Num. 13:33 - The Grasshopper Complex
The Grasshopper Complex
by Pastor Gary Hindman
"And there we saw giants, and we
were in our own sight as grasshoppers" (Numbers 13:33)
In today's passage the Hebrew people had been wandering
in the desert for 40 years. It must have been awful to wander to-and-fro in the
wilderness, with no stability, no permanence, no towns or homes or land to call
their own. But this phase of their history was about to end. God told Moses that
the people were soon to get their promised land - the land of Canaan. So Moses
gathered the people together and selected from each tribe one person whose task
was to go into Canaan, spy it out and report their findings.
You can imagine the excitement when they came back to
camp. There were glowing reports of a land lush and green, full of figs and
pomegranates and grapes, which were so plentiful that it took two persons to
carry just one cluster! It was a greening, blossoming land, "flowing with milk and honey" (Verse 27). They were sick
of the barren desert; they wanted this new land badly. But it was also said the
cities there were walled and the people who live there are giants that came from
giants! "And it is a country that devours its inhabitants"
So right away they throw up the impossible. The Promised
Land is within reach. Figs, pomegranates, grapes, milk, honey, everything
beautiful to the senses - their promised land... but wait, hold on, there's a
price tag! Have you ever come up against that? I've got a dream for my life - a
vision for my kids - a desire to go do this thing or that - But fear sets in, I
get cold feet, abandon hope and take some safer, easier, less risky way. When
the twelve came back they considered invading the land but when the votes were
counted, only two of the twelve wanted to take it. The other ten were afraid,
saying, "And there we saw giants (Nephilim); and we seemed
to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them" (Verse 33). The
ten had a "grasshopper complex." They judged themselves like that and believed
the Canaanites thought of them as grasshoppers, too! But that's the way the
"grasshopper complex" works. You not only think lowly of yourself, you believe
others think poorly of you, too!
I remember the first time I served communion in front of
my peers at a district church meeting. I was so nervous that I caught the sleeve
of my robe on the communion tray and nearly spilled the elements all over the
floor! I felt like a grasshopper while all those giants, the ministers and
elders, watched me make mistakes. Of course, most were not looking for mistakes,
they were in Holy Communion, but you could not have told me on that day!
I think everyone has a bit of the grasshopper complex!
The over-achievers are just as afraid of failure as the under-achievers. There
is something in each of us of which we are ashamed. Unfortunately, the
grasshopper complex feeds into the way we treat others and ourselves. Sometimes
a whole group of people are labeled grasshoppers and we write them off, never
dealing with the real truth: that we label others because of an innate sense of
worthlessness which we feel about ourselves! But grasshoppers are not all bad!
In fact, they are very good at one thing: jumping! And did you know that jumping
is at the heart of faith? Soren Kierkegaard calls it the "leap
of faith." We think and reason and believe just as far as the mind will
take us, but faith is a step farther, a jump beyond reason.
Moreover, we learn by jumps. I remember well the day I
learned to ride a bike. Bob Hayworth said he would stay right beside me - he
lied! - but to my surprise I learned I didn't need him anyway and there I was
off and riding! Remember the first day you went off to Kindergarten? Your mother
cried to let you go but she knew she had to if you were to ever come back to
her. The transition to High School was a leap. So was College. And what a jump
it is to get into that first paying job! Who is ever really ready for marriage,
or children? And the commitment to Christ is a great stride forward - a leap
into the unknown which catches us by surprise.
And so it is with God. "In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form
and void and darkness covered the face of the deep. And God said, 'Let there be
light!'" (Genesis 1:1-3a). And through a cataclysmic burst of energy the
heavens were alive with celestial light! We read in the Noah story how on one
given day "all the fountains of the great deep burst
forth, and the windows of heaven were opened and rain fell upon the earth forty
days and forty nights!" (Gen 7:11-12). Then there is the sudden
appearance of the prophets and their urgent call to repentance and the godly
life. And in the fullness of time came one Jesus of Nazareth. Walking by the sea
He comes upon some weary fishermen and says, "Follow Me!"
And they jump at the chance (Matthew 4:19)! Life is a jump. But what jumps do we
have to overcome the grasshopper complex?
1) STILLNESS. In verse 30 we read, "And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, 'Let us go
up at once, and occupy the land.'" (Caleb was one of the 12 who spied out
the land and wanted to take it.) How valuable and essential the "Calebs" of this
world are! They are the affirmers, the believers, the ones who point us in the
right direction and encourage us to take a chance. Notice that before he made
his suggestion, Caleb "stilled the people." That is just like a jumper. Have you
ever noticed how a high-jumper will pause and get themselves together before
they jump? Or how a grasshopper will be still just before it leaps? People need
stillness. We need solitude. We need time simply to be idle and to let ourselves
unwind and become renewed. Elijah pointed out that the voice of God is not loud.
The Psalmist says that "He makes me to lie down"
(Psalm 23: 2). Jesus went into the garden to be alone and to pray. "Stillness is the background for learning the whisper of God"
(Ray Lindquist). So the grasshopper complex can be counteracted first by
2) CONFIDENCE. Caleb said, "Let us go up at once and occupy the land FOR WE ARE WELL ABLE TO
DO IT" (Verse 30). He not only stilled the people, he gave them
confidence. There's so much in life that breaks us down that we need people like
Caleb to lend encouragement and hope. But it is not enough to simply be an
optimist. We get courage when we stand for something greater than ourselves.
Caleb reveals the source of his confidence in Chapter 14 where he says with
Joshua, "If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into
his land and give it to us; do not fear those people (for)
the Lord is with us." If we look to ourselves for
strength we may not find very much. Our confidence comes not from ourselves but
from God because we know we are God's agent, God's person. We are called to be "ambassadors for Christ." He has a stake in you and me and
He will not let us fail because He has invested so much in us! Paul says it
best: "He who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion" (Philippians 1:6). What confidence there is in knowing we are
working on God's side!
3) ACTION. We jump into stillness. We jump into
confidence. Finally, we jump into action. "Let us go up at
once and occupy the land!" It is not enough to talk about it, one must
Now is the acceptable time; now is the time to strike a
blow for Christ and for liberty. This is the hour, otherwise you'll be like
Felix in Acts. When Paul approached him with the tremendous possibility of the
Christian life, Felix responded, "Go your way for this
time until I have a convenient season. I will call for you" (Acts 24:25).
But tragically, he never did! It takes courage to leap, to jump. But do not give
up on anybody, least of all yourself. God is a miracle-worker who changes
grasshoppers into giants. So jump! Jump into stillness, jump into confidence and
into action. Do it for your sake and the sake of the kingdom.
LET US PRAY: Lord, take our fears and weaknesses and
reluctance away that we may jump to risky faith and valiant service. In Jesus'
Today’s sermon is by Gary Hindman, who
has been the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Upland, California, for
19-years. When you are near Upland, make sure you visit his church.
Today's audio is by Ron Beckham.