A person hiking in a wilderness area fell into a deep hole. The fall was his fault-- a combination of carelessness, poor judgment, and foolish behavior. Though the hole was twelve feet deep, the fall produced no serious injuries.

After his head cleared from the daze of the fall, he was determined to climb out. He used every climbing technique. Yet, his best effort lifted him only eight feet.

His struggle produced thirst, then weariness, then exhaustion. Physically spent and canteen empty, he stopped trying to climb. In panic, he shouted until he lost his voice. Convinced that he would never be found, he lost all hope.

The next day a hiker found him. "How" he fell was obvious. "How" he fell revealed "why" he fell. "How" and "why" made evident his carelessness.

The man was much too weak to help himself. Going for help was out of the question. Left alone, the man would soon die. Really, the choice was simple. Should the hiker kick enough dirt in the hole to bury the man? Or, should he shout encouragement until he prepared for a risky, strenuous rescue effort?

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was (is) the hiker who discovered us in our pitiful condition. Humanity is "the man in the hole." Our condition, individually and collectively, is pathetic.

From the first, he shouted encouragement. He could have "kicked dirt" on the pathetic lepers, the ungodly prostitutes, the dishonest tax gathers. and the self-centered multitudes that craved miracles and food. Instead, he shouted the encouragement called hope.

He did not even "kick dirt" on the Pharisees. If you carefully study his exchanges with them, you will see that they attacked and he taught. Only late in his ministry, after many attempts to teach them, did he expose them in accountability's harsh light.

When Jesus finds you in your "hole," what do you want? A kick of dirt, or, a shout of encouragement? When you discover someone in his or her "hole," what do you give them? A kick of dirt or a shout of encouragement?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 11 October 1998

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