Worthless Physicians

The role of a preacher focuses on proclaiming God’s Word faithfully in its entirety (Acts 20:26-27). Unfortunately, some people perceive the preacher as the one divinely assigned to rail against the failings of every false religion, every false doctrine, and every false step week in and week out, damning souls to hell right and left with a zeal that would make Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God seem gentle and loving. With such a mindset, every problem deserves a heavy hand and a pointing finger. In their eyes, the preacher exists to accuse, and perhaps to extract a confession using bright lights and bullying methods if necessary. Sadly, the attitude of some preachers would seemingly verify this perception. Listening to their self-righteous screeds, you would assume that the mission Jesus gave the church centered on condemnation rather than salvation (John 3:17). On the other hand, some spend their energy criticizing everyone else, the church in general, and other generations as if they alone have discovered important flaws in others. In the name of sound doctrine they offer a steady dose of spinach or ice cream, depending on the case, while calling it a balanced diet. In focusing all of their energy on the problems at hand, they have missed the need to offer meaningful solutions. It takes little talent, doctrinal insight, or boldness to point out the existence of problems; however, it does take diligence, study, and patience to go beyond this and point people to biblical solutions.

As Job dealt with the emotional pain from being attacked mercilessly by his friends for sins he had not committed, he challenged both their understanding and their technique. They had not demonstrated any insight into the will of God beyond what Job himself had. Thus, Job openly wished to discuss matters with God himself, calling his friends “worthless physicians” (Job. 13:4). Rather than helping matters, they were making them worse because instead of addressing the real issues that they neither appreciated nor understood they chose to accuse and malign. In fact, as Job had learned through his experience, their assumptions were entirely incorrect. “Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, Your defenses are defenses of clay” (Job 13:12). It reminds me of Albert Einstein’s statement, “Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance.” Job had not turned away from truth or from God. Far from it, he maintained, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15a). The fact remained that, with all their lengthy discourses, Job’s friends had offered no solutions and proved to be no help whatsoever. 

My friends, there are problems enough in the church without going out of the way to create another one. If someone does not evangelize exactly the way you do, this does not mean that he is not evangelistic. If someone does not have your passion to remake the local congregation in a way that suits you, and that congregation is still teaching, working, and worshiping scripturally, then I would suggest patience and love are in order rather than open criticism. It does not take much energy or wisdom to recognize where things could improve in a local work, but it takes much energy and wisdom to know how to make those improvements. Until we do the necessary work to discover how to improve our situation, critiquing matters of expediency accomplish little, and those who spend their time doing so are simply worthless physicians.

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