Tag Archives: great controversy

On Ezra 3: The Curse of Comparison and Complaint

They complained. They murmured. The glory of the latter seemed incomparable with the former. They didn’t know how hidden beauty could ever exceed that which was exposed.

Such was the case of these older men.

In Ezra’s day, when almost everyone was excited about rebuilding their fallen temple, these elders seemed to be playing the antagonists.

They were just dissatisfied.

While the majority

“sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
‘For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever toward Israel,’ “

the elders were complaining.

Was the Lord good? Absolutely. He always has been.

So, what was the problem?

Well, it was quite a case of “our generation’s experience was quite better than this one’s. We’re quite better.”

Yeah, quite. Quite. I knew that sounded a bit awkward. But that had a purpose.

The little annoyance it evoked in you, dear reader, was meant to stir the pondering thought.

“And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”

I’ve been quoting from the English Standard Version. That’s Ezra 3:11.

The foundation of the house of the Lord has been laid! It was indeed a reason for joy. The ones who shouted had been exiles. They had been exiled to the land of Babylon. By this time, after a great number of years, they have been shown the mercies of the Lord.

Not only are they now “the returned exiles,” they are also going to rebuild the temple of the Lord.

A Cause for Complaint?

So, how can a reason for joy be a cause for complaint?

Guess what. It was a case of comparison.

Comparisons are indeed a curse.

It has been the curse of many generations. It is still a prevailing curse now.

No, not if you mean comparing yourself to The One Altogether Lovely. No, not if you mean simply looking at Him as if He’s a mirror. No, not if you mean coming before Him in humility. No, not if you mean simply seeing yourself as you really are, for

“The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature.” – Steps to Christ, p. 64, par. 2

No, not if you mean any of these.

Apparently, comparisons are good for those who purpose to use the results in humility.

Examples of healthy comparisons

Some comparisons are a blessing. Some are simply innocent.

  • Seeing yourself in direct contrast with Jesus (as mentioned above)
  • Assessing your own progress in an area of knowledge in terms of a certain criteria
  • Putting side-by-side two products or items you consider buying
  • Figuring out the benefits or advantages of a new product against a standard
  • Evaluating your past practices against your present ideologies

You can lengthen this list.

But before you do, let’s continue with our discussion.

When comparison becomes evil

So, when does an act of comparison become a cause of trouble? Well, we can also bring up a list.

  • Seeing yourself as someone better than others
  • Looking at your neighbors’ (read: Facebook friends’) achievements against yours
  • Arguing against God’s revealed counsels against your own logic

Basically, that’s all. If you wish to add something to the list, you are most likely adding a version of any of the three I had already placed there.

In other words, comparisons become evil when it’s all about pride.

And pride is definitely a curse. As said,

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18, ESV

You see, when comparisons are born out of pride, the modus of comparison is identical to selfishness.

Let me repeat that.

Comparisons rooted in pride are selfish. Pride is simply selfishness, by the way.

Now, let me rephrase our list of three above for you to see this even more clearly.

  • am better than you.
  • I have something better than what you have.
  • I have wisdom better than Yours (God’s).

Again, these are comparisons that are already evil. Pride is evil. Selfish is evil.

You see, prideful comparisons simply say:

  • myself
  • my possessions
  • my wisdom

are superior.

In other words, you are inferior. I am better

Me. Myself. I.

It is all about self.

Evil comparisons are all about self.

And When Does A Comparison Lead To A Complaint?

Well, it happens.

“I think I’m better off than him. What is he doing up there?”

You would hear that, or a something like that.

Well, you heard that. You heard that minutes ago when we first mentioned them. Yes, the elderly.

To give you what they did straight from the Biblical account, here’s the passage:

“But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid…” – Ezra 3:12, ESV

Notice the word “but.”

The word “but” did have a precedent. Remember what was happening in verse 11?

The people were praising the Lord!

Now, what was going on?

Basically, these elders were complaining. And how did the complaint come out? What was the basis of the complaint?

Wait, the passage is saying they were only weeping. Did it say they were complaining?

Apparently, yes. These—

“…old men who had seen the first house…”

—were seeing the second house. By the way, this is talking about the “house,” i.e., the temple “of the Lord.”

There’s a “first” and a “second” house. Apparently, those who have seen the first one are now seeing the second one. And it appears that the second one is quite inferior.

Well, it is, in many respects.

The “first” was Solomon’s temple. Nothing could be compared to it. It was dazzling. It had been accompanied by special tokens of God’s favor. The blessings showered even upon the dedication of that temple were amazing. God has given evidence of His favor by visible tokens of His presence.

And for this second one, even seeing just the foundation, was to these elders a cause for weeping.

They wept because they compared.

So, again, when does a case of comparison become a case of complaint?

Well, a complaint does not come when there’s nothing to lose.

And the elders were losing…the glory.

There’s truth in their findings—the findings they had from their case of comparison. The elders saw the foundation of the second house, they recalled the glory of the first house, and now they see a big difference.

The second house is really inferior to the first.

Here’s a side note:

Note that the second house has not yet been built. Only the foundation was laid.

In fact, to get ahead of myself, the second house would take years to finish—three generations of “heathen” kings had to witness the struggle of the returned exiles in rebuilding the temple.

So, imagine the elders getting ahead of themselves, complaining about something that was not yet even finished!

Back to the question: how does comparison become a complaint?

Basically, as I’ve mentioned, it’s all about wounded pride.

Yeah, I’ve only mentioned pride minutes ago. This time, the emphasis is on the modifier.

It’s about a wounded pride.

Well, let’s just say the elders had good intentions. I, for one, thought that what they were doing was just fine. I also thought their act of weeping was just fine!

But when I read the inspired writings for more insights into this chapter, I was stunned.

Insights from the Pen of Inspiration

It was natural that sadness should fill the hearts of these aged men, as they thought of the results of long-continued impenitence. Had they and their generation obeyed God, and carried out His purpose for Israel, the temple built by Solomon would not have been destroyed and the captivity would not have been necessary. But because of ingratitude and disloyalty they had been scattered among the heathen.

Conditions were now changed. In tender mercy the Lord had again visited His people and allowed them to return to their own land. Sadness because of the mistakes of the past should have given way to feelings of great joy. God had moved upon the heart of Cyrus to aid them in rebuilding the temple, and this should have called forth expressions of profound gratitude. But some failed of discerning God’s opening providences. Instead of rejoicing, they cherished thoughts of discontent and discouragement. They had seen the glory of Solomon’s temple, and they lamented because of the inferiority of the building now to be erected.

The murmuring and complaining, and the unfavorable comparisons made, had a depressing influence on the minds of many and weakened the hands of the builders. The workmen were led to question whether they should proceed with the erection of a building that at the beginning was so freely criticized and was the cause of so much lamentation. – Prophets and Kings, p.564

What a depressing blow!

Indeed, the elders have made the mistake of

  • “murmuring”
  • “complaining”
  • making “unfavorable comparisons

—haven’t we mentioned that their “weeping” were actually expressions of complaint? Yes, we have!

And haven’t we mentioned that such complaints are born out of comparisons? Yes, we have!

And the elders—while it was “natural that sadness should fill” their hearts—”should have given way to feelings of great joy.”

They shouldn’t have murmured. They shouldn’t have “cherished thoughts of discontent and discouragement.”

But because they did, they have extended a “depressing influence on the minds of many, and weakened the hands of the builders.”

That was just a depressing blow, indeed!

Today’s Elders vs. The Noble Work of Some Youth

I couldn’t help but see through this story (which was not just a story but real history, by the way) the case of our youth today.

Some of us complain. Some of us murmur. We think we are better off than this generation of youth.

(I am using “we” to avoid sounding hypercritical.)

Yeah, we complain about these young people who are rebuilding the “house of the Lord”! We complain about their:

  • spiritual programs
  • missionary mindset
  • zeal for revival
  • desire for reformation

…and we think we’re better off than they? Is it because we’re “elders” that we’re better? Let me ask again. Are we even really any better?

Think for a while.

The “glory of the latter house will be greater”

Do you remember the promise made concerning the second temple?

“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former…” – Haggai 2:9, KJV

The latter over the former? The second over the first?

Were the elders wrong?

Well, structurally speaking, the second house, when finished, was physically in no way greater than the first temple, Solomon’s temple.

But the promise of the LORD through the prophet Haggai was that the glory of this second house would be greater. How come?

It’s about Who’s inside

Remember how this prophecy of Haggai was fulfilled?

For centuries learned men have endeavored to show wherein the promise of God, given to Haggai, has been fulfilled; yet in the advent of Jesus of Nazareth, the Desire of all nations, who by His personal presence hallowed the precincts of the temple, many have steadfastly refused to see any special significance. Pride and unbelief have blinded their minds to the true meaning of the prophet’s words.

The second temple was honored, not with the cloud of Jehovah’s glory, but with the presence of the One in whom dwelt “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”—God Himself “manifest in the flesh.” Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16. In being honored with the personal presence of Christ during His earthly ministry, and in this alone, did the second temple exceed the first in glory. The “Desire of all nations” had indeed come to His temple, when the Man of Nazareth taught and healed in the sacred courts. – Prophets and Kings, p.597

And today, it’s still about Who’s inside!

We can talk about our gray hairs. We can talk about our flying colors. We can talk about our presumed wisdom. We can talk about our wealth of experience.

But none of these things matter!

It’s about Who’s inside!

And, dear youth—in case you might misinterpret this piece as if I’m being a defender in your case—beware.

Just because you are young doesn’t mean your fresh methods are always right.

Remember, it’s all about Who’s inside!

If you miss that point, the “elders” and you do not have any difference.

We do not have any difference between them who, for wounded pride, had caused the rejoicing young rebuilders—reformerssuch a depressing blow!

The depressing blow caused an unnecessary delay

Could those who failed to rejoice at the laying of the foundation stone of the temple have foreseen the results of their lack of faith on that day, they would have been appalled. Little did they realize the weight of their words of disapproval and disappointment; little did they know how much their expressed dissatisfaction would delay the completion of the Lord’s house. – Prophets and Kings, p.565

How tragic!

If we keep on complaining…

If we keep on murmuring…

If we keep on discouraging the work of some of our noble youth of today, we will delay the rebuilding of the temple of the Lord—we will delay the reformation within the house of the Lord!

Take the Curse Out of God’s Church

As much as God longs to dwell in His physical sanctuary back in the Israelites’ day, God longs to dwell in the hearts of His church—His people today.

And as much as there needed to be a reformation among God’s people in the past, so there needs to be a rebuilding—a reformation within God’s church today.

But what do we see?

We’ve seen complaints. We’ve seen murmuring. We’ve seen wounded pride. We’ve seen countless careless words thrown overboard by those who despise

…”in” God’s house.

If we continue doing this, we’d be delaying the second advent.

We need repentance.

Enough with fancy church programs

It is when the vital principles of the kingdom of God are lost sight of, that ceremonies become multitudinous and extravagant. It is when the character building is neglected, when the adornment of the soul is lacking, when the simplicity of godliness is despised, that pride and love of display demand magnificent church edifices, splendid adornings, and imposing ceremonials.

But in all this God is not honored. He values His church, not for its external advantages, but for the sincere piety which distinguishes it from the world. He estimates it according to the growth of its members in the knowledge of Christ, according to their progress in spiritual experience. He looks for the principles of love and goodness. Not all the beauty of art can bear comparison with the beauty of temper and character to be revealed in those who are Christ’s representatives. – Prophets and Kings, p.565-566

Let us rather be unlike them

Enough is enough. The devil has made too many winnings in the match.

Let us let God win.

And let us be unlike them.

They complained.

They murmured.

The glory of the latter, to them, seemed incomparable with the former.

They didn’t know how hidden beauty could ever exceed that which was exposed.

On Charles D

ON CHARLES DARWIN

photo of Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin

While evolutionary teachings are widespread and are highly favored in today’s modern world, Charles Darwin, whose name was so popularly attached to the evolutionary concept, continues to share the concept’s fame. Examining the man’s life, though, would lead us remarkably into questioning the theories and views that now many have blindly followed and claimed to have refined.

Born on February 12, 1809 and having breathed his last on April 19, 1882, Charles Darwin has left his generation both with praise and criticism for his most known and most controversial work, “On the Origin of Species,” published in 1859. This work laid the foundations of modern evolutionary thought through the concept he called “natural selection.”

Most write-ups would speak of Darwin in relation to his concepts on naturalism, concentrating on the very work he did as believed to be a worthy contribution to modern science. Much has been neglected though, especially without the analysis of the struggle that he has experienced since childhood.

In his autobiography, Darwin wrote about himself beginning from his childhood years, and said he believed that he “was in many ways a naughty boy.”[i] He was only a little over than eight years old when he was left without a mother by death. Scarce was his recollection of his mother, hence only a little can be deduced of his life from his relationship with her.  Often he made mention of his sisters and his father in the autobiography, and much about how his father counseled him especially in his educational pursuits. Darwin, however, has grown to be passionate about the things of nature, and was deeply involved in pleasure-seeking by hunting before he ever was serious about his study on natural selection.

A pause at the moment might help us gain a sufficient momentum for reviewing his inner life. Charles was “baptized” as a baby into the Anglican Church by the choice of his father, but as a boy he was attending the Unitarian chapel with his mother and siblings. Of his personal faith, Darwin mentioned in his autobiography that as a school-boy in the Anglican Shrewsbury School, where he was boarding, he still often paid short visits to their home after class. For at least once, he ran back to the school before the gate locked up for the night, and when in doubt if he should arrive before the time, he said,

“I prayed earnestly to God to help me, and I well remember that I attributed my success to the prayers and not to my quick running, and marveled how generally I was aided.”[ii]

To think that the man Darwin, who had laid out a concept of origins that excluded God, the supernatural, from the beginning, would even mention God in his life story in childhood! And to think that he prayed to God, believed, and declared to have even been answered of Him!

It is a great wonder then that this aspect is not much, if not never at all, talked about in many accounts of Darwin’s life and works. Truly, there was a struggle in Darwin’s mind before he ever entered into finally putting down observations from nature for the purpose of deducing a theory that will eventually exclude God at the outset.

Of his boyhood at school, Darwin has confessed that his preference was not with the classical subjects of his day, which focused on a little ancient geography and history. Expressing his attitude towards schooling, he said, “The school as a means of education to me was simply a blank.”[iii] This he might have only said because of the way learning was handled in his time and at his school, for he has also expressed delight and interest when taught by a private tutor on Euclidean geometry, or after having read a book such as Shakespeare by himself, or when having experimented on chemistry in a laboratory with his brother, or most especially when making collections of minerals and insects.

In those earlier years of school life, Darwin was doing no good, and so his father sent him to Edinburgh University with his brother, who was finishing his medical studies, while he was to enter yet to it. His brother left the university a year after they were together there, and in his second year, Darwin was alone and he considered it a bounty to have expanded his opportunities of getting acquainted with several young men fond of natural science. From this point on, he has been much more interested and absorbed in natural history and the collection of some species. And yet on vacations, he was more into amusements and some books in hand.

By this time, much less has been mentioned about his spirituality. Apparently, the boy Darwin that trusted in prayer and in God has not again come up in his college years. He had probably been absorbed in mere nature and pleasure-seeking, but was not drawn to the Author behind nature. More so, his readings of fiction and poems and books should have influenced his thinking and interests. After having spent two years in Edinburgh, his father perceived that Charles did not like the thought of being a physician, and interestingly enough, proposed that Charles should become a clergyman. To his father, this was probably disciplinary rather than an act to help his son pursue an ambition. Darwin, though, said that he liked the thought of being a country clergyman, without explaining his motivation for such. While yet thinking for a decision whether to agree with his father or not, he read some books on divinity. Soon after, he said,

“And as I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted.”[iv]

The word “then” is very worth noting. This should mean that at that time, Darwin was still considering religion with high regard, but that he has never yet considered it seriously to read and study a personal Bible in faith because later, as it appears, he entertained even the slightest doubt on the “strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible.” He probably assumed the creed to have been based on the Bible, and by persuading himself that their creed must fully be accepted without his personal knowledge of the Truth as it is in the Word, he was most prone to doubt. Add to that the misleading thinking he might have already been perusing from his books on divinity, Darwin was then on the pivotal point of casting down his former, simple and pure childhood faith.

Darwin attended Cambridge University to pursue theology. In this phase of his life, his career seemed to flourish in the scientific realm through the many people – professors, doctors, scientists – that he met. As a theological student though, he seemed uninterested with the common lectures. Again, he was absorbed with naturalism. After graduation, he said that his father’s wish for him to be a clergyman had never been given up, but that it just died a natural death when he joined the voyage of the Beagle as a naturalist. It was on this voyage that he made observations of many species, and related their adaptation to their environment to the differences that can be noted in their features. As in the many historical accounts on Darwin’s life, this part on is the most emphasized, and thus is most known. Since the time Darwin published his observations and the developments of what he deduced, he had met many criticisms as well as praises from diverse groups of people. Anyhow, he managed to pursue marriage after the voyage of the Beagle, and had a “happy” married life, as described in his autobiography. Nevertheless, his own words on the many questions that were then rallied against him, especially on the theological impact of his theories, would be well noted at this point.

On a certain letter, Darwin said,

“This is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically, but I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with the mice.”[v]

This statement, written shortly after the publication of the “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, reveals a rather concluding matter. Darwin actually worked on his theory of evolution from a theological premise. His view of God was one that upholds Him as beneficent and omnipotent, but that Darwin could not, in his finite mind, reconcile this with the misery that he could see in the world. Though not intending to undermine the simple childlike faith that he once exercised and experienced, he continued to express this in the same letter:

“On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.”[vi]

Confused is the word for Darwin’s mind, and he died doubting his own theory. Whether on his deathbed he had given up the undoubting faith he once had, or whether he had finally taken the agnostic’s “I don’t care” viewpoint, we do not truly know. Today, though, the impact of his work had been rather fatal to our own faith in and our own understanding of the character of God, but a rejoicing to many of those who would want to be freed of their moral obligations to the Creator.


[i] The Autobiography of Charles Darwin by Charles Darwin, p.2

[ii] Ibid, p.4

[iii] Ibid, p.4

[iv] Ibid, p.10 (emphasis supplied)

[v] Letter to Asa Gray (22 May 1860); “the Ichneumonidae” has sometimes been altered to “parasitic wasps” in paraphrases of this passage (emphasis supplied)

[vi] Ibid (emphasis supplied)

The first edition of this article was originally submitted as an academic output to a secular university.