In the days before modern mass communications, it was the church building or the schoolhouse where most would go to find out the news of what was happening in their communities. News from farther away would come when travelers passed through. It took time for news to travel, so most people were either out of date or entirely ignorant of what was going on in the rest of the world.
Large-scale communication—at least what passed for “large-scale”—took place mostly in and around the big cities. Folks living in the countryside had a particularly hard time staying informed about world events. Yet the human desire for an answer to the question, “What’s going on?” was the same then as it is now.
Today, thanks to modern communications technology, we have become accustomed to “instant news.” In fact, not long ago, while I was using the Internet to talk with my son in Thailand, he said they were having an earthquake! A few seconds later, that earthquake was a headline on CNN!
With information so easily accessible, most people feel a need to be aware of the latest news and views, able to talk about the current ideas that are circulating. And from this need has grown a great potential for division, as people take different sides on matters of opinion. Most are news consumers, but only a relative few are “news makers.”
Did you know that the Bible commands today’s Christians to “watch” world events? Read Matthew 24:42. Christ told His followers to take note of what is happening in national and international relations, and to keep an eye on all sorts of global disruptions and crises that will herald His imminent return to the earth.
Yet, as we “watch” we must also be careful about the sources from which we get our news. It can be easy to accept a news presentation uncritically, listening to a self-proclaimed “expert” and then taking on his or her “expert” views as our own. Scripture gives us a powerful warning against blind acceptance of what society’s “opinion leaders” are saying.
Consider the religious environment of Jerusalem during Jesus’ life on earth. Jewish life was centered on the Temple, and around the temple were gathered different factions such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees in particular were very vocal about the practice of their religion. Christ talked about them in Matthew 23. He said, “Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that obey and do, but not according to their works, for they say, and do not so” (v. 3). The Pharisees were poor examples personally, but at least they advocated righteous behavior. To some, that could be attractive. Ultimately, however, Jesus pointed out the deficiency of the Pharisees’ approach, calling them a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7).
Do we, today, sometimes latch on to political and social commentators who seem to advocate what is right, but fail to notice not only that their actions do not live up to their words, but that ultimately their “righteousness” is a kind of self-righteousness and is not compatible with our Christian faith and values? Do we pay too much attention to “modern-day Pharisees”? Or do we hold Christ’s teachings as our most reliable source?
We must be careful as to whose words we accept. Scripture even warns that false teachers—some claiming to be prophets, or even apostles—will rise up and do their best to deceive God’s people (Matthew 24:11; 2 Corinthians 11:13). We must watch closely to make sure we are not deceived. We must compare the words of “experts”—whether they claim to be experts in world affairs or in matters of religion—to the teachings we have received from God’s Church and the Bible.