Don't Be a Crayfish
About 20 years ago, when I was a lad of twelve years, my friend Ed introduced me to the fine art of crayfishing (also called "crawfishen").
Do you know what a crayfish is? A crayfish is a freshwater crustacean closely related to but smaller than the lobster. Crayfish love to sit on the bottom of lakes and wait for tasty meals to come their way.
The best way to catch a crayfish is by tricking it with a bullhead (the rather ugly catfish-type creature that looks like an oversized tadpole). First you must catch a bullhead in the conventional way, i.e., with a fishing rod and a worm. Once you have caught your bullhead, you kill it – perhaps by striking it upon the head several times with the edge of a tin can. From there you hook the bullhead back onto your hook, preferably by its tail. Then you can proceed to catch a crayfish.
You must unreel your line and so allow the dead bullhead to descend to the bottom of the lake at that place where crayfish love to congregate. Understandably, our crayfish cannot believe it’s good fortune when this beautiful bullhead slowly descends from above and settles right in front of it. The crayfish seizes it with its pincers and begins to eat.
Now, crayfish will not go down in history for being the most brilliant creatures in the animal world. In fact, they are rather dense. The next step involved proves this. You wait until you are confident that you have enticed one with your bait. Then, very slowly and steadily, you begin to reel in your line. The crayfish, so absorbed by its delicious meal, fails to notice that it is gradually being drawn up towards the surface of the lake. As soon as you have it at the surface, you can scoop it out of the water with a net and drop it in a pail of water. Once you have enough crayfish, you can then boil them (alive, of course) and enjoy the tiny amount of meat each one offers.
You ask, "'What’s the point?" The point is that we often act like crayfish. The apostle James speaks about this in James 1:14. He says there that we are lured or dragged away by our own desires. The Greek word translated into English as "lured" (RSV) or "dragged away" (NIV) is a term which James took from the art of fishing. The point is that just like a crayfish is dragged away because of its desire for the bullhead, so we are dragged away by our own desires. And, as James says, desire often leads to sin, and sin leads to death.
Desire as such is not necessarily sinful. When I am hungry, I desire food. That's normal. It's not sinful. A young man and a young woman who have been seeing each other for awhile might desire to marry. Included in this wanting to marry one another is the aspect of sexual desire. Again, as such this is not sinful. It would be unhealthy if that were not present. Or someone might desire to go to a certain university. Or he might desire to visit his friends who live far away. We could give many more examples in order to show that desire is not necessarily sinful. God has given us the ability to desire things so that we can live a normal, balanced life. Without any desires, we would all become very lazy people wasting away our lives doing nothing. That is sin!
However, if we place no checks and balances upon our desires, then they get out of hand and bring forth sin. My normal desire for food can lead to gluttony, which is sin. The healthy desire for one another which grows between a young man and a young woman quickly leads to the sin of premarital sex if checks and balances are discarded. If you isolate your desire to go to a certain university or to visit friends from your responsibility towards you family, your work, or your church, it can swiftly lead to sin.
And sin brings forth death, says James. Sin often leads to physical death. How many people die each year because they give way to their desire for nicotine, drugs, alcohol, or illicit sex? Their desire leads to the sin of enslavement to these potential killers, and the sin leads to death. It leads to cancer, brain damage, ruined livers, and a host of sexually transmitted diseases.
Sin also leads to spiritual death. As Paul says, "The wages of sin is death."
And then he means spiritual, eternal death. Sin is what separates us from God. When we allow our desires to carry us away – if we don't put the brakes on – then we allow ourselves to be led away from God. And there is only death apart from the living God.
The crayfish which was reeled in because of its desire for the bullhead ended up in a pan of boiling water on a Coleman stove. It wasn't even aware that it was being hauled up from the bottom of the lake. That's how preoccupied it was with the object of its desire.
It's the same with people. People who have allowed their unchecked desires to lead them into a life of conscious and un-repented sin usually think that everything is wonderful. They brag about how free they are. They can do what they want. No more restrictions. They've never had it so good. They don't realize that their desires are slowly and steadily reeling them in towards death. They are as dense as the crayfish.
Don't be a crayfish. Don't be hooked by your own desires. Don't be dragged away into death from a life with the living LORD.