The Disabled Fox

February 17, 2010

It is Ash Wednesday, and thus the beginning of Lent. Pete Rollins wrote a book entitled The Orthodox Heretic which contains thirty three parables, and his publisher has made available another seven to fill out the period of Lent. In return for the seven parables they asked me to blog about one. I’m going to try to do better than that and actually write about a parable every day. That’s my Lenten discipline. So, here’s the first parable, and after, my reflection upon it.

The Disabled Fox

A man was walking through a deep forest when he happened upon an injured fox that could not walk. As he wondered how the fox was still alive he saw a tiger approach the lame animal with fresh game in its mouth. The tiger ate its fill and then left the rest of the meat for the fox.

The next day the man returned to the same spot to see if this miracle would be repeated. Sure enough the same Tiger eventually appeared and once more fed the fox.

The man was so impressed by what he witnessed that he gave thanks to God and said to himself, “I shall learn from this fox by trusting that the Lord will provide me with all that I need.”

And so he found a quiet spot in the forest and waited for many days. But his needs were not met. When he was almost at death’s door he shouted out to God in anger, saying “I have shown undying faith yet you are absent.” But then, in an instant, silence befell the forest and a voice from heaven could be heard, “O you who are in the path of error, open your eyes to the truth. I do not want you to imitate the disabled fox but rather to follow the example of the tiger.”


This parable seems particularly relevant to a Western Christian, who is surely the tiger in more ways than one. When I was in Jackson I heard a story from Jeff, the man who did all our handywork, about the year he spent living on God’s provision. It was a truly moving story filled with nigh-on miraculous examples of being provided for at every instance of his need. I hope I do not demean Jeff’s experience by suggesting that it wouldn’t have been necessary if more Christians had played tiger to his fox.

Particularly in the United States, Christians have got gobs and gobs of money. While cash flowed easily in our country the Prosperity Gospel gained more and more prominence, people being seduced by the promise that God would make them fantastically wealthy if only they had enough faith. While times were good they accumulated more and more, taking their increasing affluence as a sign of God’s favor upon them. In the meantime untold millions of people in the United States and abroad could have used the money spent on the Benz to pay for health care. Or food. Or education.

This is where I think the parable is especially clever: The Tiger isn’t portrayed as depriving itself to provide for the fox. The Tiger’s needs are provided for– “The tiger ate its fill…”– in conjunction with it providing for another. Instead of gorging itself upon its abundance the tiger takes only what it needs and freely gives the rest to those who have need. Some of my friends at EBM talk about a “Theology of Enough,” and this is exactly what they are talking about. Sure, it seems like you’re deprived if you could conceivably afford a nicer car or a bigger house and don’t have it. But what’s enough? Our sense of need is thrown out of whack by the abundance that surrounds most of us, and a step back would reveal all the good that could come if we were just content with enough.


One Response to “The Disabled Fox”

  1. firescloudsandwanderings said

    The question of enough is always a difficult one. But I think it is one that the church in America needs to think deeply about, especially during this time in which the economy isn’t exactly booming. Church budgets should be dealt with using a theology of enough. Sadly, I have never really seen a church talk at length about certain expenses the church pays and whether these are justified or not.

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