Life Lessons From A Partridge
“Like a partridge that hatches eggs she has not laid, so are those who get their wealth by unjust means. At midlife they will lose their riches; in the end, they will become poor old fools.” Jeremiah 17:11
For those who might not know what a partridge is, the easiest way to explain it to you is that; it is the English equivalent of a pheasant or francolin (spurfowl). Like many who have read this verse, one of the first things I did was to look up a partridge and see if this bird did actually ‘hatch eggs she has not laid’. The craziest thing is that, this bird is amazingly caring and protective over its own young. It hatches its own eggs, rears them and lovingly cares for them. What an odd thing to say in Scripture, is it not?
Although there are some comments on this, one being the possibility of it alluding to an ancient myth whereby once grown the chicks will leave her and return to their true mother, perhaps we can learn a few lessons from this verse by focusing on a few points.
One thing we can be certain of, a partridge hatching eggs she has not laid is not the natural, right or normal way things are done. In fact, it seems to be the exact opposite. So too, we see that getting wealth by unjust means is not the natural, right or normal way things should be done. What is your first reaction to reading ‘Like a partridge that hatches eggs she has not laid’? Let’s say it was worded, ‘Like a mother who stole a child she did not bear.’ Do you remember the story of Solomon and the two women? The women came to him with the story of the one mother stealing the other’s child because she had killed her own during the night when she rolled over it.
My reaction would be; this is not right, in fact this is evil and wrong. Why would anyone do that? Yet, when we look at the second part of this Scripture, ‘getting wealth by unjust means’, how many of us have the same reaction? Can’t we see how terrible it is to get wealth in this way, to get what we need unjustly? Still, how often do we see this in the world today and nothing is done about it, nobody cares and it has become normal in the way we do things? How sad it is, that we have turned from the true and right way of doing things before God. So we see, that doing things in this way, is not of God.
Let’s explain this a bit further. Why is getting wealth by unjust means wrong? Two core things stand out as a quick summary. The first can be gleaned from a few verses before in Jeremiah 17:5, ‘Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.’ Getting wealth in this way means you are trusting your own strength to do so. You have not got to the point (or have rejected the point) where you realise that God provides everything you need and He does so in the right way. You have not seen that wealth is not about material riches, but about spiritual riches that are eternal and bring real contentment. So the first sin is not trusting God.
The second thing that stands out, is the people you trod over or abuse to achieve that wealth. Getting wealth by unjust means, will always affect someone along the way. Basically, you would have gotten material riches at the expense of at least one person, if not many more. Don’t let these words apply to you, ‘You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you.’ (James 5:5-6). So the second sin is not loving your neighbour.
So what else now becomes of importance to note? The last bit of the verse says this, ‘At midlife they will lose their riches; in the end, they will become poor old fools.’ Perhaps this is where the ancient myth comes out? Actually, according to Scripture, this is exactly what happens to those who get wealthy by unjust means. All that you have accumulated will be lost and in the end you will be poor. Or maybe these words in Jeremiah 17:6 will make you take a second look at the consequences. ‘They (those who trust in man) are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.’ I beg you to see that there is ‘no hope for the future’, for those that ‘get their wealth by unjust means.’ Only a ‘barren wilderness’ lies before you.
May we learn a lesson from the partridge. That wealth by unjust means is wrong and not the normal way of doing things. More importantly, that God is the source of true riches, that God provides a wealth that is eternal and that God can provide all we need in the right way. May we sing out as Jeremiah did, ‘My praises are for you alone!’