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Isa 58:12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
Isa 58:13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
Isa 58:14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
This is the very passage that took our family from that 5,000 SF home in the suburbs down to live among the poor in the city. It pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
I admire your dedication to the Gospel. When I look at my own life, it bothers me that I’m not as dedicated as I should be. Too much of my existence is concerned with making a living and not enough with being alive in Christ. Sadly, I think that’s true of 99% of American Christians, especially if they’re married and have children still at home.
I’ll be blogging about this in the near future. This Unless post is just a drop in that bucket.
Oh, don’t admire us. We mess up all the time. I always think our story is proof that God can work with pretty sad materials to fashion His plan!
I have to tell you, that the biggest driver in my life that was keeping me from serving God in a more radical fashion . . . was fear. God had to work on me for several years about that before we could have begun to have made such a move.
It was a long journey for us and so, I guess it stands to reason, it isn’t an overnight decision for most other people either. The first start of the journey is the realization, then comes the information gathering (and that’s so filled with heartache when we realize all the pain and suffering in the world), then comes the indignation at the church even though we’re not really doing anything ourselves (that’s okay too. I’m realizing that’s part of the process for everybody.) Then suddenly . . . God moves! And boom, there you go.
Gathering that suffering into yourself is so important because we start to get a glimpse of God’s heart. And of course, the mass inaction makes us angry, and then we realize we must either act or shut up.
This process can take years and usually does. But God’s building up a remnant of believers who care about these Micah 6:8, Matthew 25, Is. 58 issues and it’s really exciting for those of us a little further on in the journey (not that we’re experts believe me!) to see our brothers and sisters starting on the path. It’s a very difficult path to walk, you’ll lose the intimacy of friends and family who don’t get you. You’ll walk a very lonely path until God brings in new people who are following Him in the same way you are. Still, it’s painful. Why am I telling you this? Hardly a compelling sell for justice! Sheesh.
Preach it David! I got goosebumps!
Good post, Dan.
Had no idea that Dr. Seuss had such a serious side.
For real! That was brilliant. Thanks for that post!