Pigs and Profit, or the Prophet and his People?
by Joseph Franks
Do you know how much a pig costs? According to one website, you can purchase them from between $50 and $1000. It appears the price depends upon the kind, size, age, health, and gender of the animal. Prices vary depending upon whether you are buying the pig for consumption or for breeding. They also differ based upon whether you are buying the pig from a reputable farm, someone’s backyard, or a stranger with a trailer on Craigslist.I hear some of you asking, “Joe, what made you interested in the purchase price of a pig?”
Those who know me least might suppose I am ready to get off the grid and learn to live on the land. Trust me, that would not be the case. When the apocalypse comes, I am going to starve.
Those how know me best might suppose I am interested in hosting my own personal barbecue buffet. They have seen me eat and can swear I could put down a good portion of a large pig. Well, that could be closer to the truth. I do love to eat. I do love bacon, sausage, ham, and pork loin. (Bucky’s BBQ is my local place of choice). However, I am not much of a chef, and when given a choice, I prefer not to work very hard for my food.
So, what aroused my attention? What sent me swine shopping this morning? It was the following passage from Mark 5, and the lingering question: Why were the people so dispassionately disinterested in the languishing soul, and so passionately interested in their lost pigs?
Here is the text from Mark 5:
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:1-20)
Here was a demon possessed man. He was harmful to himself and a terror to others, and he had been this way for some time. In previous seasons they had chained him hand and foot. They had done so many times. However, due to the strength given him by his demonic lord, the crazed lunatic was always able to tear the chains and break the irons. Consider the misery of this fellow. Physically, he was cold, naked, undernourished, gashed, and bleeding. Emotionally, he was always teeter-tottering between anger, depression, loneliness, and hopelessness. Relationally, he was despised by all who knew him. Spiritually, he was at enmity with God and under the enslaving bondage of the Evil One. And, he was helpless.
Then Jesus came. Easily, he conquered the demons, vanquished them to pigs, sent them running off a cliff, rescued his tormented neighbor, and transformed him into his spiritual child and adopted brother. What rescue! What reformation! What a Savior and Friend!
However, notice the response of those in the neighborhood. In the wild man of the tombs, they had a problem. They hated this problem. They tried to rid themselves of this problem, but despite their best efforts, they could not solve their problem. But when all was said and done and their former problem was solved, they responded by hating the Jesus — the problem solver.
So what was the problem? Bottom line, they were more saddened over the loss of 2000 pigs and the profit they represented than they were gladdened over the arrival of the Messiah and his wonder working power. Ultimately, they begged Jesus to depart from their region. Why? They were more interested in pigs and profit than the Prophet and his people.
How about you? What saddens you most? What gladdens your heart? Is your supreme interest cash, country, or Christ? Are you one most interested in the “things of this world” or are you honorably “seeking first the Kingdom of God?”
Perhaps some diagnostic questions might aid you in your time of meditation and prayer:
- In your business dealings, will you gladly lose profitability when it profits the King and his kingdom? Will you lose the deal as you value integrity and a godly reputation? Will you give up the promotion when it requires a unwise amount of time?
- In your church, will you love people more than institutional growth? Will you forgo paying off the debt, building the next building, or buying the organ when it takes away funds that can directly be used to minister to the demon-influenced in your parish? As you preach, are you most concerned about your increased budget, increased paycheck, and workplace security, or are you more passionate about God’s desires and his people’s needs? Will you faithfully and boldly preach though it becomes incredibly expensive to you and your family?
- In your family, are you best known as a work-a-holic or a holy worshiper who sees labor and vocation as a means of ministry to God, family, and neighbor? Is money and your budget your ministry tool, or has it become your master? Does your family give away a fair share of God’s wealth to minister to people in need, or are you one who says, “It’s not the government’s job to care for the poor” all the while letting the government alone care for the poor?
- In your political decisions, what issues carry the most weight: personality and swagger, excellent locution, handouts, wealth, infrastructure, personal rights, or the ethic of God and sharing his charitable interest in loving those created in his image?
Friends, wealth is the gift of God; it is not wicked. However, the same book that tells us this also tells us that money is the root of much evil, and many the soul has been troubled due to the idolatry of profit. In the passage above, an entire city turned their back on the Messiah and his ministry because they loved their pigs and profit. This is always a temptation for us — especially those of us who love the prosperity of America handed down to us by God and our forefathers.
Today, let us repent of our misplaced priorities. Let us love building our companies. Let us love making huge profits. Let us praise God for our increased financial portfolios. Let us relish providing for our families, going on vacations, building houses of worship, paying down debt, and filling these ecclesiastical buildings with items that encourage the awesome worship of God. And yes, I would encourage us to oppose socialism, support capitalism, and uphold the Judeo-Christian heritage that has been such a blessing to our nation. However, in our desire to make and use money, and not serve it, let us not forsake the Prophet and his people. And when push comes to shove, may a commitment to Christ’s kingdom, ethic, ministry, and people trump all — even our own pigs and profit.