I am fascinated with words. I like to study root words, origins, and when they were first used. Words are important because they can bring together or divide, inspire or sadden, begin wars and end wars. The first recorded act of God was using words (Let there be light). Jesus is called Logos, which in Greek means... you guessed it – word.
Luckily for me, I occasionally read books that require a dictionary. In the book, Think Like a Freak, the authors, Levitt & Dubner, used this word, “ultracrepidarianism.” It describes someone who offers opinions and advice on matters outside of his or her knowledge. My dictionary used one form of the word in this sentence, “The play provides a classic portrayal of an ultracrepidarian mother-in-law.” The word, with traditional Greek and Latin roots, is broken down in this way: Ultra (beyond) and Crepidam (sole of a sandal). It comes from a Latin phrase from Pliny the Elder, “ne supra crepidam sutor judicare” which means, “let the cobbler not judge above the sandal.”
Maybe you’ve met an ultracrepidarianist or perhaps have fallen into the lure of ultracrepidarianism. How easy it is to “judge above the sandal.” I was thinking of this after I freely gave advice to a friend on what the Chargers should have done to avoid losing so badly last Sunday. Clearly I was dispensing advice on a matter outside of my knowledge.
Imagine how frustrating it was for Jesus when dealing with ultracrepidarianists. Jesus, the WORD, knows Scripture, knows God, knows the foundations of the world and can even read minds. Nevertheless, leaders of the day would routinely challenge his knowledge. Yet, the nature of Jesus is to be kind. When dealing with challenges, like, “Is it lawful to pay taxes,” or “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection,” Jesus responds with truth and compassion.
Unlike Jesus, I get mad at people who condemn others. For instance, some Christians insist they know who is going to heaven and especially who is not. That is an ultra-ultracrepidarian statement. At the risk of slipping into ultracrepidarianism, I think that is clearly judging above the sandal and certainly giving advice outside of one’s own knowledge. The Scriptures, after all, clearly announce that no one knows when Jesus will return and likewise no one can judge who not be in Heaven.
I hope that all followers of Christ know his love and trust in his grace. That is certainly knowledge that we can give freely to all without any fear of judging beyond the sandals because we received that Good News from the best authority ever known.