Summary: 24th in series on Joshua. This is about jumping to conclusions about someone else’s faith, and how it’s much safer not to speculate.
Joshua 22:1-34 – Slow Down and Shut Up
(NOTE: I draw heavily on Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian for this message. And the reference I make to Pentecostals are towards the Jesus-only variety, not the Trinitarian varieties.)
Maybe you have heard the poem called The Cookie Thief, by Valerie Cox. It goes like this: A woman was waiting at an airport one night, With several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, That the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, As the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, Thinking, "If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye."
With each cookie she took, he took one too, When only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, He took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other, She snatched it from him and thought... “Oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!”
She had never known when she had been so galled, And sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.
She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, Then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, There was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.
“If mine are here,” she moaned in despair, “The others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize,” she realized with grief, That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.
Today we are looking at making false assumptions about other people. Our passage today deals with one group of Israelites flying off the handle at another. Let’s read Joshua 22:1-12.
So the fighting against the foreign armies was over, but obviously there was still some fight left in some people. Now, granted, I could see the possibility here. The Lord had just granted peace to the land, and here they were, the western tribes, doing something that looked a lot like turning away from God. The western tribes had built a large altar, and the eastern tribes assumed it was to offer sacrifices to foreign and false gods, and not to the true and only God. So, immediately, the assembly of Israel prepared to fight their brothers and sisters because of their apostasy, their turning away from the Lord, after all He had done for them.
That sounds familiar, to me. It sounds like a mob mentality that has pursued all people for ages. An issue arises, people don’t like it, and they storm off to do something about it, usually without finding all the facts about it first. Now, granted, you have to give the western tribes credit for their enthusiasm. They were passionate about the Lord, and they were afraid that the eastern tribes were about to turn from the Way. Their zeal and devotion are commendable.
But they didn’t look into the situation first. It’s like the old saying: ”Shoot first, ask questions later.” They were ready to go to war with their family, simply because it appeared that something was wrong. It appeared they were wrong, and something had to be done about it.
Some unknown author said: “The only exercise some people get is running down their friends, side-stepping responsibility, pushing their luck, dodging deadlines, and jumping to conclusions!” Folks, I’m here to tell you, we are very good at jumping to conclusions.
I have to admit something: when I first came to Doaktown, I was hard on the local Pentecostals. I criticized way too much, feeling all smug with my own version of grace and holiness. I believe I was wrong. Whether I disagreed with their official theology or not, I was pretty un-gracious towards them as a people. I jumped to conclusions about their spirituality, based on the issues they embrace and the theology they hold. It was not fair to them, and very un-Christlike of me.
You see, you don’t know what goes on inside a person. You don’t know what they are thinking or feeling. You don’t know how you would act if you were in the same place. You don’t know the whole story in someone’s life. You don’t have the right to judge someone else’s faith. Even if you can see a person from the outside, from time to time, you never see their heart or their thoughts and feelings. You don’t know why a person does what they do.