Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Half-way to critical thinking

I know that I don’t have to pass a test to get into heaven, but there is one question I suspect I may face on arrival that makes me a little uncomfortable.

Just as Jesus asked of His disciples when they got to Capernaum, on one of His ministry trips, He will probably want to know of me: “What were you talking about on the way?” (Mark 9:33).

The disciples shuffled their feet and looked down awkwardly at their sandals because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. Not being quite as brassy, I’m generally not prone to trying to step up on onto a pedestal; I sometimes just try to knock other people off theirs, under the guise of “critical thinking.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to hard questions and honest talk. It seems that too many Christians lack discernment, and so end up swallowing whatever someone with a big smile and a flashy website or a good PR firm tells them. We need to separate the wheat from the chaff—the gold from the “fool’s gold.”

But oftentimes, if I am honest, my critical thinking goes only half way. In other words, it’s just critical. And so I can end up talking about a lot of stuff that isn’t really helpful to me or my listeners.

This doesn’t just have to be about jockeying for position, like the disciples. It could be about politics, the end times, or same-sex marriage. But whatever the topic, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this conversation making a difference or is it just passing the time as we pass through?”

In an age of endless chatter, from the 24/7 news cycle to Twitter, we are drowning in ideas and opinions. Meanwhile, in his first letter to one of his protégés, the apostle Paul warned of those who had “wandered away into vain discussion… without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim. 1:7).

As someone who gets paid for writing words, it’s easy to begin to think that they must all be valuable. But as Ecclesiastes 6:11 observes, “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” Sometimes I might do better just to keep quiet, and enjoy the scenery.

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