Do you know what is inarguably the worst job to ever be invented? Being a shark scientist. Sure getting to hang out at a beach all day and wearing flip flops as your uniform would be a cool job perk, but no amount of payment or benefits could make the “pros” of the job outweigh the one, massive, glaring “con”—getting in a shark cage.
You’ve probably seen a shark cage while watching “Shark Week” on Discovery Channel or some other media outlet but just to refresh your memory of how the process works, let’s recap what happens. First, the cage is lowered into the water and pushed away from the boat. Then, after the cage is in the water and away from the boat, the scientist (who I’d suppose drew the shortest straw) has to get in the murky water and swim to the cage. Why they don’t let him get in the cage before lowering it into the water or pushing it away from the boat, I have no clue. It must be something you can only understand if you have a doctorate degree.
Then it’s time for the best part—they “chum the water.” “Chumming the water” is really just a kind way of saying that they dump buckets upon buckets of dead, bloody fish right above where the diver is so that the sharks’ food radar will start wailing like a tornado siren and draw the sharks to the scientist’s location quicker than Usain Bolt can run 100 meters.
And then the feeding frenzy begins as the poor diver is left with nothing to protect themselves from the hungry, flesh-devouring sharks except a metal cage. And let’s not kid ourselves here. I know a metal cage is supposedly impenetrable but I’ve seen with my own two eyes my dog Maverick shred through a tornado-strength metal cage like it was a piece of wrapping paper on an eager child’s Christmas present. And Mav was only 140 pounds…how much damage could a 1,500-2,400 pound Great White Shark do? (That’s more of a rhetorical question. I don’t care to ever find out!)
Joking aside, we as Christians have a bad tendency to “chum the water” of our own lives by what we allow to run through our minds on a daily basis. What I mean by “chumming the water” is that every time we watch a show on TV or a movie in the theatres that has a sexual explicit scene, we chum the waters. Every time we allow our minds to angrily play out that argument with our boss or spouse, we chum the waters. And every time we start to entertain the high praises others give us after we do a good job in something, we chum the waters.
We’re throwing bloody fish into the waters of our minds and inviting sin and Satan to come in and start devouring our purity, our reputations, and even our very lives whether we know it or not. It could be just the smallest lusts or shortest of wicked thoughts, but just as a shark can smell a single drop of blood from a considerable distance, Satan has a keen sense of when and where you’re stumbling into hot waters no matter how small the offense may be. And before we know it, temptation is swimming all around us beckoning us to come out of our cage of safety.
James 1:14-15 (NIV) even says this much – “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” What started merely as a small desire ultimately can result in death.
That’s why in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus repeatedly warned His audience, “You have heard that it was said…” then listed an Old Testament commandment about our actions (such as don’t murder, commit adultery, or divorce your spouse). But then Christ always followed that Old Testament reference by saying, “But I say to you…” then He raised the bar to include our intentions (don’t hate others and don’t lust for another person). Jesus was teaching us that our actions always follow our thoughts. If we protect our thoughts, we protect our actions. If, however, we fail to protect our thoughts, we “chum the water” and are in grave danger of being devoured by the schemes of Satan.
With that in mind, isn’t it understandable why Paul so emphatically and repeatedly wrote on the importance of guarding our thoughts? “…Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV). “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2, NIV). ” “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2, NIV). “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).
Our thoughts can either draw us closer to God or set us up for failure in the future. Are you guarding your thoughts today?
Grant Gaines is the Dean of Men at the Kanakuk Institute and graduate of the University of Arkansas.