The Tattletale Christian
Many . . . believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. John 11:45-46
In Sunday School, as a child, I was told that we needed to keep our eyes closed during the prayer. When I discovered that a classmate wasn’t following the rules, I took it upon myself to inform the teacher. For a brief moment, I expected to be praised for enforcing God’s will. I felt superior as I let my classmate know how I looked down on his behavior. I felt Godly. All that came crashing down as my teacher pointed out the obvious: The only way I could tell on my classmate, was if I’d violated the same rule of which I was accusing him. But how can I tell on the other kids if I can’t open my eyes?
Those in today’s passage exhibited similar behavior. In the story, Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. Some of those in observance responded by believing in him, but some ran off to report to the Pharisees. These accusers believed in God and thus, believed it was their religious duty to tell on Jesus. Looking down on him, they wanted to see him put in his place.
Tattletaling isn’t just something kids do. Today’s passage reveals a grown-up version which appeals to many Christians. The adult tattler derives his worth from the bad things he doesn’t do. To feel good about himself, he must make sure that others know how much he looks down on their struggles. He’s prideful. He condescends. He judges. He speaks openly about the failures of others. He doesn’t follow the rules because he loves God. He follows the rules because this gives him power over those who don’t. Like me, sitting there with my eyes open during the Sunday School prayer, he’s just as guilty of his sin – pride – but he thinks he’s justified.
I’ve done this as an adult. I’ve been the legalistic, judgmental, jerk, who looks down on others. The bitterly ironic thing of course, is that I was hiding my own addiction. The daily challenge in recovery now, is to be honest about my ongoing struggles, as I genuinely try to help those who’ve failed as I have. There is a right and a wrong way to address the sins of our brothers and sisters. Being a tattletale isn’t the right way.