Merrilynne Shaw, Primary Teacher
In Year 5, our daily class devotions have centred around how our thoughts and actions affect others in good ways and bad ways. As a little girl, I was taught a song by some missionaries, and it went something like this…
Seek them out, get them gone,
All the little rabbits in the field of corn.
Envy, jealousy, malice, and pride,
They must never in my heart abide.
It took me some years to understand the meaning of this song. I grew up reading Beatrix Potter and thought that Peter Rabbit was treated unfairly by Mr McGregor, so how could envy, jealousy, malice and pride be connected with a cute little rabbit?
First, some history. In 1859, Thomas Austin decided to have a Christmas hunt on his land at Winchelsea, near Geelong, Victoria. Envious for life back in the mother country and discontented with the alien and hostile landscape, Thomas decided he would make Australia more like his homeland with the addition of familiar flora and fauna. Thomas asked his brother to send 24 rabbits from England. He released them onto his property. The rabbits bred. In 1866 more than 14,000 were shot on Austin’s estate alone. In another two years, 8,080km2 of farmland surrounding Thomas’ estate had to be abandoned, stripped bare by the rabbits. By 1886, the devastation spread as far north as Queensland. By 1900, it had spread 4,800km across the desert to Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The migration of rabbits in Australia was the fastest of any colonising mammal anywhere in the world. For comparison’s sake, rabbits were introduced into southern England by the Normans in 1066 and, as late as 1950, had scarcely made it 310km north, to Scotland.
Rabbits have a particularly devastating effect on local fauna and flora. There have been many efforts at controlling rabbits in Australia, including shooting, poisoning, rabbit-proof fences, and biological controls such as myxomatosis. To this day, rabbits continue to decimate the country at an estimated cost of $200 million per year.
So the point is, rabbits are a metaphor. They defile and devastate our land just like envy, jealousy, malice, and pride devastate and defile our hearts. Jesus explains that a person’s heart is defiled by what comes out of it, through their thoughts, motives, words, and imagination. Sin is conceived in the human heart, takes root in the human mind, and is put into practice through human action.
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”Mark 7:20-23
Jesus does not paint a pretty picture of our hearts. Think about how often we hear things like “follow your heart” or “do what feels right” or “what does your heart tell you?” Jesus tells us that our hearts are the last places to look for advice on being better people. There is also no effective technique that we can devise to clean up our evil inner selves. Thankfully, God has not abandoned us. Through His Spirit, we are made clean. Although we still carry our old sinful hearts, we are no longer alone. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work within us.
Keep praying. Keep reading the Bible. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Our hearts are in His care and there is no better place to be.