Telephone (Matthew 16:5-12)

“Sally! How are you?”

“I’m good! Listen, sorry to call you on a weekend but I need to speak to you about something. You know our dermatology community is very small and tight and I have been hearing things that were quite alarming and I needed to talk to you about it.”

Sally was a dermatology colleague who occasionally used me as her dermatopathologist consultant. Most of our phone interactions dealt with mutual patients and diagnoses that I have made. I was not expecting this. “What’s going on?”

“I am hearing from some colleagues that you want to hire away my dermatopathologist. You know, I have spent a great deal of time building my practice and we have a really good group now. If you did that, it would really hurt us.”

“Wait, what?” I was flabbergasted. “Sally, that is the exact opposite of what is happening.” I explained to her that I reached out to her dermatopathologist colleague who had recently completed her dermatopathology fellowship and had been hired by Sally’s dermatology group. I reasoned that she may know of other younger dermatopathologists who may be interested in joining my practice. In addition, this dermatopathologist’s husband and father were both surgical pathologists and through their expanded network, may also know of someone who may join my practice. At no time did I attempt to solicit her dermatopathologist to join my practice. Somehow, my intentions and message were misconstrued. I was hopeful my explanation would mollify her anxiety.

“I see. Well, next time you do something like this, I wish you would contact me first and ask my permission. I really don’t appreciate what you did.”

“But Sally! There was no reason to contact you because I wasn’t attempting to hire away your dermatopathologist. As I told you, I was seeking her help in connecting me to her network. I can even forward my text messages to her documenting the entire exchange. I would never do that to you and undermine your practice! I don’t know the source of who told you this but you really need to go back and question that person because nothing could be further from the truth.”

After I got off the phone, I was left with an uneasy feeling. Even though I thought I thoroughly and honestly explained what happened, this dermatologist colleague was convinced that my motives were less than honorable. Through various unknown communications, my message was twisted and distorted into something malevolent. I have been down this road before. Even when I produced a paper trail documenting all my discussions with another party, somehow my message was misinterpreted with a similar outcome that I just experienced with my dermatologist colleague. It was the childhood game of telephone, except the stakes were much higher. 

Nearly every conflict is due to lack or miscommunication. The Bible records such an example. 

Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Matthew 16:5-12 (NLT)

There are no higher stakes than our eternal destiny and relationship with God, our Creator. The words of Jesus Christ and the Bible have been misinterpreted, twisted, and distorted. At times, it was an innocent misunderstanding, like this example with the disciples. However, at other times, Jesus’ words were taken out of context and used against Him, even as evidence in the sham trial that led to His Crucifixion. 

In life, our messages may be misinterpreted or twisted and the result may be a lost business relationship. With God, if we misinterpret or ignore His message, our salvation is at stake. When God speaks, it is always to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. Watch out! Don’t fall into the trap of superimposing your interpretations over the absolute Truth of God’s Word.


Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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