My wife grew up in Germany with an American mother and German father. Just like all German kids she was read this particular story, and similar stories. This is a scan from the actual book, accompanied by the translation. The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb One day, Mamma said, "Conrad dear, I must go out and leave you here. But mind now, Conrad, what I say, Don't suck your thumb while I'm away. The great tall tailor always comes To little boys that suck their thumbs. And ere they dream what he's about He takes his great sharp scissors out And cuts their thumbs clean off, - and then You know, they never grow again."
Mamma had scarcely turn'd her back, The thumb was in, alack! alack! The door flew open, in he ran, The great, long, red-legged scissor man. Oh! children, see! the tailor's come And caught our little Suck-a-Thumb. Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go; And Conrad cries out - Oh! Oh! Oh! Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast; That both his thumbs are off at last.
Mamma comes home; there Conrad stands, And looks quite sad, and shows his hands;- "Ah!" said Mamma "I knew he'd come To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb."
Pretty freaky huh? Don't worry. My wife, her sisters, and millions of Germans have turned out fine after listening to the story as children.
As I read this again today a question came into my mind. "Why didn't that kid listen to his mother? Why didn't he take her seriously?" (If I may, let me turn the point of the story on it's head.) Perhaps it was because of her glib attitude. Such easy talk about dark realities make ignoring the message too easy. This led me to think of how we, as Christians, talk about hell. Look, we need to be settled about the issue, and know what the Bible says about it. But we also need to be careful how we speak about the subject. I am not saying we should hide the truth, or avoid talking about. It is far too serious an issue for us to ignore. But I often find a glibness among Christians as we talk about hell; even when talking to those who may face it some day. I even heard this attitude at our annual convention this year. When we do speak of hell I hope we remember to speak with both compassion and urgency. If not most are likely to think it is merely a benign story we tell to scare them into doing the right thing.