There once was a little yellow crocodile. This little yellow crocodile lived in a pond, away in a remote region where visitors were few and far between. The visitors knew about the crocodiles in the region, that they were dangerous, that they could devour you within a split second. So they knew to look out for them and keep their distance. They didn’t want to be a hungry crocodile’s lunch!
The little yellow crocodile was an unusual breed. Who has heard of a yellow crocodile before? Plus, how much harm could a little yellow crocodile do? The visitors saw the crocodile but just stepped on over it as if it wasn’t even there! They were so busy enjoying themselves that the thought that this little crocodile could be dangerous didn’t even enter their minds!
The little yellow crocodile was a clever little fellow though. He knew if he was patient, the next time there were visitors he could take his chance on a tasty snack. He would lie patiently in wait on his favourite yellow sandy bank. If the visitors didn’t really notice him before, surely they would never notice him now as he camouflaged himself on the sandy shore of his pond.
Sure enough, the visitors loved it so much last time that they came back. As they meandered around the pond, they reminded each other to keep an eye out for crocodiles. They were ready to flee from any danger. As they came around a corner, the pond opened up to them, something they hadn’t seen on their last visit. The beautiful sandy shoreline was inviting them to take a closer look at the pond. There’s no harm in taking a closer look they thought to themselves. So onward they went. The pristine beach was inviting them to sit down and relax, to take a moment to gaze upon the beauty of the pond.
As they were settling themselves on the sand, the little yellow crocodile thought here is my chance. Very slowly, and with great intent, he began creeping towards them as to not give away his camouflage. He was getting closer and closer and could almost taste the victory of his scheme. 5m, 4m, 3m, 2m…Then suddenly, an eagle of immense size appeared out of nowhere and flapped his wings in front of the little yellow crocodile’s nose! The sudden appearance of this majestic eagle caught the visitors by such surprise that they jumped to their feet and stood in awe looking at it! It was only at that moment that they saw the little yellow crocodile behind the eagle, only a couple of metres away from where they had just been relaxing.
In a moment of great clarity, the visitors realised that they were very nearly the victim of the clever little yellow crocodile. They were also very grateful that the majestic eagle appeared when he did in order to prevent them from being devoured by this sneaky little fellow. At the same time that this realisation occurred, they ran for their lives from the scene that was to be etched in their memory forever. Next time they came to enjoy the pond, they would certainly be more aware of any other little yellow crocodiles.
The meaning of the Little Yellow Crocodile
I wrote this allegory because the little yellow crocodile very well nearly snuck up on me! And I’m hoping that through this story, you can be made aware of the little yellow crocodiles in the world who have a scheme to bring destruction.
The little yellow crocodile represents the spirit of greed. Yes, that five-letter word that hardly gets a mention anymore within the Western church. The crocodile is yellow because, in the tradition of the seven deadly sins, greed is represented by the colour yellow. As Christians, we are very aware of all the normal kinds of crocodiles out there - pride, envy, adultery, idolatry and the like, but greed is an ‘unusual breed’ as it is something that is camouflaged in the society in which we live, which so often is about gain and material wealth. We are so busy having a good time in the world and all it has to offer, we actually ignore the possibility of greed, even though we know it’s written right there in the Bible.
Let me explain how this little yellow crocodile snuck up on me and how the Holy Spirit (the majestic eagle) turned up to warn me. As you know, I’ve recently moved into an apartment in Brisbane. For the past six weeks, I’ve been working to make this little apartment a home; buying beautiful plants, bits and pieces of furniture and soft furnishings, and dreaming of what else I can get to make it my ideal abode. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to make something a home and enjoying beautiful things (like enjoying the pristine pond), however when we feel like we can’t be content until that thing is in place, then we know that we have a problem! I’m one to like things in order, and sometimes I feel like I can’t concentrate on more ‘meaningful’ tasks until I have things in order, and that includes having things in place in my home. I want a nice soft rug there, a new cushion here, a pot plant on that table. And the list goes on. This mentality buys into the world’s philosophy of needing to have more to be content, and let’s face it, in the West we have made comfort a god.
The Holy Spirit kindly interrupted my ‘consumption’ by giving me a dream, in which a little yellow crocodile showed up, one which I readily stepped over. When I asked the Lord for what this meant, he brought to mind that crocodiles are spirits that devour, and I also remembered that the ‘seven deadly sins’ were represented by colours, and as mentioned, yellow represented the sin of greed. The verse ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV) immediately popped into my mind. As I delved into scripture, it reminded me of truth that I needed to hear:
…’for we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness…
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so they may take hold of that which is life indeed…’ (1 Timothy 6:7-11; 17-19).
As I continued delving into scripture, I was again reminded of Jesus’ words to ‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and everything else will be added to you’ (Matt 6:33) and how all that he said leading up to that statement was not to worry about anything. The parallel passage in Luke actually contains something that Jesus said in reply to a person in the crowd yelling ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’
Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against EVERY form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions (emphasis added)’ (Luke 12:13-15). He knew that this question was more about the greed of the brothers than sharing equally between them, so he addresses the heart of the matter.
Every form of greed? To me, this means that greed can come in different ways. Maybe you’re not greedy for nice home decor items like me, but maybe it comes out in wanting more money, more prestige, more power, even more ‘likes’ on Facebook.
He then goes on to share a parable about a rich land owner who has so much that he decides he needs to tear down the barns he has and build bigger ones so that everything can fit. He thinks that his soul is now content and can take his ease for he has enough provisions for years to come. Yet God’s reply to him is,
‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’. Jesus then goes on to say, ‘So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’
This reminds me of another verse, ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ (Mark 8:36). Jesus had just said ‘he who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it’. We can have everything the world has to offer, whether it be wealth or prestige or power, yet it means nothing if our soul isn’t right with God.
In this context, Jesus then shares with His disciples about not being anxious about anything, to not be afraid. When our soul is right with God, then we have all the satisfaction we need in life as well as no need to fear.
At a time when the world is in deep anxiety over the COVID-19 virus and its implications, including a likely recession and economic collapse, this is a timely reminder for Christians. A reminder that we need to keep our eyes first and foremost on the Kingdom of God. I believe the current situation with the COVID-19 virus has exposed not only my own, but the Western world’s greed. Yes, we need money and resource to live in this world, but what we consider a need in the West could be seen to be luxury for the majority of the world. Just look at people hoarding toilet paper as an example. According to a 2015 Time article, 2.4 billion people in the world still lack access to proper toilets! In the end, much of the behaviour we are currently seeing is about self-protection, fearing that we will lack if we don’t do something about getting what we deem as a need and getting it now! Of course, wisdom is a necessity at this time, so it doesn’t mean not being prepared for potential outcomes, but it is God’s wisdom that we need beyond anything else.
What is happening to many people with the spread of the virus is tragic, but I believe so much of the anxiety around this situation is because we are so used to comfort in the West and anything that disrupts that comfort is a threat. The little yellow crocodile of greed makes sure we keep wanting more and more so that our security lies in what we have rather than in Jesus.
Newsflash…Jesus didn’t call us to a comfortable life; He called us to an obedient life!
I’m preaching to myself here when I say this. I can so easily get caught up in the comfortable life, but I need to be reminded that there is now ‘no sting in death’ (1 Corinthians 15:50-58) and that my life in the here and now is about living a life of faithful obedience to the King…not because I ‘have to’ but because I ‘get to’ in response to his magnificence.
So what does that faithful obedience look like in a consumeristic world that is riddled with anxiety? It looks like paying more attention to the voice of my King than the voice of fear (which is often driven by the media). As Paul said to Timothy, it looks like sharing what I have, instead of grasping for what I see is my right to ‘mine’. It looks like being rich in good works. It looks like bringing peace to those who are in fear. It looks like sharing hope with those who are feeling hopeless. It looks like going on an adventure with Jesus when the world is saying it’s time for the adventure to stop. As Paul encouraged Timothy to do, I want to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. If we, as Christians, committed to pursuing these things, I wonder what God would do in and through us in this suffering world?
I want to be like those who, in the early church, despite going through great conflict and suffering, were encouraged by the writer of Hebrews:
‘For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one’ (Hebrews 10:34).
Despite what you may be going through at this time in relation to what is going on in our world, I want to encourage you to stand strong in your faith and continue to have compassion on others, even joyfully accepting the trials, because as one who belongs to Jesus, you are only a ‘visitor’ in this beautiful world. Do not allow the anxiety or greed in the world devour you. You have all that you need in Jesus, including an eternal home! Yes, continue to enjoy the beauty and all the other things that God has given us in this world (including house plants and cushions and art) but beware of the little yellow crocodiles that can creep up on you unawares. And continue to praise God that we have the Holy Spirit as our teacher, comforter and guide to navigate us through this sometimes ‘dangerous’ experience of life.
‘And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19).