One of the interesting things you discover about New York City late in the day is that lots of shop owners take their garbage out and pile it on the street. The later in the day, the more garbage piles up on the streets. What I also discovered while in New York City is that the garbageman comes around awfully early in the morning, and the same streets that were cluttered with garbage are quickly cleaned. I’d have to say the garbageman is one of the most important people in New York City. Imagine how nasty the City would be without the garbageman. I wonder how many New Yorkers actually know their garbageman’s name?
Why would they know the garbageman’s name? I don’t know my garbageman’s name. Every week, someone comes by my house, picks up my garbage and disposes of it. Sometimes I see the person/s, sometimes I don’t. They are always consistent…week in, week out. It may not always be the same person, but if someone didn’t come my garbage would pile up and become more rancid with each passing day. No, I don’t know his name, but he is definitely an unsung hero in my life, and I just felt like I needed to give a call to my garbageman (and all garbage men) this morning.
I don’t know if Malkijah qualifies as an unsung hero in the Bible or not, but I think he was called upon to do a totally unexciting yet wholly necessary job. As Nehemiah gave instructions and assignments for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, it fell Malkijah’s lot to work on the Dung Gate. We all know what dung is, right? Yeah, your thinking in the right direction. Actually, the word translated “dung” literally means “refuse.” It was the “Garbage” gate, and just outside it lay the garbage dump for the Temple. The garbage had to go somewhere. Malkijah, though I’m sure his work was not pretty, did the job. Garbage gotta’ go somewhere, right?
I started thinking about how important it is to have a garbageman. We all have garbage. I’m speaking purely in the figurative sense here, but humor me for a minute. The garbage in our lives are those things that work to destroy us, to stink up our lives and drive people away. The problem with our garbage is we tend to hold on to it. We let it pile up…and it begins to stink and rot and become rancid. It might be because we don’t have a garbageman.
What kind of garbage do we have? First, we have what’s been called “paraphernalia” garbage. Substance abuse, internet addictions, sexual addictions, gambling addictions and other addictive behavior would fall under this category of garbage.
Next is “thought” garbage. Every behavior began in our minds, in our thoughts. We fantasize, we dream, we obsess over issues, and before we know it, that which we’ve obsessed over becomes a reality. Negative thinking leads to negative behavior. The converse is also true. Remember what Paul said in Philippians 4:8–
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
We can have deluded thinking. I’m often deluded, thinking more highly of myself than I should. I also tend to rationalize a lot, telling myself I “deserve” something. Well, about the only thing I deserve is death…so says, Paul in Romans 3:23–
For the wages of sin is death.
Another type of garbage in our lives is “ritual” garbage. No, I’m not talking about religious rituals. I’m talking about all the actions we take between having negative thoughts and finally taking the negative actions. Rituals are the way we make time to engage ourselves in sinful or destructive behavior. Alcoholics can be creative about these kinds of things, as can other types of addicts. Let’s face it, though. Not all of us are substance abusers. Maybe my issue is wasting too much time in front of the TV, or in front of the refrigerator. Maybe it’s too much time on the golf course, or too much time at the hunting camp. Maybe it’s too much time at the shopping mall. Any and all of these actions can be destructive if there is an addictive nature to them.
My point is simply that we all have garbage in our lives, and left unattended, it will rot…it will stink up our lives. When I was a teenager, I dated a young lady whose dad had a trailer out in front of their house. It was his custom to bag up the daily garbage and dispose of it by tossing it in the trailer. It piled up for months…and it stank. It didn’t keep me from showing up, though (not much hinders teenage boys from seeing teenage girls–even stinky garbage). Imagine how it would be if you and I just let our garbage pile up outside our house. Eventually, no one could stand come around (have you seen the TV show “Hoarders”?).
Simply put, we need a garbageman. We need someone in our lives that helps us deal with our garbage. We need a real-life person who we can “dump” on, to talk to and share those places where we struggle with thoughts and behaviors. “Dumping” the garbage helps us deal with the garbage. That person could be a trusted friend (don’t tell just anyone!), a pastor, or a counselor. If confession is good for the soul, accountability is better. Accountability to another person can help us walk a walk worthy of our calling. But, unless we have a garbageman (or garbagewoman), we’ll always struggle with the garbage piling up and stinking up our lives. So, let me ask you…who’s your garbageman?
Until, next time, keep looking up…