Summary: Solving Problems God’s Way Part 3: Digging Deeper Into Root Causes

Solving Problems God’s Way

Part 3: Digging Deeper Into Root Causes

Matthew 5:21-28


Mr. Smith has a very serious problem. I want you to think along with me this morning and help me help Mr. Smith find his root problem.



Brown Spots In The Lawn

* Of course the brown spots are not Mr. Smiths root problem.

* Here is what we know about Mr. Smith… some of these are symptoms and some are possible causes. Let’s see if we can determine the root cause.

* Here are the facts we have on Mr. Smith and his lawn.


1. Mr. Smith does not have a dog.

2. Mr. Smith lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

3. Mr. Smith sometimes hires his lawn mowed.

4. Mr. Smith usually mows his lawn with a riding mower.

5. It hasn’t rained much this past summer.

6. Moles eat grubs.

7. Mr. Smith has brown spots in his lawn.

8. Mr. Smith has moles in his lawn.

9. Mr. Smith fertilizes his lawn regularly.

10. Mr. Smith’s neighbor doesn’t have moles in his lawn.

11. Mr. Smith’s push mower cuts very close to the ground.

12. Mr. Smith weighs 285 lbs.

13. The summer has been a hot one.

14. Mr. Smith usually wins “Yard of the Month.”

15. Mr. Smith is married with 3 children.

16. Mr. Smith’s riding mower is a John Deere.

17. Mr. Smith’s children spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer time.

* You have 60 seconds to choose which one of these is the root problem.

* Discussion of possible root causes…

What is troubling Mr. Smith are the brown spots in his lawn. This is the visible evidence that he has a problem. He enjoys the attention and the pride that goes along with winning “Yard of the Month.” He has been the winner for three consecutive years and now all of the sudden these atrocious brown spots are diminishing the possibility of him winning again this year.

Let’s go ahead and eliminate one of the possible root problems – brown spots. Brown spots are not the ROOT problem! They are the visible evidence of a deeper problem. Brown spots are what we want to call the ‘surface problem’. They are simply a symptom of the real problem. To treat this symptom would be a silly mistake. Can you imagine Mr. Smith going to the local hardware store and purchasing a can of green spray paint to cover up his brown spots in his lawn? Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? Of course. He could give the appearance of a vibrant and healthy lawn with an inexpensive can of spray paint but you and I know that it is nothing more than a cover up.

Mr. Smith doesn’t have a dog. So there is no dog digging up the grass or creating a dirt path by it’s continued presence on the lawn. But perhaps getting a dog would help better fertilize his dilapidated lawn! We know Mr. Smith fertilizes his lawn regularly, so he really doesn’t need a dog to help supply the missing nutrients to the soil. There is no indication Mr. Smith has over fertilized his lawn. He has won “Yard of the Month” for three consecutive years, which suggests he has mastered the art of measuring the fertilizer correctly.

Living in St. Louis doesn’t seem to be a problem. Perhaps if he lived in Michigan or Alaska we could identify his root problem as his environment. It is conceivable that the cooler weather could result in brown spots in the lawn. This is not the case for Mr. Smith.

Maybe his brown spots could be blamed on someone else! Occasionally he hires his lawn mowed. Could the hired laborer’s mower have an un-level deck, causing an uneven cut, resulting in brown spots? Now you know Mr. Smith would never hire anything less than a professional to manicure his lawn! Let’s don’t blame this on someone else.

Rain has been in short supply this summer and it’s been a hot one. But Mr. Smith would not allow the lack of rain to ruin his chances of winning again this year! He would gladly fork out a few extra dollars to his local waterworks provider to ensure his lawn gets the necessary moisture to be green and lively.

Mr. Smith has picked up a few pounds this year. His wife is an excellent cook! Watching the fats and carbohydrates has not been high on his priority list. Could it be that the extra weight on the riding mower is causing the brown spots. Well, Mr. Smith believes in purchasing possibly the finest in lawn tractors. He owns a John Deer. He did not spare any expense when it came to choosing a manicure machine for his lawn. He bought one with extra wide tires to reduce the impact that an overweight person, like himself, might have on his lawn.

The push mower cuts close to the ground. Mr. Smith is obviously an intelligent man. How else could he measure the fertilizer correctly and eventually have his yard win “Yard of the Month” He would know how to raise the cut of the mower if that were the source of his problem.

Married with three kids? Kids are the problem you say! After all, they do spend a lot of time outside. Well, certainly children can be a pain from time to time. However, Mr. Smith has a ‘designated place to play’ for the kids. He has even set up a basketball goal next to the extra wide concrete driveway so the children can get the daily exercise they need to grow up and be healthy adults. We can’t blame the brown spots on his three children. They have been instructed to “Keep Off The Grass!”

- (Eventually tell the group that #6 is the root cause.)

-- moles are NOT the root cause—Moles like to eat grub worms…

get rid of the grubs and no more moles and no more brown spots.


PPT-- blank

ILLUSTRATION: (from a book read years ago, don’t remember author)

Jack returned home from work one afternoon to find his two story house being flooded. It wasn’t raining and there was no local flooding in the area, yet there was water in the living room, dining room, bathroom, and kitchen. Jack immediately runs to the broom closet and begins to sweep as much of the water out as he can. Not making any headway, Jack grabs a mob and bucket and begins to mop furiously to get the water out of his house. The water continues rise so Jack goes to Wal-Mart and buys a bigger mop and bucket. He returns home and again; labors for hours trying to rid the house of water. Jack returns to Wal-Mart and purchases more mops and more buckets, inviting his friends over to help him mop up all the water. Soon Jack realizes that this is a job for an “industrial” mop. So Jack returns from shopping with the biggest mop he can find and attempts to dry his house out. But the water is too much… the problem is too large. Well, it just so happens that there is a course being given at the local college titled “Mopping For Success”. It’s a course that teaches you how to mop properly and effectively. Jack takes the course, makes an ‘A’ in the class and excitedly returns to his home ready to defeat this problem of water in his house. Nothing seems to work. Suddenly, a thought enters into Jack’s mind. “Where is all this water coming from?” What is the source of all this water. Jack walks over to his stairway and sees water is running down from upstairs. He splashes his way upstairs and sees water coming out from underneath the upstairs bathroom door. Opening the door, Jack discovers the source of his water problem. The bathtub faucet has been left on and the water is running over the edge of the tub. Jack turns the water off, pulls the plug from the drain in the bathtub and then begins to successfully mop up and dry up all the water in his house.

* If only Jack had first looked for the source of his problem, he would have been more successful in solving his problem.

* Because we don’t look for the root cause of a problem, we often only treat the symptoms.

* Jack had water in his house, but water in the house was not the real problem, it was a symptom of the real problem, the root problem.

* Jack’s problem was not his lack of mops in the house, nor was it his lack of mopping experience.

* Had Jack never went upstairs, he would have continued to mop the rest of his life, having never discovered the root cause of his problem.


I. Jesus and root causes

Jesus distinguishes between the problem and the symptom.

A) Mat 5:21-22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

* Jesus says there is a surface problem and a root problem.

* Murder is actually a symptom of something deeper.

* There is something beneath the surface.

* Something that CAUSES a person to murder.

* It’s anger. If the anger is dealt with and resolved, there wouldn’t be any murder in the first place.

* There would be nothing to motivate the murder.

* Jesus says the real problem is in the heart!


B) Mat 5:27-28 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: (28) But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

* Again Jesus identifies a surface problem and a root problem.

* Adultery is actually a symptom of something deeper.

* There is something beneath the surface that CAUSES a person to commit adultery. It’s lust.

* If lust is dealt with and resolved, there wouldn’t be adultery in the first place.

* Lust takes place deep inside us.

* Adultery is a visible sign that someone has a deeper problem.

* In order to solve our problems, we must first be sure that we are treating the root cause of the problem and not the symptoms!


* Let’s be sure to treat the problem and not the symptom.


Let’s not be like the man who has a red light come on in the dash of his car. He decides the way to fix his problem is to take a hammer and smash the red light in his dash. He has not solved his problem, he removed the symptom. The red light was an indicator that something more serious is wrong!

*It’s not always easy to find the root cause of a problem.

*Scripture - Looking for root causes

* Example – Financial problems – You may think your financial problems are just the result of a bad economy. Please don’t get me wrong here. I am not suggesting we are not affected by a declining economy. What I am saying is that there may be multiple causes of financial problems in our lives.


II. Proverbs and root causes

-Violations of God’s Word that can bring financial loss…

A. being immoral with a woman …Prov. 5:1-10

Pro 5:1-10 My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: (2) That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. (3) For the lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: (4) But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword. (5) Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. (6) Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are movable, that thou canst not know them. (7) Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. (8) Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: (9) Lest thou give thine honor unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: (10) Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labors be in the house of a stranger;


B. spending too much time sleeping …Prov. 6:10-11

Pro 6:10-11 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: (11) So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man.


C. getting money by doing evil …Prov. 10:3

Pro 10:3 The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.


D. failing to be diligent …Prov. 10:4

Pro 10:4 He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.


E. co-signing a note …Prov. 11:15

Pro 11:15 He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.


F. having a stingy attitude … Prov. 11:24

Pro 11:24 There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.


G. getting money without labor … Prov. 13:11

Pro 13:11 Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labor shall increase.


H. refusing to listen to reproofs …Prov. 13:18

Pro 13:18 Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honored.


I. talking too much …Prov. 14:23

Pro 14:23 In all labor there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.


J. being slothful …Prov. 19:15

Pro 19:15 Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.


K. rejecting the cry of the poor… Prov. 21:13

Pro 21:13 Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.


L. loving pleasure & wine … Prov. 21:17

Pro 21:17 He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.


M. giving to rich people …Prov. 22:16

Pro 22:16 He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.


N. overeating … Prov. 23:21

Pro 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.


O. charging usury on loans …Prov. 28:8

Pro 28:8 He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.


P. following vain persons …Prov. 28:19

Pro 28:19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.


Q. trying to get rich quick …Prov. 28:22

Pro 28:22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

* These are things that can cause financial problems... Things that may be at the root of financial difficulty.


Lessons For Life

What I have tried to illustrate today is that often times symptoms are confused with the root cause.

1) Effective resolution of a problem requires us to first discover it’s root or source!

* When you turn the running faucet off, you automatically eliminate the need for a mop! When we attack the source of the problem, we will see lasting results in solving our problems.


Mat 23:25-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (26) Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. (27) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (28) Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

* Jesus again illustrates for us the difference between symptoms and the root problem.

-- the Pharisees never solved their problem because they were always treating the symptoms.

-- they treated their outward behavior, not the real source of the problem which was their heart!

-- Jesus told the Pharisees that they needed inward transformation, not external reformation.

-- They tried to deal with their problem by praying more, giving more, and keeping the law.

* If you’re here today and you’re lost, your problem is not that you’re not good enough, or that your not religious enough, or that you haven’t given enough, it’s not that you can’t quit doing bad things, or saying bad words… THE PROBLEM IS YOU ARE DEAD IN YOUR TRESPASSES AND SINS! You are spiritually dead! Your sin has separated between you and your God! AND the solution to your problem is not church membership, baptism, turning over a new leaf, determining to be a better person, or attending church more regularly… THE SOLUTION IS JESUS CHRIST! The solution is not a plan, it is a person!


2) Realize that sometimes the root cause and the symptoms of a problem may seem unrelated!

? What does being immoral with a woman have to do with financial loss? (Prov. 5:1-10)

? What does talking too much have to do with financial loss? (Prov. 14:23)

* It may seem unrelated, but God says it is.

* Is my real problem money?

* Is my real problem that I want to get rich quick without working?

* Or does the real problem lie beneath the surface?

* Or is the real problem – greed …the love of money.


I Tim. 6:10 - ”For the love of money is the root of all evil…”

Ask questions like:

Why do I do what I do?

What makes me do this?

What motivates me to behave this way.

Why does this problem keep recurring in my life?

What am I doing that keeps this problem ongoing in my life?


3) Pray for God’s wisdom to discover root causes.

Psalm 139: 23-24 “23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

* The Psalmist realizes his own inability to know his own heart! “There may be something I would overlook, so you look for me God! You find the wicked way in me.”

* We can sometimes become self-deceived… blind to our own sin.

* How easy it is for us to see the shortcomings of others and even see the reason why they the way they are… and yet we are blind to our own sin.


Prov. 16:2 “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.”

James 1:2-5 James says trials(troubles, problems) are inevitable. When they come ask God for wisdom. You will grow to be a better Christian as a result.


Jas 1:2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.


4) Allow God’s Word to reveal root causes.

Hebrews 4:12-13

12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

* God’s word exposes our hearts…the motives, the intents,… the underlying problem!

* His word exposes our wickedness to us.