“Don’t Stop the Plow to Kill a Mouse”

By Gardner S. Hall, Sr.

This is an old adage. I saw a cartoon, showing two heavy turning plows, two big mules hitched to each plow. Both teams were standing idle while one plowman held up a mouse he had killed and the other was looking on with much admiration.

This is a good illustration on the subject of first things first. Let the less important things wait for the more important things to be done first. I have seen the time when killing a few score of rats seemed of just about top priority. It was necessary to save what the plows had made.

The gospel plow has been slowed by the tendency on the part of churches to spend “gospel money” on entertainment and fancy buildings. Spending thousands for fellowship halls, camp grounds, etc., wastes money sorely needed for sowing the seed of the kingdom.

But a favorite complaint against us who insist upon close adherence to the Scriptures is that we “major in minors.” Or, we “make mountains out of molehills.” Or, we “stop the plow to kill a mouse.” “A man who preached and who sprinkled water for baptism admitted to me that the Bible teaches that baptism is a burial. But he thought we should just preach to save souls and not take up valuable time arguing about nonessentials. He thought I was stopping the plow to kill a mouse. That is what the brethren who introduced the missionary society and instrumental music said. They thought brethren who opposed them were wasting time on very insignificant issues.

Now that institutions of human origin have been built to take the place of the local church, and churches are engaged in recreation and entertainment, many make it a light matter. They do not consider them that important. I hear that some brethren are really opposed to these practices but just do not preach on them. Well, I can see no reason for neglecting preaching on them except that they do not believe they are serious enough to merit their attention and time.

In fact, there is a trend now among many, many preachers to neglect “first principles” or opposition to false doctrines. They preach sermons, with very few exceptions, that any denominational preacher would endorse. They preach on moral issues; they can become very excited when a vote on alcoholic beverages is coming up. They can preach fine, inspirational sermons. But denominational people would never see the differences in their errors and the simple New Testament plan. The preacher who gets down to the detailed errors of denominationalism is, to their way of thinking, killing mice.

“O, that is such a small insignificant thing. Stop quarreling over non-essentials and join in the fight for the weightier matters of the gospel!” This is the refuge of all religionists who can not produce Scripture for their practices, whether denominationalists or erring brethren. Even if departures from truth seem small, others will inevitably follow. We should be diligent to follow the New Testament in everything. And if we once assume an attitude that little errors are not worth bothering with, we are simply preparing ourselves to swallow big errors. (This article is slightly edited from the 29 July, 1973 Items, published by the Corinth Church of Christ, Nick Davis Road, Athens, Alabama, where Brother Hall was preaching at the time of his death. Ron Halbrook)

Truth Magazine XXII: 30, pp. 491-492
August 3, 1978