Doctor, that patient stinks!” the nurse complained. She had been preparing the cancer patient for his treatment. “His hygiene is terrible. I’ve been trying to clean him up, but there’s still a scabby plaque on his scalp that won’t come off.”

“O.K.,” the doctor replied. “I’ll give it a try.” The patient had come in with unattended festering sores, and much of his scalp was covered with a crust of dried pus, blood, and hair. The doctor worked it for a while then gave up. “I’m putting you on antibiotics for a week,” he told the man. “Then we’ll figure out what we need to do.”

At the next visit, the doctor scrubbed the man’s head using swabs and cleansing solutions. Eventually one corner of the infected area became loose. The doctor saw pus, but something wasn’t right. The pus was wiggling and moving!

“Aagh!” the doctor yelled, jumping back. The pus was full of maggots!

The doctor said later that the man took the news calmly. His wife did too, saying, “Oh, yeah. He likes to nap in our outdoor hammock. I told him I’d seen flies crawling on his head.”

This is a true story—a very gross one—but we can learn a spiritual lesson from it. The patient didn’t really care about the maggots in his head because he was used to living in filth. The maggots were there because the flies were there. The flies were there because the filth drew them and they were undisturbed. The filth was there because the man didn’t wash.

Why didn’t the man wash? We don’t know, but daily hygiene would have made very big difference.

Do you know the story of Jeremiah and the Israelites? Long ago, God gave the prophet Jeremiah a message for Israel. They were invited to return to a daily relationship with Him after they had fallen away from God and into idol worship and other bad behavior. They had become corrupted—full of “maggots.” Jeremiah told the people that disaster would come and the whole land would be ruined. But there was still time to clean up and repent. Jeremiah begged the people to “wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?” (Jeremiah 4:14).

Repenting and turning their thoughts toward the things of God would have given Israel health and immunity against the attacks of those who could destroy them. Sadly, the Iraelites did not follow the advice from God that Jeremiah gave them. Soon the “eggs” of their filthy thoughts and actions hatched into the “maggots” of misery as the Babylonian people invaded the country and took captives.

It isn’t easy to keep the flies of bad thoughts from buzzing in and around our heads. Everybody who follows Jesus will have to fight against evil at some point. But if we turn to God for help He will help us keep our thoughts pure, clean, and healthy.

If you would like to try a puzzle based on this article, click here.

—Adapted and modified from the September 18, 2008, Adventist Review article by Ginger Ketting-Wallace entitled “The Flies in Your Head,” on pages 8-12.