Gopher Brain

DB Ryen

Foolish behavior is understandable for animals who don't know any better. But we have no excuse.

[Keywords: foolishness, folly, wisdom, trap, sin, snare, stumble, faith, Christianity, Bible]

Length: Medium, 1028 words

Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly

Proverbs 26:11, NASB

“Try peanut butter. They won’t be able to resist it.”

It was the third day of our family camping trip and the kids were getting bored. Our beach plans had been doused by cool weather and sporadic rain. After exploring every inch of the campground and incessantly poking the fire, our children resorted to hunting gophers. Our vacation spot was in the middle of the prairies, so there was no shortage of critters to chase. However, the gophers proved too quick to ambush directly and too small a target for homemade bows and arrows. Thus, they resorted to trapping. 

A plastic washbasin, inverted and propped up on one side by a stick, was deemed to be a suitable adequate trap. A string was tied to the stick, ready to yank it away and drop the basin on any unsuspecting animal. After trying various baits - fruit, scrambled eggs, candy - the young hunters took my advice and applied peanut butter to a cracker in the back of the trap. Once set, it was carefully watched by four pairs of eyes, all waiting for the right moment to pull the string. They didn’t have to wait long. 

A gopher with a crooked tail crept into camp, sniffing the air. It quickly honed in on the irresistible scent of peanut butter and cautiously crept toward the trap. Everyone tensed as it nosed toward the bait. Yank! The string was jerked, the stick flew away, and the washbasin slammed down. The children erupted in cheers - they’d caught their first gopher!

“Now what?!” my oldest son asked, laughing.

As ambitious as they were, nobody had the heart to actually kill the poor creature. Besides, all the fun was in the trapping itself. So the washbasin was lifted and the Crooked Tail scurried off into the bush. 

“Again! Again!”

The stick was reset under the basin and the kids watched and waited once more. Soon a chubby gopher emerged from the woodwork. Within a minute, it too found itself trapped. More cheers.

“That’s two! If we get ten, you have to take us for ice cream!”

With the deal struck, our children got hard to work: set, trip, catch, release, repeat. After Chubby, Big Teeth was caught. And then Crooked Tail couldn’t help himself and was nabbed again. Then Big Teeth twice more. Chubby took the award for most times caught at four.

My hopes at keeping the kids occupied for the afternoon evaporated as the body count escalated. It wasn’t more than an hour before we were on our way into town for ice cream.

Those little gopher brains just refused to learn from their mistakes, walking into the same trap time and again. Not God’s smartest creatures. But then again, neither are we.

Unlike animals, who lack the capacity for wisdom, humans have no excuse for their foolishness. The Bible has a lot to say about such behavior. 

Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense. (Pr 15:21, ESV)

The folly of fools is foolishness. (Pr 14:24, ESV)

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. (Pr 14:1, ESV)

The recurring theme is that fools simply won’t learn. They keep making the same mistakes time and again. No matter how hard a teacher tries to redirect them toward better choices, the lessons don’t sink in. 

A fool rejects his father’s discipline. (Pr 15:5, ESV)

We are all guilty of this. We repeatedly fall into the same sins, the same toxic thought patterns, the same self-destructive behavior, despite the negative consequences of the last time we went wrong. We simply won’t learn! We disregard past experience and what God tells us in his Word, and strike off on our own foolish path once more. This sort of arrogance led to the first sin, when Eve, enticed by the irresistible bait, thought she knew better than God. Since then, we’ve all been making the same mistakes.

Wisdom, however, is available to anyone and everyone. It beckons all who will humble themselves and learn from her.

Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square, [saying]: “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof. Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” (Pr 1:20,22-23, NASB)

Even more so for those who follow Jesus. His Holy Spirit has been given to us as a helper, both to encourage and advise. 

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16, NASB)

If ever we need guidance, we only need to ask God for wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (Jam 1:5, NASB)

The Devil’s snares come in all shapes and sizes - lust, greed, laziness, envy, bitterness - but they’re not difficult to recognize because we’ve been caught by them countless times in the past. My kids laughed at the third time Crooked Tail was caught. Really? Again?! However, I imagine that’s not so different from the Devil’s reaction when we make the same dumb mistakes over and over.

Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. (Pr 26:11, NASB)

We’ve all made dumb decisions, not because we’re unable to learn (like gophers), but because we’re unwilling. This is the hallmark of foolishness - an unwillingness to learn - that dooms us to repeat our mistakes.

Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. (1 Pet 1:14, ESV)

If you’re ever bored on the prairies, try trapping gophers. However, don’t be too amused by their foolishness - chances are you’ve triggered the same reaction by your own decisions. Instead, in all humility, let’s keep trying to live according to the wisdom and God’s commands.

You know, not like a gopher.

© D. B. Ryen Incorporated, August 2023.