October 2014

LIVING ABOVE THE RIPPLES AND WAVES

“Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this   not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way” (Romans 14:13)

Unfortunately, fault finding and criticism is a way of life.  We have movie critics, music critics, art critics, restaurant critics, government critics, business critics, etc… You name it, and someone will criticize it. Our society is obsessed with the weaknesses and mistakes of others. It is the democratic way of life.  George Burns once said, "Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are driving taxicabs or cutting hair." I once read that chronic complainers live longer than people who are always sweet and serene.  Their cantankerous spirit gives them a purpose for living.  They derive great satisfaction from making others miserable.  Each morning they have a new challenge to see how many things they can find to criticize.  I question whether those who complain actually do outlive those who don't.  Maybe it just seems that way to everybody around them. Someone once said that blowing out the other fellow's candle won't make yours shine any brighter.

Unfortunately, more people today are like the Ozark hound dog sitting on a porch howling.  A stranger walked by and heard and asked, "What's the matter with the dog?"  "He's sitting on a cocklebur," came the reply. "Why doesn't he get off?" "Because he'd rather holler than move."  Many find great satisfaction in hollering. We seem to be obsessed with the weaknesses, inadequacies, and mistakes of others. Somehow our warped thinking believes that if we criticize another person, then it will encourage them to strive for excellence. Thus, we are inclined to emphasize the faults of others rather than our own, and develop our own standards of righteousness and morality that we judge everyone else by. 

When Paul wrote, “let us not judge one another” (Rom 14:13), it carries the idea of condemnation, and gives the meaning; “let us no longer have the habit of criticizing one another.”  Paul is warning the Roman believers about something they have been doing, that needs to stop.  That is, having a fault-finding spirit that causes us to pick at others for the things we do not like in them.  It has the connation of accusing, blaming, and complaining to them because they do not live up to our expectations. 

Jesus' command in Matthew 7:1 is very short and simple, "Do not judge." The Greek word for “judge” has the idea of distinguishing, separating, selecting or choosing.  A judge observes the evidence; evaluates it; then selects a certain conclusion.  Yet, in this passage, Jesus is dealing more with motives than actions.  Actions are clear and evident, but motives can be unclear and unknown. Jesus is warning about having a fault finding or critical spirit that picks at others for the things we do not like in them. The problem with criticizing others is that we try to play God.  In Matthew, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that they are not the final court.  God is the only one who can objectively evaluate a person's actions and motives.  When an individual puts himself in the place of a judge, he takes responsibility that God has not given him and takes a position that belongs only to God.  In other words, the command in Matthew 7:1 is to stop playing God. 

Theodore Roosevelt noted, "it is not the critic who counts, nor the one who points out how the strong stumbles or how the doer of deeds might have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."  The critics are here to stay.  Our call as believers are to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (I Cor. 15:58).

                                                                                                                            -Pastor Mike Kotrla