The Honey and the Pears- ‘Such was my heart’
I was saddened recently by what I read on a friend’s Facebook feed. A year ago he had invested in two beehives. Following a year of hard-work, providing all that the bees needed to thrive and flourish, he was rewarded with a great harvest of honey for expectant friends and family.
My friend returned to his beehives only to find them destroyed, the bees gone, and the remnants covered in paint. What motivated those who had caused this destruction? They didn’t steal the bees or the hives or the honey, they just ruined something that didn’t belong to them. Many of the comments described the vandalism as “mindless”.
This modern-day story reminded me of a much older tale.
One of Augustine of Hippo’s (354AD-430AD) most famous works is his autobiographical ‘Confessions’.
In the book, Augustine reflecting back on his younger years tells of a time when he and his friends had gathered late at night to steal pears from a neighbour’s tree. The group of friends weren’t poor or hungry, Augustine makes clear that he had more than enough pears- and of a better quality. The boys stole a huge load and “after barely tasting them” threw them to the pigs.
Augustine is clearly pained as he reflects back on this sin from his youth, “our pleasure was that it was forbidden” he says. Jerry Andrews notes “he did it for the love of evil alone, and truly loved it.”
Augustine never uses the term “mindless” to describe what he did, for him it was about the heart, rather than the mind. “Such was my heart” he says “such was my heart, O God, such was my heart–which You did pity even in that bottomless pit.”
We are often encouraged to listen to our heart, to trust our heart, to follow our heart, but the Bible warns us that our heart is far from a reliable guide.
“ The heart is deceitful above all thingsJeremiah 17:9
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
“From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”Matthew 15:19
A bleak picture! And not just for Augustine or the Bee Hive Vandals! We have all sinned for the love of sin, for the short-term thrill it provides. We all have a problem with our hearts. And yet the God who had mercy on Augustine, still has mercy on sinners today.
He gives a wonderful promise to his people in Ezekiel:
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.Eze 36:26–27
This is what God gives to those who turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. A new heart, alive to God. A new life lived as his adopted child.
This is not to say we never sin, but our new heart causes our relationship with sin to change. We grieve over it, we see it as an enemy to be fought not as a friend to be fed. Sin is something which hinders this wonderful new relationship we have with our heavenly Father and so we work in his strength to rid ourselves of it.
Wouldn’t it be a great thing if those who wrecked my friend’s beehive were to discover that true joy is not found in “mindless destruction” or following our sinful hearts, but in trusting in Jesus Christ and following him wherever he leads.
I’m praying that they will.