The Tyranny of the Insignificant

The Tyranny of the Insignificant. 

Matthew 12:8-21

“How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!”


            Perhaps the greatest threat to authentic faith is not the bold embrace of sin but becoming obsessed with the insignificant.  We can become so focused on programs and the church's operation that they become more important than those they seek to serve. We become entrapped by the insignificant.  

Some time ago, Charles E. Hummel wrote a popular book entitled “Tyranny of the Urgent.” In the book, he rightfully pointed out that often, we get caught up in the necessity of the Urgent and get distracted from the important.  However, perhaps even more disruptive is the tyranny of the insignificant, in which the essential things of life get pushed aside by the insignificant so that we spend our time, energy, and focus on the pursuit of that which is trivial and irrelevant.  Such was the problem with the Jewish leaders. 

            The Jewish leader set a trap for Jesus.  Knowing that Jesus would heal anyone who came to him, they set a trap by bringing a man with a withered hand to Jesus and then asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”  In their minds, the act of healing would constitute work and thus violate the Old Testament law forbidding working on the Sabbath.  Like the previous event with the disciples eating grain on the Sabbath, the religious leaders were more concerned about the rituals than the people's needs.  They were elevating the inconsequential and devaluing the needs of people. 

            In their question, Jesus quickly sees through their hypocrisy.  If an animal had fallen into a pit, they would have naturally acted to rescue the animal.  Allowing an animal to suffer would be heartless, so that they would act accordingly.  Jesus rightly points out that people are far more valuable than animals, so if one has the opportunity to help a person in need, even on the Sabbath, then it is appropriate to do so.  Then, to demonstrate his point, Jesus immediately heals the man, much to the irritation of the Pharisees. 

            While we quickly condemn the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and lack of compassion, we often fall prey to the same misguided sense of priorities.  In the business of our day, we can quickly lose sight of what is most important—people.  Churches often split—not over significant doctrinal issues—but differences in how a program should be run or what color of paint should be used in the sanctuary.   Thom Rainer, a leading church analyst, once asked church leaders to share what caused fights and conflicts in their congregation.  Some of the most absurd were: 1/ An argument over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard.  2/ Fight over whether or not to build a children’s playground or to use the land for a cemetery. 3/. A Church argument and vote to decide if a clock in the worship center should be removed…and the list of absurdities goes on.  Each conflict represents the danger of being caught up in the insignificant.  We can become so focused on policies, procedures, and a church's programs that they become the focus at the expense of people.  

            In his actions, Christ establishes the priority.  The focus is not on rules and regulations but on people and ministering to their needs.  The most essential things in life are not related to the temporal but the eternal. It is easy to become preoccupied with material and trivial things rather than ministering to people to invite them into Christ's redemptive kingdom.  One of the greatest threats to a meaningful life is the distraction of the insignificant.  Are we pursuing what is temporal or what is eternal?  Are we striving for success or striving to reach people with the gospel in all our activities of life?  One of the greatest temptations we face is the lure of the insignificant at the expense of the eternal.


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