Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pointing fingers or a Helping Hand?

Through the Bible in 90 days: Day 53

Read: Isaiah 52:13-66:18

Verse that stood out:
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” (58:9-10)

Every Tuesday morning, I get together with a handful of friends to drink coffee, shoot the bull, and generally solve the problems of the world. Well to be honest, we generally only attempt to solve the problems of the sports world. We leave politics to the group of men who sit a few tables away. At our table, we lament that latest loss, critique the coach’s decisions, propose the moves that we would make if we were in charge, and generally sit amazed at the fact that those in charge can’t figure out what is so obvious to us. I’m pretty sure, the conversation at the other table is about the same as ours. You just have to substitute the names of politicians for those of athletes. All in all, both tables have a grand old time.

My guess is sitting around and criticizing others has always been a lot of fun. Ancient leaders probably received as much Monday morning quarterbacking from their followers as ours do (although the Internet has taken all criticisms to a strange new level!). Criticism, or better yet, critics do have a place in every society. None of us want to live in a totalitarian regime in which criticism is forbidden (think North Korea). If the emperor has no clothes on we want to be able to say it out loud. And yet, we have to remember, the role of the critic is always of secondary importance. The one who counts is the one who does.

Theodore Roosevelt, in an address similar to his famous “Man in the Arena” speech, put it this way, “Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. The function of the mere critic is of very subordinate usefulness. It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger.”

Long before that, the prophet Isaiah promised “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” (58:9-10) In other words, those that will matter most in the Kingdom of God, those whose lives will shine in the darkness, won’t be the ones who most accurately point the finger of blame, but rather those who most consistently keep their hands busy with God’s work. Another prophet put it succinctly, “What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

No comments: