Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fishing Without Hooks?

We're going to be talking about people as if they're fish to be caught.  It would be easy to be sort of offended at the thought if you are one of the catchees instead of the catchers.  This people=fish metaphor is common language in the Christian church, and it comes from something Jesus said to some fishermen:

Matthew 4:19
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Witnesses say they left their nets and boats and followed Jesus, and in so doing became the first people to enroll in a school of church-planting. Not many months later, these former-fishermen were being sent out into the surrounding villages to ruin the plans of the devil.  They were healing people and casting out demons in Jesus' name, telling people the good news of God's love and presence of God's Kingdom come-to-earth.

They had gone from fishermen to fishers-of-men.

Now, that's all that the Bible tells about their fishing strategy.  Says that they were to let their blessing rest on a home, that they weren't to amass money or even be dependent on material comforts.  Says they prayed for people and God answered their prayers.  Does NOT say that they had a particular strategy for convincing people to follow the Jesus they had begun following.  There's a lot left to the imagination in that department.

So now the questions.  Each of these is related to the overarching question: "What does it mean to be a fisher of men?"

  1. If it feels bad to find a hook in the bait (if you're the fish), is it okay to use that technique?
  2. Is it fishing to throw in bait but use no hooks?
  3. When "fishing" for people, is it better to use a baited line, dynamite, a harpoon, or nets?


  1. Thoughts in no particular order: I don't want to hurt people. I don't want to hurt fish-lips, either. Fishing with a hook seems cruel. I am called to be a fisher-of-men, but I'd rather be friends with people than in opposition to them.

    The "hook" may be fine as a sales-technique, but it feels bad to me when it comes into relationships that I have with real people. EVEN THOUGH there is a ton of value to the people who are "caught by God" and I want to see them add that relationship to their lives.

  2. A second-grader that I know wanted to "catch" the chickens that had flown the coop. He chased them, but they were too cunning for him. He knew that the coop is the good place for them to be, but they were not convinced.

    He could have set up bait with a hook. Ugh. Sorry--that does not set up a great image... a bunch of "caught" hens panicking. Caught for their own good or not, just ugh.

    My second grade friend tried leading them back to the coop with a line of feed. That didn't work, but only because the chickens got full on the food and didn't pursue the line to its source.

    It's not exactly fishing. Jesus isn't recorded as having found people chasing chickens and saying "Come, follow me, and I will make you a catcher of chickens." But still it seems like there's something to it. Something about fishing with a hook that doesn't seem like it's fitting the metaphor that Jesus was trying to lay out with his fishermen friends.

    1. To clarify, I brought up the chickens for two reasons.
      1) The chickens needed to be returned to the coop for their own good. That "for their own good" seems significant, because fish are not caught for their own good. So it helps my thinking on the topic to think about "catching" in the context of the ultimate good for a person.
      2) The hook hurts. Whether it's in a fish lip, a chicken beak, or an ulterior motive in human relationship.


Thanks for commenting! ~Pastor Tim