Straining the Gnat

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

…If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Matthew 12:1-2, 7-14

The Pharisees ignored all the good Jesus was doing. All they could see was minor infractions of Sabbath law. They couldn’t see that a man needed healing and Jesus provided that healing. They couldn’t see the life transformation. They couldn’t experience the joy of God’s Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven in that moment. All they could see was what they perceived to be Jesus doing something wrong. They were so angered by Jesus healing a man that they wanted to kill Him.

Our culture is sick with this same attitude. Social media has made it worse. The one time something goes wrong becomes headline news and we ignore the 99% of the time when things go well.

The recent reaction to the six women who got blood clots is a good illustration of this cultural dysfunction. All six women who got blood clots also got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. So they paused the vaccine to check out the situation and if there was any connection. What we overlook is that 7 million doses have been administered. 7 million. If you try to do the math of how infinitesimally small 6 out of 7 million is, many calculators can’t even show you.

But what does social media and our culture obsess over? It obsesses over the 6 women who may or may not have gotten blood clots from the vaccine, not the 99.99999% of the people who did not. The colloquial phrase is, “We are missing the forest for the trees.”

This is the same on so many issues. Based on TV and the news one would think that transgender individuals are 50% of our population. The truth is that the LGBTQ community is about 5% of the total population. That’s it. 5%. They are massively over-represented on TV shows and in media. And people that identify as transgender are a small fraction of that 5%. Yet, the hispanic community makes up nearly 17% of the American population. When’s the last time you saw the hispanic community talked about that wasn’t about border walls and immigration. If you wanted proportional representation in TV shows, for every one LGBTQ person in a show, you should have 4 hispanics in that same show. It doesn’t happen.

When you start to realize how skewed our perception of reality has become because of media and social media, when you start to actually crunch the numbers, you realize that it’s not about equal representation but about who has the stronger and more forceful political machine.

Does the news cover the 99% of the time that things go well? No. It only covers the 0.01% of the time things go poorly. Our view of the world is becoming skewed. We are spending so much of our attention on the horrible stories that happen a small percentage of the time rather than putting those stories in the larger context. Every local problem gets nationalized by social media as if any problem in one place is a problem everywhere.

Jesus said of the Pharisees, “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel“(Matthew 23:24). This is what is happening to our perception of reality. We tend to spend all our energy on the relatively rare traumatic story and have become blind to the bigger picture. We need to return to putting things in their proper context. We need to focus on all that is going right and not just the times things go poorly. We need more time celebrating the good and less time anxiously trying to problem-solve the bad.

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