A doctor who is unable or unwilling to discover the causes of certain symptoms is at a disadvantage in attempting to supply the proper remedy. He can prescribe certain medicines that will do no harm and may do some good, but at best such is a questionable procedure.
The teacher who has a dull pupil will do well to discover the causes that make him dull. It may be defective eyesight or hearing; it may be some glandular difficulty ; it may be the teacher's fault in presenting the subject. Failure to discover the cause of the pupil's dullness may cause lifelong harm to the child.
The preacher who finds his audience going to sleep will also do well to discover the cause of it. It may be bad acoustics; it may be poor ventilation; or it may be stale and uninteresting preaching. Failure to discover the causes will harm both preacher and people.
A local church or a denomination may find the mortality among its young people out of all proportions. It is of little use to apply remedies until the causes are discovered. The cause may be in the home or it may be found in the church. It may be the fault of the young people; it is as likely to be the fault of the older ones. In any case, it is the duty of responsible officers to discover the cause or causes.
There may be unusually large defection from the church. This may be the fault of the evangelist who brought the message. It may be the fault of the older church members in not setting the right example. It may be negligence of the church in caring for those who have been won to the truth, but who need much further instruction before they are thoroughly indoctrinated. It may be the lack of nourishing, spiritual food at the Sabbath service. In any event, failure to discover causes will do much harm. If we know that unwholesome ,conditions exist, have we the courage to discover the causes?
It is not only failure to discover causes that brings disaster. The case is still worse when there is refusal to discover causes. It takes courage, at times, to set about to find what is wrong, especially when there is danger that we may discover that we need to make changes.
In a certain school the teachers decided to discover what the students thought about them. This was probably unwise, and is not to be recommended unless teachers are willing to hear some unpalatable truths about themselves. It was so arranged that the students could freely write their opinions, and at the same time they were assured that there would be no way by which any statement could be traced to the writer. Making due allowance for a certain number of students who would use such an occasion for venting personal spite, the teachers found these valuations most illuminating.
Such evaluation may be very helpful. It is remarkable how accurately students size up a teacher. Let no teacher believe that he is deceiving the students. They know whether he knows his lesson or not. They know whether he is "stalling" or attempting to impress them with his superiority. Let no preacher think that the audience is not fully aware of whether they are being fed or not ; whether the preacher is honest and in earnest, or whether he is "putting on." Let no executive think that his secretary is not fully conscious of any attempt on his part to put something in a letter that will not stand the full light of day. It would be illuminating to find out what others think of us.
Failure or refusal to discover causes is responsible for most of our ills. We need to put the ax to the root to discover causes that hinder and destroy. While it may not be true that all our ills are caused by our failure or refusal to discover causes, many are. Bad fruit may be removed from a tree, but that does not alter the nature of the tree. "Make the tree good," Christ says. When that is done the fruit will take care of itself. The time has come, individually and denominationally, to lay bare the causes of decay. Failure or refusal may bring disaster.