Ten Shekels and a Shirt (Part 3)
It was that good man that’s so admired by the fuzzy thinkers of our day, out there in Africa, dear Dr. Schweitzer. Bless his heart, he’s a brilliant man: a philosopher, doctor, musician, composer—undoubtedly a brilliant man. But Dr. Schweitzer is no more Christian than this rose, and he would call it a personal insult if we were to say he was a Christian. He doesn’t see Christ as having any relevance to his philosophy or life. Dr. Schweitzer is a humanist.
Dr. Schweitzer was sitting on the bow of a boat going up the broad Congo River toward his station, watching the Belgian government officials with their high-powered rifles shooting at the crocodiles sunning on the mud flats along the river. They were expert marksmen, and they would use these bullets that would explode inside the crocodile and send them spinning up into the air from the contraction of muscles. And you say, “How do you know so much about it?” Well, to my shame I was guilty of the same thing in the Nile.
And they were there, and this is what their sport was. They bagged them, and they’d take counts, and they’d put strings around the place where their gun was. They’d have a little place for the gun, and then they’d tie knots so they could see how many crocodiles they killed. Colossal waste of life. And it was there that Schweitzer saw the essence of his philosophy. Do you know what it is? Three words: reverence for life. Reverence for life! Crocodile life...human life...and other kinds of life. My friend George Kline who was with us last week, going back to the Gaboon, was just about 50 or 60 miles away from Dr. Schweitzer’s station. You know, Dr. Schweitzer is so convinced of the reverence of life that he doesn’t like to sterilize his surgery. He has the dirtiest surgery in Africa, because bacteria are life, and he doesn’t want to hurt any of the good bacteria with the bad. So he sort of lets them all grow together.
His organ broke. Someone had sent him out an organ and a means of playing it. And Mr. Kline is an expert organist and an organ repairer, as well. So he went over to see Dr. Schweitzer, and Dr. Schweitzer said, “George, do you think you could fix my organ?” And he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised. Let me try.” So he took the back off, and to his amazement he discovered a huge nest of cockroaches. With characteristic American enthusiasm and zeal, George started trampling all over the cockroaches so as not to let a one of them get away. And the good doctor came out, his hair standing straighter than it had for a long time because of his anger. And he said, “You stop that right now!” George said, “Why? They’re ruining your organ.” And Schweitzer said, “That’s all right. They were just being true to their nature. You can’t kill those.” So one of the boys came in and said, “It’s all right, Mr. Kline.” And he reached down very tenderly, picked them up, put them in a little bag, and crimped the top. He put each cockroach in, and they took them out in the jungle and let them loose.
Now here was a man that believed his philosophy: reverence for life. Utterly committed to it, utterly consistent, even when it came to the matter of a cockroach or a microbe. Do you see? This is humanism, this is consistency.
Now I ask you, what is the philosophy of missions? What is the philosophy of evangelism? What is the philosophy of a Christian? If you’ll ask me why I went to Africa, I’ll tell you I went primarily to improve on the justice of God. I didn’t think it was right for anybody to go to hell without a chance to be saved. So I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to heaven. Now, I hadn’t put it in so many words, but if you’ll analyze what I just told you, do you know what it is? Humanism. I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery. And when I got to Africa, I discovered that they weren’t poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods looking for someone to tell them how to go to heaven. But they were MONSTERS OF INIQUITY! They were living in utter and total defiance of far more knowledge of God then I ever dreamed they had! They deserved hell, because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscience, and the light of the law written upon their heart, and the testimony of nature, and the truth they knew.
When I found that out, I assure you I was so angry with God that on one occasion in prayer I told Him it was a mighty little thing He’d done, sending me out there to reach these people that were waiting to be told how to go to heaven, but when I got there I found out they knew about heaven and didn’t want to go there, and that they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it. I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers, I’d seen pictures of ulcers, I’d seen pictures of native funerals, and I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in hell eternally after such a miserable existence on earth.
But it was there in Africa that God began to tear through the overlay of this humanism! And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here I was coming to grips with the fact that the people that I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying, “Someone come and teach us,” actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! I wanted to come home.
There alone in my bedroom as I faced God honestly with what my heart felt, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, but will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The heathen are lost. And they’re going to go to hell, but not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to hell because they are sinners WHO LOVE THEIR SIN, and because they deserve hell. BUT, I didn’t send you out there for them. I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.” And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t with physical voice, but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this: “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen. I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved hell, but I love them! And I endured the agonies of hell for them! I didn’t send you out there for them, I sent you out there for Me! Do I not deserve the reward of My suffering? Don’t I deserve those for whom I died?”
And it rebirthed it all, and changed it all, and righted it all! And I wasn’t any longer working for Micah for ten shekels and a shirt, but I was serving the Living God. I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior who endured the agonies of hell for me, who didn’t deserve it. But He deserved them, because He died for them.
Do you see? Let me epitomize, let me summarize. Christianity says, “The end of all being is the glory of God.” Humanism says, “The end of all being is the happiness of man.” One was born in hell: the deification of man. The other was born in heaven: the glorification of God! One is the Levite serving Micah, and the other is a heart that’s unworthy, serving the living God because it’s the highest honor in the universe.