Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
Motives, expectations, and attitude are usually tied together. In fact, they frequently are inextricably linked. To put it another way, we usually find what we are looking for. It is frequently the case that two people see the same things, but their opinions vary widely and even contradict on another. For instance, I have heard someone comment about a particular church and how extraordinarily friendly they are; on the other hand, I have heard others say the exact opposite about the same congregation. Our view of things is easily influenced by our expectations and attitudes. For example, consider today's passage.
“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’” (Matthew 11.7-10). It is unlikely that Jesus exhausted all the attitudes, motives, and expectations when he listed the three in this text. However, these three were quite adequate to demonstrate His point (and ours).
One thing is certain – there were plenty of opinions about John! The evidence that was available as to his identity in the scheme of things was essentially available for all to see and examine. His messages were delivered to multitudes of people so there could be little doubt about the words that he said; there were plenty of witnesses to tie that down. But, there were multitudes of people who saw him as the forerunner to Messiah and were baptized by John in the Jordan. On the other hand, the Sadducees and Pharisees that came to his place of ministry were dead set against the principles of repentance which he declared. How could it be that the opinions about him varied so wildly? Some thought he was a saint and others thought he was Satan personified!
The difference was not in the evidence; it was in the conclusions drawn by those who witnessed the evidence. The difference was in their reasoning about the facts, not in the facts themselves. All of this points out the danger inherent in the human race of simply seeing what we want to see and understanding what we want to understand. Jesus addressed those who reasoned this way when He spoke to a group of Pharisees in this manner: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16.15). This weakness of man is rooted in a truth that Solomon observed centuries before Christ. He wrote, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” (Proverbs 21.2).
It was this tendency that Jesus called up when He challenged those who went out to see and hear John. What were they really seeking? Why did they go out to him to begin with? Did they have preconceived ideas about him that colored their findings? His questions were based on the reality of what was in man and how we frequently allow our motives, expectations, and attitudes to influence our conclusions. The figure of a blindfolded lady holding a set of balances in her hands is a picture which depicts justice as being blind. This is a great theory, but unless we focus on matters of truth and truly put all personal agendas aside, we are not blind to our own desires and prejudices in even the weightiest matters.
Attitude is not everything, but it is certainly something! Expectations do not necessarily influence our findings, but they certainly can unless we are careful. Likewise, motives can change even a seemingly harmless deed into one that has fatal consequences. Our duty: Take heed how we hear (see Luke 8.18)!
1. What tendencies do we have to color facts?
2. How does Solomon's comment in Proverbs 21.2 bear on this tendency?
3. Why must we take care how we hear? What does this involve? How do we take heed how we hear?
4. How can motives change otherwise good deeds into hurtful or damaging actions?
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