A few days ago, a local tree service delivered to my driveway ten cubic yards of free wood chips. Of course my driveway did not need mulching, the trees and shrubs in the backyard did. And since the “free” mulch did not come with two strong young men and a wheelbarrow, I had to do it myself. “Free” indeed!.
It took two days of sweating labor to deliver about fifty or more barrows-full to place the mulch where it was needed. Shovel, trudge, dump, rake, repeat. About every five trips my FitBit told me my heart rate was high enough, so I’d stop, drink water and rest until it got back down into the safe range.
There’s a reason wood chips are free. They’re all that’s left of dead or unwanted trees that have passed through a deadly machine called a wood chipper. Tree limbs and branches go in one end and tiny bits of wood spew out the other. You can tell by the shape and the fragrance what type of tree they came from, maple, oak, or pine. It’s fun to dig through the pile and try to determine what kind of tree was chewed up. But basically, the wood chips are useless, destined to rot and decay. Unless you use them for mulch.
With lots of time to think while trundling about the yard, it occurred to me that our society is being chewed up like trees in a wood chipper. COVID-19 has left us frightened. Millions are out of work. And just as we are getting ready to get together again, a bad cop kills a black man, and we all got to (had to) watch it happen.
Something is not right.
But it’s true that even four months ago, before COVID-19, before the shut down, before George Floyd, something was not right. In fact, there’s been something wrong for thousands of years. That something is sin.
Paul, in his letter to the Roman Christians wrote, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Romans 1:18-23 (ESV)
The whole human race has been in rebellion, conscious, deliberate rebellion, against God since that day in Eden when they decided they wanted to be in charge. Sin has tainted everything since then, even the good things are less than they could be because of sin. Something is not right and you and I know it. We see it out there in the world and we feel it in ourselves. Things are not supposed to be like this. We are not supposed to be like this.
Romans 1:28-32 (ESV) “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
What is the answer? Dump mulch on everything and cover it up? No, we have tried to cover it up for too long now. Great efforts are being made to protect us from the virus, to restore our economy, and more steps will be taken to abolish racism. But the safety, prosperity, and peace we seek cannot be obtained by human effort and wisdom. Sin has to be dealt with.
Jesus Christ dealt with sin, once and for all. Now to all who will believe, forgiveness and new life are possible. That’s the good news. Oh, we will still struggle along the way, but one glorious day sin and death will be no more. Meanwhile, for those who do believe, our task is to spread this good news, and work to make things better. Transform the useless wood chips before us into a beautiful, life-giving mulch around the trees and shrubs of our lives. And wait until Jesus returns.