Abundance of the Heart

During a recent Youth Council meeting, one of the youth shared for an opening devotional a Native American story known as “The Two Wolves.”  The story goes:

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil–he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority and ego. The other is good–he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is goign on inside you and every other person too.”

The grandchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed.”

After reading the story, the youth asked the Council the following reflection questions:

*What is the moral of the story?

* How do we struggle to win this fight between the two wolves? What in life tempts the evil wolf?

* How can we as Christians help other people win the battle between the wolves?

The other youth on the Council said we all have the potential for doing good or evil and that our choices in life determine which wolf will get fed more than the other. They said everyone struggles with the decision to fill themselves up with anger or love; arrogance or humility; lies or honesty; resentment or compassion. When a friend starts rumors about you; when the boss says an unkind word to you; when a co-worker gets a promotion you deserved; when a motorist cuts you off in traffic; when a family member is dishonest, we have to decide which wolf gets fed in that moment. It’s all that simple and all that hard, isn’t it?

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit…The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”

And the apostle Paul, remembering Jesus’ teachings about choosing good over evil, says in his letter to the Romans: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.”

Being careful to do what is right, to not repay anyone evil for evil is hard. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished bad luck on people who made me angry or were unkind to me or were ignorant of people suffering or who were just plain annoying.

I actually gloat to myself sometimes when celebrities like Britney Spears lose their kids in court and find themselves in a mess. “She got what she deserved, crazy bald party chick dropping her kids when she gets out of cars…sheesh!” And there, in those few fleeting seconds of gloating or being irritated by someone on TV or who I encounter in daily life, I’ve fed that evil wolf a big pound of arrogance, resentment, superiority and ego. Out the abundance of my evil-filled heart the mouth spews unsavory remarks.

The good news is that God in Christ has given us the free and amazing gift of grace. Each hour, each moment, and each day is a new opportunity to make a different choice–to bear good fruit instead of bad, to speak from a heart filled abundantly with love and to feed the good wolf inside us. And of course, it helps to have a pack of good wolves around us.

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