Fish or cut bait is a common English language colloquial expression, dating back to the 19th-century United States. Its origins are not exactly clear and over time the meaning has changed. Most often these days its meaning is clear enough: get to the important task at hand, or get out of the way and at least do something supportive. More generally it can be an admonishment to stop procrastinating.
The first reading for today comes from the prophet Elijah. He is offering the people of Israel a “fish or cut bait” moment. They have been hemming and hawing about who they follow. Ahab is King and his wife Jezebel has introduced all manner of pagan worship. The people don’t want to anger the royals so they seem to be playing both sides of the street.
Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him. (1 Kings 18:21)
Scripture and salvation history are filled with “fish or cut bait” moments.
They answered Jeremiah—all the men who knew that their wives were offering sacrifices to other gods, all the women standing there in the immense crowd, and all the people who lived in Lower and Upper Egypt:“Regarding the word you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we are not listening to you. Rather we will go on doing what we proposed; we will offer incense to the Queen of Heaven and pour out libations to her, just as we have done, along with our ancestors, our kings and princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. Then we had plenty to eat, we prospered, and we suffered no misfortune. (Jeremiah 44:15-16)
If it is displeasing to you to serve the LORD, choose today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)
Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Mt 8:22)
“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16)
As we all know, no decision is a decision. So…. today, who will you follow?