Jesus says: Stop finger pointing

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." ~ (Matthew 7:1-5, NASB)
I have to admit, I'm really good at finger pointing.

If you need somebody who can point out the faults of others and dissect them with more precision than a brain surgeon, I'm your guy.  If it were possible to nitpick somebody else to death, the police would've probably issued a warrant for my arrest a long time ago.

As a Christian, I am not particularly proud of this ability.  It is not exactly a skill set that Jesus applauds.  Be that as it may, there is something in my heart of hearts that revels in the nonsense that I have often engaged in.  It makes me feel smarter and morally superior to somebody else.  It fills my tank up with enough self-righteousness to fuel a trip to the moon.

The older I've become the more I've learned I'm not alone in delighting myself in this behavior.  Much of my fellow man enjoys finger pointing too.  A person casually browsing through Facebook on about any day of the week will find more than enough evidence to prove my thesis quite nicely, especially on nights where a hot mess is erupting on the evening news, or during an election season.

Be careful with finger pointing.

When you point the finger at somebody else, you've got three pointing back at you. What you slam somebody else about says a lot more about you than them. Be careful, in judging somebody else you might find yourself to be looking in a mirror.  Just like all the times when you judge somebody else for judging somebody else, yet you remain blind to the fact of what you are doing.

There is a lot of hypocrisy in judging others.  It's attempting to take the speck of dust out of somebody else's eye while you have a 4x4 lodged in your own.  You are blind to your own problems as you obsess over the problems of another.

And if you've noticed, for all the judging we do, we've yet to learn that there isn't a whole lot of good that comes from "calling people out" and "telling it like it is."  Such activity might make for good talk radio and keep folks like Rush Limbaugh employed for decades after decades.  But when it comes to actually solving problems and helping other people, it usually doesn't, and often creates more problems than it solves.

However, in saying all of this, Jesus isn't entirely tossing aside the idea of pointing out the faults of others and making judgments.  He regularly pointed out the faults of others, and so did His closest of disciples.  Jesus isn't saying "don't judge" altogether, as some who are looking to escape their own guilt regularly claim He taught such an idea.  He didn't.

Jesus is actually ok with you judging others.

The thrust of Jesus teaching here in the Sermon on that Mount isn't to refrain from judging altogether, so much as it is an exhortation to look inward at yourself first and foremost, and to not shoot off your mouth every chance you get (as people were not likely looking for your opinion anyway).  It's an exhortation to be quiet on a lot of issues and problems that you see with others and in society as a whole.  It's an exhortation to second guess what you are seeing, and to second guess what you have to say.  It's an exhortation to look inward before you look outward, and to give others the benefit of the doubt, just as you would want others to do in regard to you.

We might correctly summarize this passage in saying that Jesus is simply telling us that before you start gun-slinging at others that "You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself."  

Only in dealing with yourself first will you ever become of the right temperament and gain the skills and vision necessary to go about removing the spec in the eyes of others.  In engaging in a little introspection, you will realize how difficult it was to remove the plank in your own eye before you attempt to remove the speck in somebody else's, and therefore, you will deal more carefully with the eye of another.

And in dealing with yourself first, you will realize how big your problems are compared to how small the problems of others are.  Yet experience would show that we often think of our own problems as trivial and the problems of others as larger than life.

I try to remind myself of this anytime I get into a deep conversation with somebody on an issue in which I am trying to persuade them.  It helps me to be more gentle, patient, and kind. I realize that I did not always believe the things that I believe, or act the way I act, and I have often changed my opinions and behaviors over the years... not to mention the fact that I have often failed to practice what I preach.  Therefore, I will always preach to myself before I dare preach to others.

Therefore, when looking to actually help somebody (instead of merely just judging them), I should speak to them in the same manner that I spoke to myself in my own internal dialogue and struggles over issues that I have wrestled with.  And knowing how I dealt with myself, I will show much more compassion in attempting to deal with others, knowing my own frailty, shortcomings, and tendency to error.

And together, we might become men who see instead of men whose eyes hurt.


Jesus says: You love to worry

If Jesus ever had anything to say to us in America today, I think He would talk to us about worry.  Worry is something we excel at as Americans. 

We worry about our children.  We worry about our finances.  We worry about which political parties will get elected into office.  We worry about our constitutional rights being trampled on.  We worry about global warming.  We worry about radical Isalmic terrorism (and actively contemplate shooting a bunch of them dead). 

We worry so much and so often, I believe Jesus would tell us that we are a people who love to worry.  Otherwise, why would we worry as much as we do unless we love to do it so much? 

Worrying may feel like something of an involuntary action.  We feel like we can't help but worry.  It's just something mothers can't help but do, right? 

But Jesus is of another opinion on the matter. 

Worry is a choice.  Worry is something you voluntarily choose to do.  Worry gives us the illusion of control.  Worry invites us to play out little war games in our head as an attempt to solve our problems and to take control over our destinies.

Jesus says such is a losing battle.  Instead of attempting to war game our way through life, Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  ~ (Matthew 6:34; NASB)
Jesus commands us not to worry.  "Not worrying" is something we can and must actively do in our life and mind.  And by not worrying, we open up the opportunity in our lives to actively watch God work in our daily life, as we trust Him to put food in our stomach, pay our bills, and put clothes on our back. 

Jesus says that when we worry, our imagination is fundamentally no different than that of the pagan idolator, who deifies inanimate objects and sees imaginary forces as the root cause of all his ills.  And like the idolator, we think if we can but appease all these things and forces, with a little luck, we might just see things work out in our favor.  As a result, we start putting our trust in things other than the Lord to rescue us from all of our problems. 

Now, in saying all of this, I'm not dismissing the reality of the problems we face on a day-to-day basis.  Yes, absolutely, there are problems that we face that are very much real.  Jesus never dismisses the harsh reality of the world we live in.  We are in need of food, drink, clothing, shelter, and protection. 

But instead of war gaming our way through life and attempting to mitigate all of our risks, Jesus encourages us to stop fighting losing battles in our minds, and to transform all of our worries into thoughts and prayers that we take to God.

At the end of the day, when you really think about it, worry is all about worship. 

We will either deify the objects and forces in our imaginations, and go the way of the idolator, or we will find ourselves taking everything in our lives to our Heavenly Father, who knows what we need, and promises to meet us in the midst of our need.

It is no wonder that Jesus ended His teaching on worry in the Sermon on the Mount with an exhortation to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)  

For it is only in seeking first the kingdom of God and turning away from the idolatry of worry that we will overcome the fears and doubts about the future that plagues our minds.  Worship allows us to encounter the Great I Am in the trouble of every moment as we live out our lives in this world.

For only by turning to God will we avoid the trap of worrying like an idolator, and trying to solve our problems and the problems of this world exactly like an idolator would.  And instead of implementing paganized solutions in our world and the world around us, maybe our imaginations would dream up solutions that are in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and the reality of the kingdom of God. 

And in a world currently plagued by the worries associated with things like Islamic terrorism, I can't help but feel the church could dream up better solutions than doing things like bombing Muslims to hell and arming students at places like Liberty University with guns.  Such solutions seem birthed out of worry instead of solutions birthed out of actively trusting God to intervene in our daily affairs.