The Cat in the Hat

March 13, 2011

The Cat in the Hat
The Cat. . .in. . .the. . .Hat.  The Cat in the Hat is probably the best known of any of Dr. Seuss’s books, with the possible exception of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but really most people are more familiar with the Grinches’s Christmas special or movie then they are with the book.  The Cat in the Hat is iconic.  Probably the most recognizable face out there, maybe with the exception of Charlie Sheen. 

We are told that Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss, wrote the Cat in the Hat in response to an article published in Life magazine in May of 1954.   The article written by John Hersey was critical of school primers, in the article which was ten pages long Hersey wrote “In the classroom boys and girls are confronted with six books that have insipid illustrations depicting the slicked-up lives of other children. [Existing primers] feature abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls. . . .”    Of course those were the Dick and Jane books.
A friend of Seuss’, publisher William Ellsworth Spaulding, challenged Suess to “Write me a story that first-graders can’t put down!”  He gave Seuss a list of 348 words that every six year old should know and insisted the book should use no more than 225 of those word.
The Cat in the Hat uses 223 of the words that appeared on the list and 13 words that didn’t.  Seuss wanted the title to rhyme and Cat and Hat were the first two words on the list that rhymed and worked as a title. 
The story is 1629 words long and uses 236 different words.  For those who are interested there is only one three syllable word,  – “another” –14 words  which have two syllables and the 221 remaining words are monosyllabic. The longest words in the book are “something” and “playthings”.

You know the story, the narrator, who is unnamed, and his sister Sally have been left home on a cold and rainy day, which begs the question:  What kind of mother would leave her two little kids with only a fish to watch them?  Tell you what that lady would be charged today with being an unfit parent and her kids would be taken away.  But it was a different time, many of us can probably remember being left home alone with a list of rules and no fish.
And into their lives arrives The Cat in the Hat and his two friends Thing one and Thing Two.  Against the strenuous objection of the Fish, the Cat in the Hat and his cohorts turn the house into absolute chaos.  Ending with things broken and bent.  (Read from book)  The mess is cleaned up only when Sally and her brother realize that their mother’s return in imminent and then they are left with the dilemma of what to tell their mother about the events that had gone on.  (read last page)
So what do we learn from the book?  Well, my first idea was to draw a comparison between the story of the Cat and the Hat and the story from the Book of Genesis about the temptation of Adam and Eve.  Then I realized that using the Cat in the Hat as an analogy for Satan probably wasn’t the best way to win friends and influence people and would end up doing  irreparable damage to any children listening, so we aren’t going there.
However, we still need to understand that into the lives of these children came the temptation to do things that they knew that not ought to do and even if they were not personally responsible for those actions they knew that they were wrong in permitting the Cat to come into the house and allowing him to do what he did. 
So this morning we are talking about temptation, doing or permitting things which we know are wrong in our lives.  And being tempted doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it just means you are a person.  Paul remind us in  1 Corinthians 10:13-14 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.
Every one of us will be tempted by something at some time in our lives.  And what makes it so difficult to understand is that what tempts you might not tempt me, and so I don’t understand it.  It’s so easy to stand in judgement when someone gives in to something that has no appeal to us.  
We are told in Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. And might we add:  or another, different temptation. 
So what should the kids have done?  Or more importantly, because really it is just a kid’s book, what should you do when you are faced with temptations in your life?  Well 2000 years ago Paul addressed a letter to a young preacher by the name of Timothy and he offered his friend advice that is just as valuable today as it was then. 

It comes from the passage of scripture that was read earlier and it is found at the very end of 1 Timothy 6:11-12 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.
Three pieces of advice for Timothy to follow, three pieces of advice for Denn to follow, three pieces of advice for you to follow, if you are indeed a Christ follower, and probably not bad advice if you aren’t a Christ Follower.
So Paul begins his closing The closing words of his letter with this advice for Timothy, 1 Timothy 6:11-12 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things.. .

1) There are Times You Should Run The word run is mentioned 102 times in the Bible,  ten of those times are in the New Testament.  And when the writers are not speaking about literal running they are telling us to run to God, run the race set before us, run with endurance.  But three times we are told to run away from certain things.   We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 
Plus 1 Timothy 6:11-12 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things.. .And finally in 2 Timothy 2:22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.

Kind of a common theme that is running through there.

So here we go.  Most of us have survived in life by knowing that there are times that we need to execute what has been called as a tactical advance to the rear.  That whatever it is ahead of us it’s either too big to fight, or not worth the effort. Do you remember the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where they are up against the Killer Bunny?  Do you remember the advice that was given?  “Run Away, Run Away.”
Now I know that retreat is a dirty word, to most of us it signifies giving up or surrendering.  But it would appear that Paul is telling Timothy that in this particular instance that discretion might be the best part of valour.  When I was young my father imparted some advice upon me which while not necessarily heroic sounding was certainly practical, here it is, you might want to write it down. “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.”  I thought that was pretty profound and it was only as an adult I found that Dad was actually quoting the Roman Historian Tacitus who said “He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again.”
What we are being warned about are those areas in life that we are prone to be spiritually weak in.  And it’s a personal thing, what may tempt you may not tempt me and vice versa.  But you know what areas you are weak in.  Someone once said “The reason most people don’t pray ‘lead me not into temptation’ is they are afraid God will take them serious.” 
But Mark Twain hit the nail on the head when he said “It is easier to stay out than get out.”
You know that don’t you?  You think that the temptation to give in to sinful behaviour is strong, but that’s nothing compared to the temptation to give in to that sinful behaviour again.
James the brother of Jesus warned those in the early church James 1:14-15 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.   

Another way to look at is that you need to avoid the opportunity for sin.  If we go back to our book for a moment, there really wasn’t opportunity for Sally and her brother to run from the cat but at no point in the story did they actually tell him to leave. 
This isn’t rocket surgery people.  If you have a problem with gambling you don’t go down to watch the folks feed the VLTs, you don’t wander through the casino just to kill time.  If you have a problem with lust you don’t watch certain programs or go to certain movies, if you struggle with alcohol you don’t hang out in the bars or keep a bottle around just in case. 
Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to walk away from evil, or to saunter away from evil or to stroll away from evil.  Instead he yells, Run away, run away.  Don’t mess with it, don’t play with it, just walk away from it. 
You say “Don’t worry Denn, I have everything under control.”  Sure, famous last words, I think Custer said the same thing.  Listen up, write it down, engrave it on your forehead, I don’t care what you do to remember it but remember it.  1 Timothy 6:11 But you, __________, are a person of God; so run from all these evil things…   And I shouldn’t have to give you a list of what evil things Paul is talking about, E V I L Things, evil things.  Things that you should not be messing with, things you shouldn’t be looking at, things you shouldn’t be thinking

about.  And you know what they are.  Remember what Solomon asked in Proverbs 6:27 Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? 

While that is a rhetorical question and isn’t meant to be answered, the correct answer is “No you dummy.”  You don’t stick your hand into the fire and pray that you won’t be burned, you keep your hand out of the fire and pray for enough sense to not put it in.
I’ve told you before, I am telling you now and I will tell you again.  “Sin will always take you further then you want to go.  Sin will always keep you longer then you want to stay and sin will always cost you more then you want to pay.”  Run Away, Run Away.
But we can’t spend our lives running so Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11-12 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.  In other translations it reads “Follow what is right and good” 

2) There are Times You Should Follow.  Follow is another one of those words that doesn’t have a high profile. We don’t want to follow we want to lead.  Following is for followers.  Ahhhhh.  Like Christ Followers, those who would follow Jesus.  What was the invitation that Christ extended to those he met?  Mark 2:14 “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him.

You ever hear the old adage “Idle hands are the Devil’s hands”?  The easiest way to stay away from what is evil is to immerse yourself in what is good.  That’s the concept that Paul is teaching to Timothy, the concept that we need to learn as well.  So, if you commit yourself to following what is right and good. To pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.  How much time are you going to have for evil?
Focus on the good.  Read good books, watch good movies, listen to good music, think good thoughts.  But Denn, don’t but Denn me.  A number of years ago a  survey showed that the majority of Americans thought that there was too much sex and violence on Television, at the same time the two highest rated shows were CSI and Desperate House Wives.  You scoop fire into your lap you will get burned. 
For just a minute think about what you have watched, read and listened to this week, how does it stack up?  And I know that you can’t isolate yourself completely from the world.  But if you were able to weigh on a scale the amount of garbage that you subject yourself to on a daily basis and then on the other side you placed the good stuff, the stuff that is right and good that you take in.  Which way would the scale tip? 
The scriptures are full of the things you should be doing, and as we’ve often noted if you spend all your time doing the dos, you won’t have time to do the don’ts. The slide that’s been up on the screen a couple of times this morning makes some suggestions about what our thought life should look like, did you catch it when it was up?  True, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy think about these things.  What do you think? A pretty good description about what goes on between your ears?  It should be.   
Instead of focusing on what you are supposed to avoid, what you are supposed to run from set your eyes on what you are supposed to follow.  Those things that are right and good, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 
And all the kids in the story had to do was follow the advice of the fish.  Time and time again he warned them.  God doesn’t leave us alone, instead he provides us with his word and His Spirit.  But we can choice to listen to God’s direction or ignore God’s direction. 

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.

3) There are Times You Should fight.  Do you know there are people out there who don’t believe what you believe?  There are people out there who will actually mock our beliefs.  That’s a given, Jesus told us it would happen, Paul told us it would happen, Peter told us it would happen, James told us it would happen.  We’d be foolish if we thought we would be immune. 
And when we are confronted by people and situations like that we have a couple of options.  Actually there are at least three options and we’ve looked at a couple of them so far.  We can flee from them, just walk away.  We can follow them and decide that maybe they are right and we are wrong, or we can fight.
But who or what are we supposed to fight?  The last major fight that the church seemed to be involved in was the same sex marriage issue.  But we can see in the news from time to time how the church fights to keep prayer in school and the Ten Commandments in public buildings in the States and Christ in school Christmas presentations.
Is that what Paul was talking about when he said to fight the good fight?  Was he telling us to fight for what we believe in so that our society will be a “Christian society”? I’m not so sure? 
I mean when the Taliban tries to enforce their view of Islam in Afghanistan we say it’s a bad thing.  And we can’t understand why secular countries throughout the Middle East enforce Sharia law.    
If one of Paul’s goals was to fight to change society the early church did a dismal job and Jesus did a worse job.  The only way the early church tried to make society better was by making individual people better.  And if we look at history we discover that society changes when people change, not the other way around. 
And so if this is not about fighting the big fight, you know the fight to keep society intact and the institution of marriage safe what are we supposed to be fighting?  Here are more of Paul’s words to Timothy, 1 Timothy 1:18 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles.
Again with the fighting, but what are the Lord’s battles?  Paul answers that in the next verse, 1 Timothy 1:19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.
The fight we are supposed to be fighting is the fight against evil in our own lives.  We are supposed to be fighting against temptation and sin.  We are supposed to be fighting to maintain our moral purity and integrity.  Not out there but in here, and it is a fight.  You see the fight isn’t to keep trash off of television; the fight is to not watch the trash on television.  The fight isn’t to protect marriage; the fight is to protect our marriages. 
If Satan’s not picking on you maybe it’s because he doesn’t think you are worth picking on because you’re not doing anything for the kingdom.  And if you think maintaining a strong and vital relationship with God isn’t a struggle then maybe that’s because you’re not doing it.
And we need to be taking a stand and saying this is what the church is supposed to believe in.  It’s amazing that we will criticize the liberal churches publicly about their stand in favour of same sex marriages or abortion but we never publicly denounce them for denying the deity of Christ, or the virgin birth or the resurrection.  Those are things worth fighting about and taking a stand for.  
So this week what are the things you are going to run from?  What are the things that you are going to embrace and follow and what are the things you will be willing to fight for?
So let’s go back to a scripture that we looked at earlier, because this is your promise for today and for tomorrow.
1 Corinthians 10:13The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
No let’s personalize it and make it our own, read this with me this morning. 
1 Corinthians 10:13The temptations in my life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than I can stand. When I am tempted, he will show me a way out so that I can endure.