While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a Sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Whenever I read this Gospel passage I am reminded just how our zeal and passion for one thing can lead us to become near-sighted!
For example, the Pharisees studied the Law. For them, the Law was everything and nothing else mattered! Well, we all know what happened to them. They lived by the law and died pegged to the law. They left no breathing room for mercy and forgiveness.
What did them in could easily do us in too. We could easily think and act like they did. Take for example biologists. They study humans, plants, animals and how they interact with one another. But talk to a Biologist about poetry, music and art and he will look at you as if you come from another world! Astronomers study celestial objects. For them humans are boring, tiny and insignificant! But talk to a Myrmecologist and he will tell you that humans are giants compared to ants. He may also go off at you and tell you how absolutely disorganized and totally impractical democracy is and how totalitarian governments are highly efficient and practical.
The problem isn’t that we nitpick over everything. The problem is that we can easily nitpick over one single thing all the time and exclude all the rest. This is what caused Protestants to protest! This is what has caused so many divisions in the Church! They forgot that the parts of something can never be bigger than its totality. And the Church of Christ is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Our nitpicking can make us all go blind. So often I hear parents complaining about their children’s table manners or grades or study habits without ever praising and giving credit to their children’s tremendous generosity, gentleness and love. “You won’t get far in this world with just that!” Yes, you will! Yes, you will!
Nitpicking also hinders us from thinking outside the box. The Pharisees suffocated themselves and died because they really believed that an iron hand or a closed fist and mind were their only chance at survival. What they had failed to see is how external criticism would have brought in some badly needed fresh air, and helped refresh their memories to what they were originally good for.
Again, I often visit families in which mom and dad are constantly correcting their children at the dinner table but never offering their kids an etiquette class. If you want to solve a problem, then sometimes you need to think outside the family tool box!
The Pharisees were quick to see that the disciples were picking grain on the Sabbath. What they had failed to see was their very real poverty and admirable faith. The Lord’s disciples were truly men of conviction and of adventure; of honor and of ridicule; of devotion and repulsion; of service and of scorn. Often, there was no place for them to rest their heads. Too often, there was no family or home or open invitation awaiting them at the end of their journey. And it was all because of Jesus!
We here today must remember that the Son of Man may have been Lord of the Sabbath, but he was not yet the Lord of our lives!
The men and women who followed Him back then; the same ones who were picking grain and eating it, would have to fall to the ground too, and one day die. They may or may not have understood it all back then, but they definitely kept in mind the big picture.