“It is better to do your duty poorly than another man’s duty perfectly.” Bhavgad Gita
I'm an outstanding "armchair quarterback" regarding the various football teams I root for.
If that term is unfamiliar to you, let me explain.
When watching my football teams play from the comfort of my couch, I feel as though I can call plays, manage the game, coach up the team, make decisions, and do everything that needs to be done to make my team win.
I feel this way because I'm often right about what I see... from the comfort of my couch.
The truth is that I would be a disaster at leading a football team. I could deliver some inspiring speeches, no doubt. And I could make a few good decisions here and there.
But my understanding of what is happening in a game is augmented by the fact that I'm watching from a vantage point where I see all kinds of replay, listening to the commentary, and not at all in the middle of the fray.
Interestingly, most of us have moments when we believe we can do someone's job better than they are doing it.
Even when we are right because the person in question is not suited for their job, we tend to make our pronouncements from the comfort of our own couches.
But when the shoe is on the other foot, we don't like that very much, do we?
Many years ago, I endured a spate of this kind of stuff from a few members of the congregation I was serving.
After one of my sermons, a rather grouch man told me, "If I had wanted to learn about history, I'd go back to school."
I also had a long conversation with a member who disliked my informal approach to preaching, who told me I needed to "Act more like you are conducting a funeral" when I delivered sermons.
Another guy once told me I should keep my sermons to at most 10 minutes so people could get to lunch sooner.
As I look back on these kinds of "suggestions," I realize that at the moment, I couldn't see myself in these people at all. I couldn't see how much like them I was in my criticisms of others.
But I was, and I still am at times.
There's this verse in the Bible that I recall as I write this from 2 John that goes like this:
Watch yourselves, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be fully rewarded.
Some translations start the verse like this: "Look to yourselves..."
The quote I posted at the top of this devo speaks directly to this point. When we focus so much on what everyone else is doing, we degrade our ability to do what we're called to do.
When criticism of others is constructive and delivered from a place of peace, it is one thing, but when it's based on hubris, selfishness, or meanness, it's another.
So look to yourselves today. Don't be an armchair quarterback. Assume the best of others until proven otherwise. And even then, keep your criticism constructive and life-giving.
You can never clearly see what someone is going through or what challenges they may be facing from your spot on the couch.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.