I was reading on the online community bulletin board a question/complaint about how dusty it is in the neighborhood. It is a legitimate complaint; there was actually a layer of dust outside the doors of Starbucks thick enough to write your name in! But there was something interesting behind the question/complaint.
Last week, on Thursday as they were working on Shasta on the sewer repairs, a big orange sign announced that the road was closed. But that did not stop people from going around the sign to line their cars along the side of the church.
At one point, as I was walking to lunch, a construction semi had entered to drop stuff off for the job. Squeezing through the road that was supposed to be closed, an individual maneuvered himself perfectly to block the driver. I looked over at the driver of the semi and he rolled his eyes. His day was just made that much more difficult; I looked at the driver, and he looked as if he had just won a sporting match. Again, there was something interesting there.
Both of these are examples of a great problem in our society. It has to do with a mix of blissful ignorance and arrogance. As you might have guessed, the dust in the community is being caused by the road construction on the Alameda. As many of you know, the state of the road was horrid. With road construction there is always a lot to complain about, but at the same time with road construction, there is not a whole lot that one can do about it. It is a process and a trial in patience. Often we are quick to complain about the temporary discomfort, but the funny thing is that when it is done and we are enjoying the fruits, we rarely go back and apologize for our complaints or even think introspectively about our attitudes at the time.
In talking with the truck driver after the guy left for wherever he went, he smiled and said, “everyone will complain about how long this is going to take, but they don't see how their driving on these roads makes it take longer.”
It reminds me of the pericope, Matthew 7:1-5 that speaks to this. Often this passage is translated in a very myopic way. Its focus is for us not to judge others. But the passage is much more fruitful than that. Located smack dab in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, the first two passages establish the prohibition of judging others, but it is the second half of this pericope that is enlightening.
“3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
Our society is laden with complaining, especially in California. I remember when I first came and saw the protesters outside of Planned Parenthood and knew at that moment I was back in California. But the problem is that complaining and judging does nothing for the community or for you. Most people cannot even say that they feel good afterwards. But the bigger problem with complaining and judging is its sheer foolishness. Take my two examples above. The first, what would the solution be? Most likely it would be something which added cost or time to the project that would inconvenience others in different ways. The second, the guy who drove it knew he should not do that, but he did, and I can guarantee that he was not thinking how his action affected the semi; I don’t think he realized it was there or needed that place.
A friend of mine calls Matthew 7:1-5 the “It’s not all about you, it’s about you” passage. His play on words is to highlight the reflective nature of the passage. It is to highlight the fact that when we choose to complain or to judge, it often says more about us and our ignorance than it does about others or even the thing we are complaining about.
If the goal of Christian living is to be in a community that is focused on God, where does judging and complaining really fit? Let’s be honest, there are a lot of annoying things that happen in this world, and it is really easy to live there, but really, what does that do for us, and what does that really do for you?
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen