Tag Archives: main thing

Straining Knats and Swallowing Camels

Story of the Day for Monday March 12, 2012

Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

                 “You strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel.” 

                                               Matthew 23:24

My friend, Mike, from Upper Michigan once told me his experience as a new father.   One day his wife needed to go to church and asked if he could take care of the baby and then bring her to church when he came later.   Hey, no problem.  He has his list of things to bring: bottle, blanket, diapers, baby formula, tiny little baby spoon.

Then he drove to the church and met his wife.  He had remembered everything on his list.  But the first question his wife asked was, “Where’s the baby?”

“The baby!!!”

(You will want to know he raced back home to find his little daughter safe and sound, sleeping in her crib.)

 

Among other reasons, I like Mike, because now I don’t feel so alone for doing similar kinds of things.   Sometimes we can get so absorbed by details that we get diverted from the Big Picture.  As someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the ‘main thing’ the main thing.”

You would think the importance of the “main thing” would determine our attention to it, but that isn’t true.  A good example of that is Eastern Airlines Flight 401.  The pilot,  on his final approach to Miami International Airport, put the landing gear down, but the indicator light in the cockpit didn’t come on.

Puzzled, he circled around and leveled the plane off at 2000 feet.  The fist officer took a look and he couldn’t figure it out.  A mechanic from Boeing happened to be sitting in the jump seat that flight so he got up to take a look.   All three were so absorbed with the malfunctioning light bulb that they didn’t realize the plane was losing altitude.  No one was flying the plane.

Captain Robert Loft’s last words, before the jet crashed into the Everglades, was, “Hey!  What’s happening here?”

Nothing could be a higher priority for the pilot than to land the aircraft safely.  All the same, his focus was diverted from that by a $12 light bulb.

 

We can say a lot of awful things about the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but no one can fault their attention to the smallest details of keeping the commandments.  They not only tithed their money, but they counted out their garden seeds, and carefully picked out every tenth seed to give to God.

But, in their attention to the tiniest detail, we lost sight of the Big Picture.  Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy of tithing seeds but neglecting the weightier matters of God’s Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  Jesus’ assessment of them: “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

 

You’re really busy these days, aren’t you?  So many things to do.  What is the main thing that your Lord wants you to be about?

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Main Thing

Story of the Day for Thursday February 16, 2012

The Main Thing

                            David’s conscience pierced him after he numbered the people. So David told the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in doing this.”  

                                                2 Samuel 24:10

Rory Sutherland, a British advertising guru, likes to cite the maxim: Any metric that becomes a target loses its value as a metric.

Much to our relief he explains what he means. Businesses seek ways to measure their progress toward their company’s goals. But once the focus becomes improving any certain statistic, the measurement is no longer reliable.

And, since my explanation is even more confusing than Sutherland’s maxim, let me give some examples.

 

A good goal for a shipping company would be to make a profit by providing timely deliveries of packages. So far so good. But suppose the company looks at their delivery times and focuses on improving this statistic? Once quicker delivery time becomes the goal, the best way to reach this objective is to cancel delivery to more remote areas. The result: the company’s statistics improve. But profits and service to the customer declines.

 

Sutherland gives a similar example with airline companies. How can an airline measure improved service? One way is by an increase in on-time departures. Departure times are measured from pushback — when the jet begins to move from the terminal. Once companies make it their goal to increase on-time departures, passengers often find themselves sitting on the runway for longer periods. But now latecomers are unable to board the flight. Again, by shifting the focus from the true goal of the company to improving the “numbers,” the statistics become a false indicator of progress.

Seeking to measure success, in other words, can sometimes make us less successful.

 

David should’ve known better. He had witnessed how God took a young shepherd boy and used him to defeat a fearsome warrior named Goliath. David saw how God blessed a valiant warrior — even though his followers were few and he was always on the run.

Now that David was anointed king, he should’ve learned that God had chosen him for his purposes, and that he would prosper as long as he trusted in the strength of the Lord.

Instead, David wanted to measure his strength. He focused, not on the power of God, but on the strength of his fighting force. David ordered Joab, his army commander, to number the people. Only afterward did he realize he was relying on the wrong measurement for success and asked for God’s forgiveness.

 

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)