The Tar Baby

tar baby 1Some things are just a “tar baby”. Never heard that phrase before? I’m not surprised. There was a man named Joel Chandler Harris who was a famous writer from the southern states after the Civil War in the United States in the 1860’s. There was even a movie made years ago, called “Song of the South” which was about some of his stories. I guess you could compare them a little bit to Hans Christian Anderson and things like “The Ugly Duckling” But let me tell you the story of the Tar Baby, maybe you can relate to it.

So there was this fox and this rabbit. The fox was forever trying to catch the rabbit, it was all about that. The fox hit upon the idea of catching the rabbit by making a “tar baby”. You could think of it like a snow man, except that instead of using snow, the thing was made with black sticky tar, like they use in some places to make streets with.

tar baby 1The fox made the “tar baby” and set it beside the road. So the rabbit comes along. And as he passes by, he says ever so congenially, as people in the South will do, “Good morning to you.”

The tar baby was silent.

tar baby 2The rabbit said again, “I said, ‘Good morning to you’”. The tar baby is still silent.

The rabbit, irritated by the unfriendliness, said, “If you don’t say, ‘Good morning’ to me, I’m gonna hit you!

Nothing came back from the tar baby.

Take that!” the rabbit said and punched the tar baby. But the rabbit’s hand got stuck.

You let go of my hand!” the rabbit screamed. “If you don’t let go of my hand, I’m gonna kick you!” And he did. But then his foot also got stuck on the tar baby.

And on it went till the rabbit was totally and utterly captured and stuck to the tar baby.

The moral of the story? Some things are really just best left alone, no matter how bad it seems or how much you feel you need to get further involved. They’re a “tar baby”.

There is no victory in getting involved. All your efforts will only yield a further unfruitful involvement where you will get further and further tied up in something that you can’t get untangled from and can get no satisfaction from.

So this extremely simple, childish story has a deeper meaning and lesson for actually everyone. There are things in which the best thing you can do, the wisest move you can make, is to just not get involved.

Jesus Himself even said of one situation, “Leave them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). In another place He said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6) This can sound almost harsh from the Lord of Love. But He knew what He was talking about.

For some things and some situations, they’re just “tar babies”. Paul said to the disciples of his day, “Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing they do gender strife.” (II Timothy 2:23) Or Solomon, 900 years before Paul, said, “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you perceive not in him the lips of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7)

Certainly this is not the first reaction we would have to difficult situations or even difficult people. The vast majority of the time, we who are Christians should be the ones to get involved, go the extra mile and give to them that ask of us. This should be our default position, to be like the Good Samaritan and how Jesus Himself was.

But at times the Lord will confirm to you that it’s just not a place where the Holy Spirit is going to get a victory as the people there are intractable and rejecting of the things of the Lord. Or even a trap of some kind, set up by the enemy of God to sidetrack us, to get us bogged down in some fruitless endeavor that’s never going to go God’s way or ours. It could be a tar baby. Gotta watch out for those.

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