Beware of the Dogs

Let me begin by saying that this is not a statement about any athletic team or school mascot. It is actually a verse of scripture, Philippians 3:2. As a youngster, probably in middle elementary grades, I remember marking this in my Bible. I had no clue as to what it was talking about, but I was fascinated by the fact that the Bible said, “Beware of the dogs.” The truth is these dogs that the Apostle Paul was referring to were people who would do evil, mess you up, lead you astray and harm you. They could have been people who were religious leaders or they could have been people who were in or around the church who did not care about the Lord or His church, but cared about themselves.

Why in the world would Paul call them dogs? Well, you have to understand that in the first century dogs were far less domesticated and were oftentimes just packs of hounds that would roam the streets finding scraps and garbage wherever they could. They would harm folks who would try to bother them. They could be mean and vicious, but without a doubt the Apostle Paul had run into some people like that.

I must confess that through the years I have run into a few of the descendants of the ones that Paul met and, like dogs tend to be, they were either barking or growling about something. As you may know, there are hundreds of breeds of dogs. There are different sizes, shapes, length of hair and even dispositions. In this verse of scripture, Paul says, “Beware of the dogs.” He was sending out a warning to the people in the church. The word, beware, means literally to take note of and mark them. While I cannot name all of the dogs that may show up in and around the church or at your home, it might be good just to mention a few of these dogs.

There is the quiet, crouching and stalking dog. This dog is not always noticed and may not appear to be vicious until he suddenly and shockingly almost rips your leg off. But do not be mistaken, this dog is dangerous, and can do real damage to the congregation. One night I was making a visit, and as I got out of my car and was walking up toward the porch there was not a sound anywhere around. It appeared that the people were at home, but I hardly even thought about a dog being there. Crouched beside a post and almost hidden on the porch was this medium sized dog. As I stepped up on the porch, he did not growl but he was ferocious. He did not bite me because I jumped straight up, six feet in the air. It was a new Olympic record. When I came down he still did not get me, but it took me several weeks to get over the heart attack that he gave me.

I say that facetiously because I did not have a heart attack. But I can promise you this; my heart was racing umpteen beats beyond its norm. When this kind of dog comes to church, he is not there to be helpful, supportive or encouraging. He will just quietly, almost in stealth fashion, move about waiting for an opportunity to bite.

Another dog that I have observed on occasion is the constant barker. This is the dog that barks about everything. A cat goes across the yard and he barks. A leaf falls out of the tree, a door squeaks, a car honks, a siren blows or some people just meander by the house on the sidewalk and he barks and barks. He is not really a bad dog. And though you may not be aware of it, he has been known to come to church. He can be young, old, affectionate and even somewhat loyal, but mark it down he is going to bark.

He may bark about the giving being down or about giving too much to some particular ministry or work. He barks about the choir, the kids making noise in the service, people not being faithful in attendance or about the kinds of people that have started coming to the church. He will bark because the pastor has been there too long. At other times, he will bark because the pastor did not stay long enough. The temperature, the music and the length of the sermon will all set him off. It is probably good to remember that some dogs go bear hunting and others just bark at the moon.

Another dog that you may encounter is an unusual breed of dog that I call the growling tail wagger. Now get this picture! There are some dogs that will come running up to you with their teeth showing and growling. At the same time their tail is wagging as though they were welcoming their master home after he has been away for a while.

It is hard to know if this dog is extremely vicious or wonderfully hospitable. His exposed teeth say one thing and his wagging tail announces another. Although this is not your normal run of the kennel dog, you no doubt will run into some of these creatures sometime. The best thing that I can tell you is just to be thoughtfully cautious. They may not bite you at all. Their tail may be telling the truth and their face just happened to be squinched up with their teeth showing. On the other hand, you could end up without a hand and learn later that his tail was disconnected from his angry brain. So approach carefully!

One last dog that you may run into is the loving, lazy lap dog. Many people love this kind of dog because they seem to be good, quiet companions. They do not fuss or frolic, but a pack of thieves could be coming into the house and at best they may raise their head and look at them. They are not particularly good in a crisis. They would not announce that there was a problem in or outside of the house. They spend most of their lives just waiting to eat and drink when you provide it for them. Occasionally, they will look around. But if dogs are the recipients of any spiritual gifts, theirs is just sitting down and doing nothing. They may be pretty dogs and may even be expensive dogs, but they do very little and contribute very little other than occasionally smiling at you.

Now if by chance you run into this dog in your own church, you may encourage them and prod them a little bit to be more active. But do not expect them to be real responsive to anything or to any program at any time. Do not be discouraged that their response to whatever is going on in the Kingdom of God is little more than a yawn or an occasional scratch for a flea.

Of course, there are many other types of dogs that may show up and be a part of the circle of our lives. Some are very dangerous and others just seem to be passing by. Now before you get your binoculars out and start surveying your church or somebody else’s church to see what kind of dogs may show up, it might be more important to take a glance in the mirror and ask, “Well, what kind of dog am I?” It would not hurt to ask the Lord to help you see clearly your own actions and attitudes.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer