Needing The Really Big Picture

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, February 11, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I remember something my dad said constantly when I was first learning to drive a vehicle. He would sit in the front seat and tell me that I always had to be “looking at the big picture,” not just what was right in front of me on the road. The temptation is to look straight ahead at the road because you know that is where your vehicle is headed. But keeping your eyes focused on that one moving spot could cause you to miss some of the other things that could create a hazard. My dad would remind me of what we learned in driver’s education class at school, that I should be rotating my eyes every few seconds to try to see everything. Dad would even ask to see if I saw the school bus up ahead to my left, the people on the overpass above me, and the vehicle entering the highway from a ramp on my right. I was expected to notice these things while also keeping an eye on the conditions and vehicles on the road in front of me. This was difficult at first, but eventually I got used to it and today I do this without even thinking about it. I am able to better judge the actions of other drivers and predict what will happen because I am seeing the big picture.

However, what I refer to as the “big picture” is still very limited. I can only see what is within my range of vision. I might be able to rely on traffic, weather, and accident reports to tell me what is happening in the areas where I am heading, but I am clueless as to what might happen just around the corner in the next twenty seconds. I also don’t know what might be causing others to drive a certain way. They could have an emergency medical need, mechanical problems with their vehicle, or under the influence of a substance. These are all things I don’t know and can’t necessarily avoid. So I have to remember that my “big picture” only goes so far and that I still must trust in the One who has the REALLY big picture to get me where I am going safely.

God’s big picture certainly is not limited to circumstances and events. In Romans 2:1-4, Paul talks about the foolishness of those who appear to have good morals judging others and comparing themselves favorably. Based on context, we can see that Paul had just got done addressing those would be considered “immoral” at the end of chapter 1. These would be the “tax collectors and sinners” that Jesus pursued. In these verses, Paul turns his attention to those who are generally moral. These would be the Pharisees and others like them who puffed themselves up because of their conduct and looked down upon those who were less moral. Paul is clear that if we follow in the steps of the Pharisees and judge those who we think are “worse” sinners than us, we are condemning ourselves (v. 1). The reason for this is obvious: the minute we decide to judge someone else’s actions, we are using a standard greater than ourselves, a standard that judges ALL sin and not just those which are more clearly seen.

Paul then asks the reader several questions designed to make us think in verses 3-4. Why do we judge others? Do we not understand that we are “mere human beings” with limited vision compared to a God whose judgment is based on truth? Do we really think grace is guaranteed to us and that God won’t judge us while we sit and point fingers at other sinners? And do we recognize that God’s goodness toward us is not because we are somehow better than others, but because he is leading us to repentance? These are questions that every believer must answer and we must be diligent about avoiding “the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).

Jesus was the one who spoke those words. He also told “The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector”, which can be found in Luke 18:9-14. In this story, the two men go into the temple together to pray to the same God, but have opposite attitudes. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not as bad as the tax collector and other sinners, then mentioned his good works. In contrast, the horribly immoral tax collector simply asks God to show him mercy and admits that he falls short of deserving it. It is Jesus who declares that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, “went home justified before God” (v. 14a). He then says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v. 14b). Which man will you be like?

You and I simply can’t condemn others because we are “mere humans” and do not have the really big picture that God has. You might be appalled at the sinful choices of someone else, but don’t you think God is probably appalled at yours? God knows everything you do and why you do it. He knows why those other sinners in your life are making the choices they are. Remember, he is patient with you because he is leading you to repentance. But he wants the same for others and has no reason to favor you over them. Seriously, think about that. If you were God, and you knew EVERYTHING there is to know about you, would you have any reason to be more merciful toward you than others? The answer is a resounding NO. But God knows your really big picture and can see and understand all of the things that you can’t. I think it’s time we accept his work in others the way we have accepted his work in us. Be encouraging. Be humble. Be loving.