Oh…wait…you’ve heard that one before? Yeah, like a thousand times, right?
It’s really a dumb joke, isn’t it? And it’s old as the hills. Think about it. Why did the chicken cross the road? Oh brother!
But there are a few creative ones in the bunch who add slightly different twists to the joke.
- Why did the Roman chicken cross the road? She was afraid someone would Caesar.
- Why did the rubber chicken cross the road? She wanted to stretch her legs.
- Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum it could actually be done.
So why did the chicken cross the road? We all know the common, and perhaps most uncreative, answer is to get to the other side.
I saw a Far Side cartoon recently with a chicken on one side of the road and a billboard on the other. The chicken was looking at the billboard which said “The Other Side: Why do you need a reason?” I chuckled to myself when I saw it because I thought after all these years Gary Larson, the creator of the Far Side cartoon, finally defended the chicken in the most definitive way.
I bet you’re wondering where on earth I’m going with this post, huh? I’m getting there…
Since 1847, when this joke first appeared in print, we’ve criticized and scrutinized the chicken’s motives. We’ve questioned why the chicken did what it did. And for some reason we have a felt need to understand the motive of the chicken. In reality, does it matter? The net effect is the same no matter what the motive is. The end result is that the chicken is now on the other side of the road. Period.
How often do we criticize and scrutinize the motives of other people? How often do we question why people do what they do? How often do we condemn others because they do things that don’t quite fit our mold?
Here’s what I have found to be true: we criticize what we don’t understand and can’t relate to. Yep, it’s true. Read that again. The things we don’t understand, we criticize. The things we can’t relate to, we question. The things we can’t quite wrap our brains around, we condemn.
Job, a guy in the Old Testament who lost absolutely everything, was dogged left and right by his so-called friends. In Job 6:25, he said to them, “Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to?” I don’t think his question sunk in at all because they kept ranting and raving.
Job’s statement is two-fold. First, honest words can indeed be painful. And sometimes we need to hear truth from those who love us yet are concerned about us. These folks love us enough to tell us the truth even when it may be painful.
But second, there’s a fine line between truth and criticism. Criticism, questioning, and scrutinizing motives isn’t necessarily “truth.” What it says to others on a deeper level is “you don’t fit my mold and I don’t necessarily like that.” So Job asks, “…what do your criticisms amount to?”
It’s a fair question to ask. It’s the right question to ask. What’s the goal of the criticism? What does our criticism really amount to? Most of the time I feel like criticism is done simply for the sake of criticism alone. We don’t really care to know or understand the answer, we just feel the need to question or scrutinize. And we’ve gotten very good at it. Too good. So good, we don’t even recognize we’re doing it any longer.
When we ask why the chicken crossed the road, we’re questioning his motives, his character, his integrity, his freedom of choice, etc. Does he really need a reason? Is being on the other side of the road all that bad? (It is if it doesn’t fit your mold, right?)
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do…” (Romans 14:1, MSG).
“So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit” (Romans 14:10-11, MSG).
If all we’re going to do is criticize, then maybe we shouldn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road in the first place. After all, don’t you think he’s had enough criticism for a lifetime?