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What is meant by 'kicking against the pricks'?

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While facilitating a Bible Study at New Canaan Worship Center in Richmond, Virginia, Rev. Margaret Minnicks used the expression, "kicking against the pricks." When a student asked what that meant, it gave Rev. Minnicks the opportunity to explain that expression.

When Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians, he had a blinding encounter with Jesus.

"Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." (Acts 9:5)

After his conversion, Saul's name was changed to Paul. When Paul recounts his conversion experience, that expression is used two other times in the book of Acts. Paul was so happy about his conversion that he gave testimony to it in Acts 22:10 and again in Acts 26:14.

"Kicking against the pricks" is an act of rebellion. Jesus used a farming metaphor. Oxen were used to work the soil. The prick or goad was a necessary device to steer the animal in the right direction. The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike or prick at one end. The man working the ox would position the goad in such a way as to exert influence and control over the ox. If the ox refused the command indicated by the farmer, the goad would be used to jab or prick the ox. Sometimes the ox would become more rebellious by kicking more against the prick. The prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal. The more the animal rebelled, the more the animal suffered. Jesus was telling Saul not to rebel against God.

Jesus took control of Paul and let him know his rebellion against God was a losing battle. Paul’s actions were as senseless as an ox "kicking against the pricks" or “kicking against the goads.”

When we kick against the pricks by disobeying God, we aren't hurting God. We are only hurting ourselves. We are like the ox – driving the prick in deeper and deeper, hurting ourselves by rebelling against authority. It is much better to heed God’s voice by listening and obeying Him. By resisting God’s authority we are only punishing ourselves.

It is worth mentioning that this expression is found only in the King James Version of the Bible. Modern translations have changed the word pricks to goads. The thought is that Paul has been kicking against God's "goading," and God has been trying to urge him to go in a certain direction.

Let's not "kick against the pricks." It's a losing battle with God anyway.

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