A Proverbial Spider

I wrote this piece in February, 2020 and delivered it to my church in early March. At that time I had no idea how relevant it was to become.

I love old second-hand bookshops. I rarely buy anything but love browsing. While holidaying in Suffolk a few years ago, I did buy a book and it was this one:

‘The Diary of a Country Parson’

The book is a fascinating insight into the life of an eighteenth-century English vicar. One particular entry appealed to me:

1774 – October 15th

“I caught a remarkable large spider in my wash place this morning & put him in a small glass decanter & fed him some bread, & intend keeping him.”

Unsurprisingly, there’s no further mention of the spider in the diary, but I’ll get back to him later.

This was a bizarre entry but as the book reflects the man’s personal diary there is no reason to doubt his honesty. But in a world of Fake News how do we discern fact from fiction. Truth from lies. And how important is it that we’re able to do so?

What is the impact on us when our perceptions become skewed, whether that distortion be by accident or design? With this in mind, imagine a world in which 98% of the media is controlled by a handful of huge corporations. Six to eight small groups of extremely powerful people gathered in boardrooms controlling everything you see – and equally important, what you don’t see.

Their unwritten mantra may be along the lines of ‘control the information and you control the people’. This scenario shouldn’t stretch the imagination. Like it or not, it’s today’s reality. Extend that deception to academia. Our own education.

If that seems a step too far, how many Christians reading this believe in the ‘Big Bang’ and Darwin’s theory of Evolution? Yet, both are taught as fact through all grades of education and propagated through every natural history programme, publication and in every museum. Everywhere.

So if you’ve been lied to about something as fundamental as the origin of time, space and matter; the origin – or genesis – of life, is it so hard to imagine they’d lie to you about anything and everything?

That said, now imagine a generation that has been systematically misled from cradle to grave.

It would be reasonable to suggest that under these conditions, instruction and advice parents have passed on to their offspring with all good intentions has therefore been flawed to some degree. Compromised. Now, extend that deception to academia. Our own education.

The result would be a second generation whose start in life has been influenced by misinformation and who then enter an academic environment structured on those same falsehoods while, at the same time, becoming increasingly influenced by a corrupted, unprincipled and increasingly pervasive media.

A whole generation then who live entire lives without ever knowing essential truths that should form the bedrock on which their characters are built.

What would be the consequence of such a deception? To help answer this, first of all consider animals in the wild.

Without ‘situational awareness’ the deck is stacked against them

Their survival depends on knowledge of their environment. They need to know where to find food, what foods sustain them and what doesn’t. They must know where to find safety in times of danger and routes they need to take quickly to get there. They need to know where to shelter for rest.

Without that ‘situational awareness’ the deck becomes stacked against them. Similarly, we need an ever-acute situational awareness. The information we receive shapes our perceptions, opinions, world view, decisions, life choices and actions.

Therefore, an environment dominated by misinformation and deliberate deception renders it impossible for us to make effective life choices. Like wild animals lost in an unfamiliar landscape, our odds of success in life become … diminished.

Clearly a trusted source is vital. A benchmark by which we may judge all else.

As Christians we know of only one fundamental and 100% reliable truth … the word of God. The Bible. How do we know this?

Simple. The Bible tells us so.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy we find:

‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

2 Timothy 3: 16-17

Scripture – our standard, or yardstick – therefore imparts undisputable conviction. It equips us with a road-map by which we need never lose our way.

In his earlier letter to Timothy, Paul had stated:

‘If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister in Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith …’

1 Timothy 3:6

We see here, therefore, that God’s word – his truth – is also nourishing. By extension it would be fair to say that those things in direct opposition to God’s truth – may be considered toxic.

Moreover, in an age in which a view expressed in Cardiff, Wales can be transmitted to Cardiff, New South Wales in little more than a heartbeat, lies are also contagious.

As contagious as a virus. Viruses and lies. Now there’s a topical consideration.

When I returned to the church following an absence of forty years I felt I had some serious catching up to do. I dusted off my bible and … two thousand two hundred pages, sixty six books written by over forty authors over 1500 years. Where do I start?

There are guides aplenty for this and each one has something unique to say, so I guess it comes down to personal choice. Whatever works for you is always going to be the best option. One piece of advice suggested the use of The Book of Proverbs in maintaining a discipline of daily reading.

Proverbs, at thirty-one chapters lends itself perfectly to a monthly rotational reading programme. Read a chapter each day, through to the end – then start again. For those months having thirty days only, read two chapters on the last day.

But for guidance in life in the twenty-first century what use is a book written approximately 700 years before Christ? To answer this I’ll quote the introduction from my own study bible:

‘Everyone knows the value of good advice. Listening to those who are wiser than we are gives us the benefit of their hard-won experience. Growing up, getting along with others, and holding a job all would be impossible without guidance from folks who have been there before.

The Book of Proverbs gives that kind of help. But the book is more than a collection of tips and tricks. It passes on a core of knowledge and experience that God says we must have if we are to live successfully.

These proverbs are not merely old sayings that concern people in far-off lands, but universal principles that apply to all people of all times. They speak of modern problems as much as ancient ones because they concern human nature and God’s ways.’

For anyone in any doubt about the relevance of Proverbs, here’s the clincher:

‘Human nature has not changed since Solomon’s time; neither has God‘s. Only the landscape around us has changed.’

So thirty-one chapters of sound advice that lends itself perfectly to modern daily reading … and, if you are using the King James Version, when you eventually turn to Chapter 30 you’ll find … a remarkable spider.

A Remarkable Spider

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