When you open your wallet in few years, you may be seeing something different on the $20 bill: The U.S. Treasury Department is proposing to take President Andrew Jackson off the front of the bill and replace him with one of my personal heroes: Harriet Tubman.
She is someone we should celebrate for what she did—rescue slaves—and for the lessons she teaches us today about when it’s appropriate to resist evil.
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on a Maryland plantation in 1822. As she grew up, she was made to work driving oxen, trapping muskrats in the woods, and as a nursemaid.
Harriet’s owners frequently whipped her. And she endured the pain of seeing three of her sisters sold, never to be seen again. But when her owner tried to sell one of her brothers, Harriet’s mother openly rebelled. The would-be buyer gave up after Harriet’s mother told him, “The first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open.”
Her mother’s actions likely implanted in Harriet the idea that resistance to evil was right—and could sometimes be successful.
As a child, Harriet herself revealed a strong rebellious streak. She would run away for days at a time. But there were rays of joy in her life, as well. Harriet’s mother told her stories from the Bible, which developed in her a deep and abiding faith in God.
When Harriet was about 26 years old, she learned that she might be sold away from her family. The time had come to try to escape. She made her way some ninety miles along the Underground Railroad. She traveled at night to avoid slave catchers, following the North Star, until she reached Pennsylvania, and freedom.
Once there, she dared to make a dangerous decision: She risked her own freedom in order to give others theirs.
For eight years, as America headed toward the cauldron of Civil War, she made many dangerous trips back to Maryland, leading scores of slaves north to freedom. During these trips she relied upon God to guide and protect her. She never once lost a runaway slave. As Harriet herself later put it, “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
She gave all the credit to God, explaining, “’Twant me, ‘twas the Lord. I always told him, ‘I trusts to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,’ and he always did.”
No wonder she was known as Moses to her people.
Her faith deeply impressed others. As abolitionist Thomas Garrett put it, “I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul.”
During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union as a scout, spy, cook, and nurse to wounded and sick soldiers. Amazingly, she even led an armed assault on Southern plantations, during which 750 slaves were rescued. In later years, Harriet donated property to be turned into a home for indigent former slaves.
She was an incredible woman—one we can and should celebrate and emulate. Today there still is, sad to say, plenty of evil that needs resisting. For instance, we’re increasingly facing the demands of bullies that we embrace laws and opinions that contradict the teachings of God. Who knows, like Harriet, we may be called upon to move to another state—one that puts a proper value on religious freedom. Or we may have to go to court to protect our First Amendment rights—or help others to do so.
When we lose heart fighting these battles, we should remember Harriet Tubman’s unflinching courage and unfailing faith in God’s guidance—and redouble our efforts to protect our own generation from efforts to enslave, not our bodies, but our heart and minds and souls.
— by Eric Metaxas
Metaxas is the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2016 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.