Has anyone here seen Mister Mo?
Said the man-eating plant, “We did.“
Did he come in here an hour ago?
Said the man-eating plant, “He did.”
He was carryin’ Nugrow and potting pans
And clorophyll boxes and waterin’ cans,
And he came in here to feed the plants.
Said the man eating plant, “He did.”
– “Man-Eating Plant” by Shel Silverstein
Our natural world consists of three primary categories of living creatures: plant life, the animal kingdom, and humankind. Each of these living beings builds upon the next…
• Plants, being the lowest of all creatures; consist only of a soma (a body). Their “awareness”, as it were, only extends far enough to respond to the world around them in a physical way. (i.e. growing under the sunlight, grasping onto a vine, recoiling at the touch of a hand, etc.)
• Animals, being a step above plants; consist of a soma and a soul. Their awareness not only includes the physical responses detailed above; but additionally, animals have unique temperaments, behavioral patterns, and societal order. (i.e. the tendency to be a friendly or grumpy pet, the capacity to learn commands and routines, the ability to function with like creatures as a group, etc.)
• Humans, being the most dominant species on earth; consist of a soma, a soul, and a spirit. Our awareness includes not only the combined awareness of plants and animals alike; but additionally, we have the ability to function in a Spirit-fueled existence beyond our fleshly nature in this world. (i.e. forgiving someone who has wronged us, serving when we feel like lazing, denying our sinful desires, etc.)
As you can see, while all living beings on earth are vastly different from one another, they have certain basic similarities that tie them together. Our lesson today will focus on one shocking similarity between all three earthen species: the potential to be a man-eater. I’m sure we all have heard of man-eating animals, and even man-eating plants (a misnomer, as plants only “eat” small animals at best, but I digress…). What may not be as apparent, is the reality of another species on this earth with the capacity to feast on men: us. Humans.
[Pause for a brief disclaimer: I am aware that there is a certain usage of the term “man-eater” which speaks of a sexually deviant woman. This is not, however, the way we will be using the term today. Instead, we will be focusing on dealing aggressive behavior toward others.]
It is true that we as humans are known to bite, jab, and claw at one another. In extreme cases, humans behave aggressively toward others with fists and weapons; but more often our aggression comes in the form of petty behaviors: distasteful facial expressions, disagreeable body language, despicable words and detestable actions. In these ways, we attack our fellow man with fatal blows that can destroy friendships, family relationships, and marriages. But wait just a minute. As top species on this earth…as God’s crowning glory of creation…as possessors of soma, soul, and spirit; how can this happen? How can we stoop to engage in man-eating, thus behaving as a lowly plant or animal? Friends, this should not be.
You might be wondering…
How is a man-eater made, and how do I keep from becoming one?
The answer will be threefold. Firstly, H.O.W. a man-eater is made is by…
All’s good in a famine. – Thomas Fuller, M.D., Gnomologia (1732)
Thanks be to God, humans are not considered the natural prey of any wild animal. Yet we all know that desperate times call for desperate measures – especially if you are a predatory beast who lacks the ability to empathize with your victim. Hunger is a ruthless, driving force that can and will cause an animal to attack, kill, and eat a human if necessary. If an individual were to find themselves in the path of a carnivorous wild animal with an empty stomach, that individual would be fair game for a meal. Insatiable hunger (caused by lack of natural prey, etc.) can drive a lion or tiger into a village to grab an easy meal of local residents. Hunger is one way a man-eater is made.
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. – Psalm 34:10
This passage seems a bit unusual, jumping straight from the topic of lions to humans; but is it possible that the Lord was pointing out our tendency to become man-eaters? We humans can often resemble a hungry wild feline. We have a gnawing emptiness in us that longs to be filled. We crave interaction with others, because we are a people made for community. Children who crave attention will often seek out negative attention, because they feel it is better than no attention at all. It is common for adults to fall into the same trap. We try to fill our desire for interaction in negative ways, because we think something is better than nothing.
The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. – Proverbs 27:7
It’s human nature. We’d rather have bitter, unhealthy interactions than no interactions at all. When we are starving, we’ll take what we can get.
You there – the one who loves to argue on social media. The one who cuts down others as entertainment. The one who picks fights with their spouse. The one who is always ranting and complaining about something. The one who gossips. I see you. Sometimes, I am you. Sometimes I crave interaction and I go about getting it in all the wrong ways. You know when I do this? When I allow myself to run on empty. When I haven’t been feasting upon spiritual things like I should be. When I haven’t consumed God’s word. When I haven’t hunted after Him. If I want to avoid becoming a man-eater, I have to fill myself up with the right things…Godly things.
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger… – John 6:35a
Secondly, H.O.W. a Man-Eater is Made is by…
Intentions often melt in the face of unexpected opportunity. – Shirley Temple Black, Child Star (1988)
In remote villages where the nearest water source is a river or lake, there is always the dread of being met face to face with a crocodile. It would appear that crocodiles are not too picky when it comes to their prey; they will take any opportunity for a kill, be it wildebeest, zebra, or human. Many unfortunate people in foreign lands have lost their lives merely by attempting to bathe themselves or wash their laundry in a seemingly safe body of water. Disturbing the territory of an opportunist such as the crocodile often has fatal consequences. Opportunity is another way a man-eater is made.
For sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. – Romans 7:11 (NASB)
If the devil can’t tempt us through hunger, he will tempt us through opportunity. Perhaps you’re not one to go looking for trouble like the hungry per se, but what about taking an opportunity for aggression when it is available to you? Do you shun the opportunity, or do you invite it?
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. – Ephesians 4:26-27 (NASB)
If the waiter gets your order wrong, do you choose to explain the mistake with grace, and wait patiently for it to be corrected? Or do you take the opportunity to complain and make him/her feel like a failure? If a driver rudely cuts you off in traffic, do you give the benefit of the doubt and keep your cool? Or do you use the opportunity to sigh, swear, and use obscene gestures? If your husband lets the children do something you are not on board with, do you take it in stride and acknowledge his place as head of the home? Or do you fight him or perhaps give him the silent treatment until he feels he has no choice but to pander to your irrational behavior? How we choose to respond to frustrations in life will often be the deciding factor in whether or not Satan gets a foothold in our lives.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Galatians 5:13 (NASB)
Thirdly, H.O.W. a man-eater is made is by…
I’ve come to know that what we want in life is the greatest indication of who we really are. – Richard Paul Evans, The Gift (2007)
Of all the man-eating animals that have ever walked upon this earth, none is more dangerous than the one who has acquired a taste for human flesh to the point of want. It might be easy enough to avoid a hungry or or opportunistic beast by steering clear of its territory, but what about the animal who keeps coming back for more? The one who relentlessly prowls a village, bent on staying until it finds its next victim? There have been various cases in history of animals getting “hooked on humans”: often the result of scavenging on ill-buried corpses. Whatever the reason, such a predator is not easily prevented without being killed itself. Want is yet another way a man-eater is made.
I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. – Ecclesiastes 3:18
Even more reprehensible than man-eating out of hunger and opportunity, is our man-eating out of want. Hunger is a fleshly desire of the soma; opportunity is a social desire of the soul; but want is a devilish desire of the spirit. Like a bloodthirsty man-eater who keeps returning to a village for more, so are we when we seek out aggression for sheer pleasure. The end result is certain death. We tear apart everyone in our path until someone brave enough to stand up to us (God) takes us down.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that do count it pleasure to riot in the day time. – 2 Peter 2:12-13
Do you enjoy the thrill of a fight? Does it feel good to rant and rave, letting your wrath be known to all when you have been rattled? Do you care more about being “right” and coming out Alpha, than forgiving and forgetting? Do you shut your conscience down when enraged? Do you justify your temporary insanity as “passion”? Are you always the last to apologize, if at all? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may be getting a taste for blood that will be nigh to impossible to shake if you continue on this dangerous path. Now is the time to repent and trade in the old heart of hatred for a new one of love. If Saul, the murderer, could become Paul, the missionary…you can change your course also.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain… – Isaiah 11:6,9a
Hunger + Opportunity + Want = H.O.W. a man-eater is made.
Friends, we humans have a privileged position. We are the only creation on this earth that consist of soma, soul, and spirit. May we never squander these gifts and become like a plant or animal, given to aggressive practices. May we rather glorify God and be a people given to peace, security, and love towards our fellow man.
No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. – Isaiah 35:9-10
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.