Through the years I have known a lot of people who were hunters. I’ve known some big game hunters who would go to where water buffalo could be hunted and killed but also known a lot of people through the years who are big time hunters right here in our own state of Mississippi. They wanted to kill a trophy buck or the finest of whatever they were hunting for.
While I’ve known a lot of serious minded hunters, I don’t know that I’ve ever come in contact with a gnat hunter. Jesus told the folks in Matthew 23:24, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” What an amazing insight and colorful warning Jesus gave. He warned the people then do not strain at a gnat and then swallow a camel. They would strain at a gnat, meaning probably that one of these small little creatures they’ve gotten in their milk or water and they would strain it out. Then they would turn around and swallow an entire camel.
Truthfully what Jesus was calling to their attention is what you and I face that we are probably trying to share a mark of God’s calling in our lives and the ability to get hold of ourselves and move on. He tells them and us don’t be a gnat hunter. A gnat is a little small creature about the size of a fingernail clipping. It probably weighed less than one or two grains of salt, yet at this time, Jesus wanted to move past where they were or were thinking and move into the realm of possibilities of what God wanted to do through them.
No doubt most of us have been attacked by gnats. One or two can be aggravating. A swarm of them can warp your disposition, but ultimately what Jesus is saying is that there were people who were listening to Him who would make a big, big deal out of menial things while overlooking major issues. Maybe you have met some of these folks who along the way of serving the Lord gets some gnat hunting experience and exposure to the point that it upsets them and drives them crazy only to turn around and let some major issue in life be ignored.
Maybe you know some of these gnat hunters around your life. It is often their main activity in life and they may think that it’s even a spiritual gift for them looking for gnats as you travel through this life. You can find them in every arena of life. You will find them at sporting events where they are watching the referee to see if he’s going to make a close call that they don’t agree with so that they can scream and yell and let the umpire or referee know their great displeasure. You can find them at any sporting event and you can find them at nearly any activity that is going on in human existence. They are the world’s’ great gnat hunters. I have seen them at eight-year-olds baseball games. I’ve watched them as taking in some super high athletic encounter that they knew absolutely the best way to treat to the two teams and what to do when it looked like one has been unfairly penalized.
But whether or not you have noticed, some gnat hunters show up at church. In fact, sometimes they come in large numbers. They can be aggravating and irritating as the little ones that may fly around your head when you’re sitting out under a cool breeze in the summertime. What do the ones at church look like? They come in all shapes and sizes. I can tell you what they sometimes are doing. Some of them are the speech picker experts who are waiting for the slightest word to be out of place or mispronounced or wrongly enunciated. People get upset about that stuff.
While I think that it is absolutely the best if we could get all of our English in its proper place and not mispronounce and wonder what we’re trying to say or write, but sometimes you just make a mistake and sometimes you know you did and sometimes you don’t know that you did. Mark it down that the speech picker experts are nearby and ready to pounce.
Another group of gnat hunters may be those of the modern day dress patrol. I have been fascinated as people today put so much emphasis today on coming to church casually. You don’t have to dress up to go to church. God knows what you are like whether you’ve got on a T-shirt or tuxedo. I understand that myself. What I have found interesting is that today’s dress police are a whole lot more aggressive and vocal than the old time dress patrol was.
While people used to say that they would be criticized for not dressing up enough to go to church, I never in my lifetime ever heard anybody criticizing another person because they weren’t well dressed enough to come to their church, but I can tell you from first hand experience, you can get criticized for being dressed up today. What are you doing here with a tie and a coat on. Do you not realize that we specialize in people wearing blue jeans? I was even told by one man who was a greeter at one of the doors of a church informing me that I would not be allowed to go in the sanctuary if I had a tie on. Crazy, isn’t it? How today we’ve turned things around so that we will criticize somebody that just feels like wearing Sunday go to meeting clothes as something to be disdained.
You have the speech picker exponents and the dress police and you also in our world today have the mighty music specialists. There are people who want you to know that they are highly trained and greatly gifted in knowing the proper music that ought to be sung in church. They watch intently to see how many of the songs are going to be contemporary or traditional. They will pounce on you with both feet if you get either one of them wrong.
I was walking through the foyer of a church where there was a lady sitting by herself. I spoke to her. She was telling me what she was doing. She was going down the list of the songs that were going to be sung in their church. As she was sitting there, she was going through the order of service checking which one was a contemporary and which one was a traditional song. She was ready to respond. The interesting thing I noticed and in conversation with was made aware, she did not care specifically for praising God or singing songs that were going to be outside her normal understanding. She did not come to worship to sing praises to God. She came to evaluate the order of service. I recognized that she was a part of that specific gnat hunter society.
Now here’s a fact. Gnats can be pesky little creatures, but seldom has anybody died from a gnat attack. While they can’t kill you, they can damage your spirit and even your relationship with others if you let them take control of you at any place at any time. I’m not sure but that all of us would be better off if we didn’t have gnats or better we would probably be well-served if we didn’t have gnat hunters among us. My encouragement from Jesus would be that you and I would not join the gnat hunters society but that we would be people who wouldn’t go around looking for little things that were wrong but big things that we can give thanks and encourage folks in. God bless you as we seek to serve Him day by day.
The author can be contacted at email@example.com.
Dr. Jim Futral