The Dung Beetle and Discipleship


My wife recently returned from a disciple’s wedding in South Africa with a bounty of fun gifts for the family. I was prized with a small wooden carving of a dung beetle. I decided to educate our kids on the dung beetle as they thought dad’s gift was rather hysterical. To our surprise these little organic, recycling, super bugs are remarkable! Jesus would often refer to his natural environment to share word pictures on the Kingdom, to illustrate a leadership lesson or to teach his disciples. I wonder what word picture Jesus would have used if there were dung beetles in Israel?

Here are a few lessons from a dung beetle that I see…

“The Least of These”

Jesus came and ministered to the lowly, forgotten, marginalized, outcast and poor. This is a central tenet of the gospel message. Jesus enters into our sin-saturated world, redeems and rescues us from the pile of mess we’ve made. Jesus rolled up his sleeves and got to work even if it wasn’t pretty by the world’s standards. In my early days of ministry, I had the privilege of serving in Lynden, Washington known for its berry and dairy farms. Often the potent smell of cow stool would fill the northwest air. Most would cringe but one older, local dairy farmer would take a deep breath and say, “The smell of money”. While I gagged in disdain, the smell had value to him.

Jesus, like the dung beetle, saw incredible opportunities while others lifted their nose. Mark 10:45 says “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” No task was too low for Jesus. He lived with humility to see the needs before him.

“He Rescued Us”

Dung beetles live by eating feces. I admit this is gross but thank goodness they do! Dung beetles play a critical role in recycling. They keep the environment clean to prevent the spread of disease to other animals. They get rid of all the waste so we can enjoy our lives without a billion flies to deal with. Imagine if we no longer had curbside garbage pick-up or had to use the chamber pot for personal waste. Life would get messy, quick. Even Australia had to import these dung lovers to help address their abundance of cow manure. The results were improved cow health and soil fertilization.

Jesus, in dying on the cross, took our filth on his shoulders. I am so thankful Jesus rescued us. We were delivered from sin and introduced to freedom. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

“He Will Guide You”

Not convinced yet that the dung beetle is extraordinary? If you don’t think eating dung for a living is special, just wait. These little guys have one of the most incredible GPS systems on planet earth. Yes, no exaggerations.  They’re the first known species in the animal kingdom to use the Milky Way to navigate their way. Scientists discovered this and tested their theory by putting tiny hats on the dung beetles to block their ability to see the night sky. It is believed that they take a “picture” of the night sky and use the the faint glow of the Milky Way to navigate their way back home. This is really cool on a human level, but have you stopped to think about the Holy Spirit’s guiding in your life? The God of the universe, the One that put the stars in their place is speaking, leading, teaching and helping you… daily. John 16:13 says “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

“He is My Strength”

Lastly, it is remarkable that the dung beetle packs and rolls a dung ball 4 times his body size. This would be the human equivalent to pulling six double-decker buses full of people. Not only do they have to form their dung ball and roll it back to their home, they also have to fight off the other 16,000 beetles racing to gather their ball from the three pounds of elephant dung. In less than two hours, the pile will be gone. They have to work fast and with perseverance. The bigger the ball, the faster they push is essential to their survival. Thankfully God does not leave me to my own strength however I am able to draw upon the strength of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 28:7 says “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

I am thankful for these little reminders of God’s creativity and for making these crazy little insects to remind me of these simple truths. Thank God for the dung beetle!

By Josh Yates of Sonlife


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