Tar Baby

Uncle Remus telling a story (ca. 1920) by Norman Rockwll (1894-1978), oil and charcol on board, 20” x 21”

When I was little my daddy would read me stories from Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. One of my favorite tales was the story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. You can read the story here.

Sly ol’ Brer Fox made a doll out of tar and put clothes on it and set it by the road to trap Brer Rabbit. Brer Rabbit comes down the road. He sees Tar Baby and greets him.

“Mawnin’!”sez Brer Rabbit, sezee –“nice wedder dis mawnin’,” sezee.

When Tar Baby doesn’t reply, Brer Rabbit takes its silence for insolence and decides to teach him some manners. Brer Rabbit hits Tar Baby upside his head and his fist gets stuck. This makes Brer Rabbit even madder, so he hits him with the other hand, which also gets stuck. Soon Brer Rabbit is stuck all over Tar Baby and can’t get loose. He’s caught. Brer Fox can get rid of Brer Rabbit once and for all.

The story continues but I’ll stop there to make a spiritual connection. The world is full of Tar Babies. If we try to make them do what we think they should, we’re bound to come out the worse for it.

What is the Christian response to evil people in the world? Off with their heads? No. Jesus said leave them alone. Let God take care of them. That’s what the Gospel Lesson for today is about. You can read it here.

In Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43, Jesus tells a parable about wheat and weeds to teach us it’s not our job to judge who are children of God and who are offspring of the devil. They’re hard to tell apart, just like the wheat and darnel weeds or “tares” when both are small.

Toleration is what Jesus prescribed, not crusading. Try to punish sinners and you’ll get stuck, like Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby. It’s best to leave criminal justice to the state and divine justice to God.

Our job as Christians is not to be the world’s moral police force. We’re called to be wheat. That’s hard enough. Weather the storms. Compete with the weeds. Grow. Bear fruit.

The best thing we can do for God is to be what he’s called us to be.


1 Comment

Filed under sermons

One response to “Tar Baby

  1. Kristi

    As I was listening to the homily yesterday, I was also struck with the fact that all of us are a combination of wheat and tares – good and bad all mixed up.

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