Quick show of hands - Anyone ever remove the word 'constructive' out of the phrase constructive criticism? The notion that someone is trying to help you improve yourself doesn't come across the way they intended. Instead you interpret it as some vindictive critique. It's OK if you raise your hand. This is the internet. I can't see you.
I ask because I do that. I hear their words and think, Dang it, what did I do now?
Maybe it's an inferiority complex. Or maybe I set my expectations for myself far too high. Or maybe it's a guilty conscience. Or maybe it's my self-deprecating sense of humor. Or my melancholic disposition. Whatever it is, it's not healthy. I am making efforts to change those habits but every now and then it happens. Someone says something that sounds vaguely negative and I assume it's about some mistake that I made.
My bad habits aside, when I read my bible it's nice to know that Jesus' disciples experience the same "crap, what now" feeling of disappointment that occasionally burdens me.
When you read through the book of Matthew, page after page you'll find the parables that Jesus taught. After many of them His disciples ask, "What does it mean?" Nearly all of the responses that Jesus provided went something along the lines of, "Are you daft? Did you really ask that question? Are you learning nothing from me?" But then he breaks the story down into language a five year old could understand. The bible doesn't often record what the disciples said after Jesus decoded his parables, but in my mind I imagine them collectively stating, "Oh ... now I get it." Then somewhere in the background, Jeff Foxworthy asks, "Are you smarter than a fifth grader?"
Most of these parables were delivered with Jesus talking to the crowds or given as an answer to trick questions posed by the pharisees. Then in Matthew 16:6, Jesus delivers a one line parable that is directed to the disciples and only the disciples.
He said, "Be careful! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."
My optimistic side wants to believe that (if I were a disciple) I would have thanked Jesus for the good advice. Or I would have asked him to clarify what he meant. But I'm not an optimist. I would have reacted the same way as the disciples. "Dang it. We screwed up again."
They were on a boat, a captive audience when Jesus gave them this warning. The disciples had forgotten to pack bread for their trip across the lake. As soon as Jesus started talking about yeast and using words like "beware," They made the logical connection that yeast is in bread and they didn't have any bread. Rather than asking Jesus to explain how people could have yeast, they assumed the worst. Their first thought was, Uh-oh. We did something wrong. He's mad at us agian.
That wasn't the truth. Jesus wasn't talking about bread. But I can't blame them for missing the point the first time around. They were fishermen and tax collectors. They didn't have any experience baking bread; they bought it from the market like everyone else. Once again, Jesus had to spell it out like they were a bunch of kindergarteners.
Yeast is what makes bread rise. What made the Pharisees and the Sadducees rise? Their teaching.
When Jesus said, "Beware of their yeast," what he was really trying to tell the disciples was, "Beware of their words. It puffs them up like yeast does in bread."
The disciples, these guys were idiots. They had a hard time understanding Jesus' stories and they were quick to assume blame where no fault was intended. Truthfully, I'm an idiot too. Sometimes. While Jesus went as far to describe the disciples as dull, they were Jesus' closest earthly friends. That motley group changed the world. They got better.
If they got better, maybe there's hope for me. Maybe next time someone offers me some constructive criticism, I can reply, "Thank you, I appreciate the feedback."