You strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel.”
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?”
(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 2012 by Marty Kaarre)