+27 (11) 867 3505 church@bbcmail.co.za

You may have noticed that people tend to be fascinated by bad news. Several years ago, two researchers set up an experiment at McGill University in Canada to track this fascination. The researchers set up their experiment as “a study of eye tracking.” Volunteers were asked to select stories from a political website and were told that, for the (supposed) eye-tracking software to work properly, they needed to read, rather than merely scan, their selected articles. It didn’t matter what they read, so long as they actually read what they had selected. They would later be questioned on what they read so as to ascertain that they did actually read.

Overwhelmingly, volunteers selected stories of a depressing nature rather than neutral or positive news. People were most interested in reading about corruption, setbacks, and hypocrisy. The more invested a volunteer was in current affairs, the more likely he or she was to select bad news stories. The researchers called this tendency to read and remember bad news “negativity bias.”

The researchers proposed several possible reasons that we are so drawn to bad news. One possible explanation was that, on the whole, we think the world is a better place than it actually is. Because we tend to view the world—or, at least, our world—through rose-tinted lenses, bad news stands out as an anomaly, and we love to read about anomalies.

The researchers were not, as far as I know, Christian, but they may have stumbled onto one aspect of biblical truth: that people tend to think that we are far better than we actually are. Perhaps that explains our reticence as Christians to share the bad news of sin and judgement with people in need of salvation. We see this dynamic in the text before us this morning (Ezekiel 12:21–13:23).

As Yahweh continued speaking to Ezekiel, he addressed a proverb (12:21–28) that was making the rounds among the exiles: “The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing.” The exiles were mistaking God’s patience for inaction. Ezekiel (and others) kept warning of judgement that never seemed to come. Yahweh warned that this proverb would soon be stopped in its tracks as the judgement of which he had so long warned fell.

But then, in chapter 13, Yahweh rebukes the false prophets. These prophets were prophesying lies, telling the people that Yahweh was still on their side. Deliverance was sure to come at the last minute. There was no need to listen to the pessimism of Ezekiel and his ilk. Things were not as bad as they were pretending them to be. Ezekiel was to warn the exiles against buying into the rose-tinted prophecies of the false teachers.

While we live in a very different time, every Christian knows the temptation of the false prophets. We know the temptation to paint the human condition better than it actually is. We know what it is to feel a tangible sense of hesitation to share God’s truth with the lost. We know that it is far more comfortable to tell good news than it is to tell bad news. There may be several reasons for that.

Some Christians are so complacent with the salvation that God has granted us that we really don’t care about the peril of others. The false prophets were “like jackals among ruins” (13:5). They didn’t care about the ruin around them so long as they had what they needed.

Other Christians are content to remain silent while they watch more “gifted” evangelists do the work on their behalf. The false teachers saw no need to build walls of protection for Israel (13:6). They were happy to leave that task to someone else because they were confident that they would be delivered in time of trial. So long as they were safe, others could do the work.

Still others, driven, perhaps, by fear of man, whitewash the sins of unbelievers. Like the false prophets, they proclaim “peace” when there is no peace (13:11). And their false proclamation of peace ultimately results in the destruction of sinners opposed to God.

When it comes to the gospel, too many of us have a positivity bias—we are hesitant to tell sinners the bad news of sin and the eternal punishment it invites. And so we end up painting a picture far rosier than it actually is, thereby actually opposing the truth of God.

As you meditate on Ezekiel 12:21–13:23 this morning, ask God for the boldness and the integrity to tell people the bad news of their sin so that they might be prepared for the good news of the Saviour.