The Heart Enshrined Word

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent . . . 16 for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood (Proverbs 1:10-16).

Barry Black grew up on the streets of Baltimore, the son of a devoutly religious mother.  She paid her children a nickel a verse for every passage of scripture they committed to memory and Barry quickly learned to game the system.  He began looking  for the shortest verses in the Bible (“low hanging fruit” he calls them).  There was “Jesus Wept” (John 11:35).  Then “Rejoice evermore” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).  Then “Remember Lot’s Wife” (Luke 17:32) and “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Barry found two for one specials.  “Do not kill” was Exodus 20:13, but so was Deuteronomy 5:17.  Learn it once, get paid twice.  Barry’s mother knew what he was doing, but she also knew what she was doing.  In order to find those verses, Barry had to make his way through the Bible.  Eventually, his mother capped what she would pay to a quarter a week (five verses), and eventually, Barry found greater value than a nickel a verse.

One afternoon in his 13th year, young Barry was invited by some friends to join them in taking revenge on a common nemesis.  Barry remembered Proverbs 1:10-16 and refused, choosing to stay far away from those “friends.”  The revenge went horribly wrong, and a boy died.  The others were charged and convicted of murder.  “That would have been me” Barry says, “had I not remembered the proverb” and taken it to heart.

Today Barry is the Chaplain of the United States Senate and as I listened to him a few days ago (his speech peppered with scripture) I thought: That’s what David meant when he wrote: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11).

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