The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Psalm 39


I.         It was a rickety wagon that the man was using. He had been moving goods for many years and was quite good at it. This family needed to be moved across town, so he piled their worldly possessions onto his wagon. The last load made quite a pile, but the wagon appeared to be holding up. All that was left was an empty hat box. He casually tossed it on the wagon, pleased that he would not have to make another run tomorrow. As the hat box landed on top of the load, a groan came from the wagon. A loud snap followed and with a shutter the wagon collapsed.

            A.        It took the man three days to repair the wagon and carry the furniture across in two sensible size loads. But you know, he left the hat box behind. After all, the hat box broke his wagon.

            B.        People have a tendency to focus on the last straw – the final matter that preceded a problem.

                        1.         Other factors may have actually had a greater contribution.

                        2.         In fact, the last straw may have been a very minor incident, but it is the one that gets all the attention.

II.        A man asked Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance with him - Luke 12:13-15

            A.        The problem was that Jesus was not the local judge, whose job was to settle such disputes.

            B.        Jesus then pointed out that the problem was not with the brother, but with this man’s greed.

            C.        His demand for “justice” was hiding a deeper, more fundamental problem. This problem with the inheritance was just the last of a long set of problems between this man and his brother.

            D.        We tend to focus on the wrong problems. We see the current problems and neglect the long range goals. - Luke 12:16-21

                        1.         Proverbs 24:30-31 - The problem is not the weeds, but the owner’s laziness.

                        2.         Ecclesiastes 10:18 - The problem is not the house, but the owner’s neglect.

III.       Earthly, worldly problems often interfere with our seeing spiritual problems

            A.        Too often this world’s cares have our immediate focus - Luke 12:22-33

            B.        Peter lost his faith when he focused on the wind and the water - Matthew 14:28-33

IV.      Our own problems and sins interfere with seeing the true problems of our brethren or even ourselves.

            A.        Psalm 39

                        1.         David saw the wicked, but decided to not say anything to avoid sin. - Psalm 39:1-2

                        2.         Instead of improving things it made it worse.

                        3.         Life is too short to hide. We spend what little time we have pursuing the wrong things - Psalm 39:3-6

                        4.         David realized that he was a sinner and that he couldn’t complain about the bad done to him as God was disciplining him - Psalm 39:7-10

                        5.         God shows us what is unimportant - Psalm 39:11

                        6.         David learned his lesson - Psalm 39:12-13

            B.        Matthew 7:3-4

                        1.         We want to help our brethren. We point out their sins, but we don’t see our own sinfulness. In fact our sins can interfere with clearly seeing the sin of others. We will make mistakes in judgment. - Matthew 7:3-4

            C.        Job’s friends made that mistake. They saw Job’s misery and wrongly concluded that God was punishing Job for some sin he had done. - Job 4:7-9

                        1.         Yet Job erred as well. He thought he was being unjustly punished - Job 23:1-7

                        2.         Elihu, a young man, corrects their mistakes - Job 32:1-5

                        3.         God continues the charge against Job and his three friends. Job is unable to answer God’s questions - Job 40:1-5

                        4.         Job sees that God’s purpose is God’s alone. - Job 42:1-6

                        5.         The misery of Job was not punishment, but a chance for Job to prove his faith.

                        6.         Job focused on the immediate problem and did not see the long range benefit. - Hebrews 12:9-13

V.        While we are to make righteous judgments, Jesus warns that we need to make good judgments - Matthew 7:1-2

            A.        I have heard many judgments being passed in the last few weeks.

                        1.         Few have hit on the actual problems. They have focused on shallow things.

                        2.         What is worse are the accusations based on incorrect information

                        3.         Have you talked to the people? Both sides?

                        4.         Have you looked to see what the actual problem is? Are you certain you are not being distracted by your own biases or only seeing “the last straw?”

            B.        The sons of God are supposed to be peacemakers. - Matthew 5:9

                        1.         Where is the increased peace? How are the problems being solved and not stirred up and perpetuated. - James 3:17-18

                        2.         I don’t mean ignored. Problems are not solved by ignoring them. As David pointed out in Psalm 39, leaving a problem unsolved makes the situation worse.

                        3.         Romans 14:19 - We are to go after the things that make peace and build each other up.

                        4.         The result of peace is the strengthening of brethren, not tearing them down.

            C.        Ask yourself if the course you are pursuing is going to make your brother or sister a better Christian or is it going to cause them to despair?

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