Spiritual Crabology

November 15th, 2011 · by Tom Stuart · Overcoming, Relationships

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice.” Romans 12:10 & 15 (NIV)

I was introduced to this concept years ago by a Mississippi pastor.  Being familiar with the fishing industry in the Gulf he described how those catching crabs did not need to put a lid on the container in which the crabs were kept.  Naturally one would think that any crab that wanted to, could simply crawl up over the edge and escape.  But the curious nature of the crab is that instinctively those in the group reach up and pull down the ones climbing out, back into the bucket.  They will not allow one another to break free which sadly seals their collective fate.  He referred to that mentality as crabology.

Crabology of course extends to human behavior.  It says in effect that “if I can’t be free, neither can you.”  It is the tendency to want to downplay, discourage and even disallow someone else from a breakthrough or succeeding at something that we have not experienced.  It may be motivated by envy or jealousy, a competitive attitude or simply ignorance as to what is really happening.

Needless to say crabology also has spiritual applications and implications.  Paul the apostle addresses this very thing in his letter to the Romans when he said “rejoice with those who rejoice.”  This injunction is set in the context of seven verses in which Paul is giving specific instructions to Christian believers as to how to get along with one another. (Romans 12:9-16)  All of it is great advice and very much needed, as evidenced by how frequently it has not been heeded. 

Church history to the very present has been infiltrated with the crabology mentality and it has been the source of much suspicion and division in the body of Christ.  Throughout the centuries God has sent reformers to lead the church out of the bucket of spiritual malaise.  Sadly the crabs within the church have often provided the major opposition.  They have sought not only to resist the move of God, but have even fallen to the depths of martyring the very reformers sent to proclaim that new found freedom.  A devotion to brotherly love has not prevailed.

It has been said that the group who most resist a fresh move of God are those who experienced the last one.  The analogy has been used of adding successive stories to a skyscraper. The last floor added is the one that most vehemently protests adding another. 

This was true in Jesus’ day as well.  The disciples of both John the Baptist and the Pharisees had real difficulty with the disciples of Jesus not fasting and praying like them.  To them it seemed like Jesus’ disciples were crawling out of the bucket of the law and they wanted to pull them back in. (Luke5:33-35, Matthew9:14-15 & Mark2:18-20)  The disciples of Jesus however were not just victims of crabology, they themselves also fell prey to a crabology mentality.  When they saw someone casting out demons in Jesus name who was not part of their discipleship group, they tried to prevent him from doing it.  But Jesus had to rebuke them for this “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

I have personally witnessed spiritual crabology over the past forty years not only in the church, but also in my own heart.  Having been swept into the kingdom of God through the Jesus Movement and the Charismatic Renewal of the early 1970s I had a baseline experience that clearly defined for me what I thought Christianity should be like.  But then as the years passed God began to jar my sensibilities with successive moves of the Holy Spirit that were not within my realm of familiarity.  Like a crab, I found myself suspicious and resistant to other believers who were seeking to move up and out of my theological bucket.

Some of the spiritual experiences that I was seeing people have were a bit too far out for me.  I was not rejoicing with those who were rejoicing.  To the contrary I found myself harboring a complaining and judgmental spirit toward those who were moving beyond my comfort zone – an early warning sign by the way of crabology.  We used to joke that the definition of a fanatic was “anyone who loved Jesus more than me.”  Now the joke was on me.  My pride in being a fanatic for Jesus was being eclipsed by some really weird people who were giving the term a bad rap. 

At one point I found myself engaged in an argument with another believer about our divergent spiritual experiences.  Shortly after that I heard a message that gave me a fresh perspective and caused me to resolve to never get into another heated discussion like that again.  The preacher warned about such fleshly debates “Be careful, you will both lose what you have arguing about what you don’t have.”

When a crabology attitude begins to creep in, it is often accompanied by an inability to genuinely rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  To the contrary, rather than rejoicing with them we are offended by their rejoicing.  It has been said that God often offends the mind to reveal the heart.  When offenses in our thinking surface we need to let that be our invitation to go to God and ask Him to reveal what is really in our heart. 

Do you have a spiritual crabology story?

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