The G. of G. # 6: Lesson from a Leprechaun

This Grammar of Government series continues. While we continue in limbo, waiting for final election results for certain races, most notably, the presidential results, let me tell you a story.

First, I must admit that I really have been in need of the comforting admonition I offered in my last post on November 5. It contained a number of Scriptures, but the article was bookended by this passage:

“Do not be anxious about anything,

but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

present your requests to God.  

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV).

With this encouragement in mind, I want to tell you a story that I first heard when I was eight years old.

I tell this story in the chapter of introduction in my yet to be published book, A Traveler’s Guide through Suffering and Joy. The story goes like this.

Do you remember when you first became aware of evil?

It seems that we are born expecting goodness in life. All should be well. Evil, as everything not good, feels like an intruder, a disruptor. It violates the good. We don’t expect it, not as little ones. No, we don’t expect it, not until evil has hammered us over and over, and even then, it does not fit right. All is not well.

My first shock happened when I was in second grade. I suppose everyone on this planet would like to have the kind of shock that I had — when evil first intruded upon my view of life. My shock did not involve any personal abuse. Nor did it involve any offense against me.

I recognized it in a story in my school reader. It pierced through my soul. I never forgot it. I was in the lowest reading group and felt the pressure that I was behind everyone else, yet this story stole my attention and changed my developing perception of reality. Here is the basic schoolbook story, as I remember it.

Walking through the woods, a boy happens upon a leprechaun. The little creature shows the child a chest full of gold and offers it to him. Excited, the boy thinks about all the ways this treasure will help his poor family!

The only problem is that the boy cannot carry the treasure and has no cart in which to transport it. So, he buries it under a tree while the little creature watches. Then the boy ties a red ribbon (or was it yellow or blue?) around the tree trunk to identify the tree. At the boy’s urging, the leprechaun earnestly promises not to remove the ribbon. No, he will never remove the ribbon.

Away the boy scurries to fetch his cart and to tell his family that their woes are over! Returning to the woods, he travels deep within it, searching for the red ribbon. Taking a turn on the trail, he suddenly discovers that he is surrounded by trees with ribbons. Red ribbons! And all the ribbons are exactly the same size and shape, as well as the same color, as his original ribbon!

Just as he had promised, the leprechaun had not removed the ribbon. Instead, he duplicated the ribbon on the other trees. Keeping his word, he had lied. He had tricked the boy. The story leaves the reader supposing that the boy will never find the treasure.

Such is the way of leprechauns. They trick and deceive. The moral of the story was clear to me. Even as an eight year old, I connected this tale to real life, seeing a message I’d never seen before.

Telling the truth can be a way of lying. I recognized twisted thinking for the first time. Leprechauns, people, leprechauns, people. Is the way of leprechauns also one way of people? A darkness presented itself previously unknown to me. I was stunned.

That this darkness, called sin, lived within me too was a realization I would yet face. For now, I was alerted to the presence of some real evil.

This experience from my childhood may seem cute. It is a mild way to be initiated into the brokenness of this world. I am totally grateful. I was reared in a loving and godly home. I did learn the gospel from my parents and church. I did realize that I too was not always honest, kind, and good. I needed the forgiveness of Jesus. I needed the Holy Spirit to change me from the inside out.

But this leprechaun story illustrated a twistedness that had never occurred to me. Something is wrong.

As an adult, I can explain the moral of the story this way. Deception can claim a moral high ground. “I did not lie to you!” the leprechaun could answer, if he were ever found. “I told you the truth! I told what I would not do. You did not ask me about what I would do!”

I introduced this story as as an example of evil, my first, recognized exposure. Do you agree that lying and deception are evil? We tend to consign only the most horrendous of actions to the category of “evil”: violence, rape, murder, and treachery (which involves deception).

However, these are the full blooms of evil. Evil begins with dishonesty. (Many would say it begins with pride. I say that pride is a willful buying into lies/untruth. Pride and falsehood are two sides on one coin. They cannot be separated.) The serpent’s first comment to Eve was a question. “Indeed, has God said ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?”(Genesis 3:1). He planted the seed of doubt. (Maybe God is like that leprechaun, not really upfront with you.) Eve explains that they can eat from any tree except from one certain tree in the middle of the garden. Now, the serpent’s crafty words strike: “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

First, the serpent contradicts God (lies) and then he impugns God’s motives, slandering the Creator. The serpent is the first appearance of Satan, the adversary, on earth. Jesus describes Satan as a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). In that same verse, Jesus claims that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jesus continues,  “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” John 8:31 – 59 clearly juxtaposes truth and falsehood.

The term for the adversary, “the devil,” carries the idea of breaking bonds and setting parties against each other by slander. Hmm.

So, what does all of this have to do with the grammar of government? Specifically, the civil, self-governing system we have in the United States of America?

Precisely this.

Self-government, as the exercise of authority and leadership by representatives of the citizen-voters, requires a significant quantity of truthfulness undergirding it in order for it to be sustained.

The first lesson in government that the leprechaun teaches is that Trust is based upon Truth.  At least enough truth that can be located when sifting through the noisy pile of voices being thrown at us.

Thomas Jefferson warned about what it would take for America to remain free. He stated, “If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.”

As a Christ-follower who is an American, I realize that by the fact that I am an American, I am part of the government, this government of American “selves”. Our country is ruled not by a monarchy, but it will descend to an oligarchy (ruled by an elite society) if the citizens abdicate their leadership roles.

But what makes it so difficult to navigate as a citizen-leader is the difficulty in being informed, as Jefferson said we must be. Who would want to obfuscate the truth to us? Who would want the people to be ignorant, misinformed, or propagandized?

Americans need to be wise yet gracious. Not easy. Jesus instructed, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Around us are leprechaun forces. There are those who want to confuse us, tell us that what we see and makes sense to us just isn’t so. Some keep moving the trees and the bright bows. 

So, I pray, write to certain officials, and pray.

For we are instructed in I Timothy 2:1-4:

 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings

be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions,

that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”


As participating citizens in the Untied States of America, many of us seek to be informed, and to pray, vote, and vocalize our views. These are all essential steps, promoting space for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be heard and opportunity for all people to live peaceful and dignified lives.


Below is an interview of Sharyl Attkinsson on the Eric Metaxas show in which they discuss the issues of truth, bias, old-fashioned journalism and such. I hope you find this helpful.




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