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“Sweeping Closer to Home!” 2 Samuel 12:1-8 Key verse(s): 5-6:“David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’”


The old fix-it shop was open. That was good because I needed a plumbing fitting that couldn’t wait. Normally I would have traveled a few miles to the chain hardware store in the next town. Prices on their items were less and they stocked more. But this was an emergency. I had plumbing that was leaking and there was no time to waste. I needed that fitting now and the fix-it shop was local and nearly always open. I walked into the dimly lit, one-room store. It was dingy and very poorly kept; but I had expected that. I had been into “Fred’s Fix-It Shop” shop many times over the the years. Usually it was to simply fill up for gas at the pumps he still maintained out front. Occasionally I had stopped by just to “shoot the breeze” and once I had even priced a chain saw there. Mostly, though, I had kept my hardware purchases limited to a battery here and there or perhaps a box of nails. This time it was different. I needed Fred to have something very specific and I knew that there was no way that I would find it on my own.


Fred kept most of his plumbing fittings in a big box he kept under counter. You never knew if you were going to find what you needed until he had finished combing through that old, grease-stained box. I waited at the counter until he had finished with a customer outside. He came in, wiping his hands with a old stained rag. “What can I do for you?” “I need a 1/2” 90º elbow. It needs to be cast, not plastic. I’ve got a pretty bad leak over the water heater. Think you’ve got what I need in that old box?” Fred grabbed the box and began sifting through it. While I waited I cast an eye around the place. Everything had a place but there didn’t seem to be any rhyme nor reason as to where that place was. There were boxes of old screws, sagging and leaking out there sides, smashed into small crevices above the chain-saw oil. Electrical parts were in bins next to lengths of plumbing pipe. And, right smack dab in the middle of the place was a very old display of bug repellents even though that season was long past.


As Fred continued to dig deeper and deeper into that box, pulling out likely pieces and then setting them aside on the counter when they weren’t quite right, I mused out loud, “You know, Fred? This place could really use some organization. Who knows what you’ve all got here? You’re probably sitting on a little gold mine and don’t realize it. What you need is a good healthy clean-out.” At that Fred stopped his rooting and looked me square in the eye. He "humphed", taking out his oil-stained rag and wiping gritty fittings’ residue from his hands. Pointing to an old sign hanging on a nail behind him, he shot back. “See that sign? That’s the motto I live by. Don’t be to quick to criticize my friend.” I squinted to read the old faded letters. I saw a picture of a broom followed by a line of copy that read, “The person who always sweeps before his neighbor’s door has never seriously examined his own doorstep.” It suddenly struck me that I had a basement room that looked like Fred’s store. And there was that tool shed that I never seemed to get straightened out. I knew where everything was, but neat? Fred was right, if I was going to sweep I needed to start closer to home.


How easy it is to bring the spotlight to bear on others faults and how difficult it is to allow even a small flashlight to shine upon our own. In some strange way we find delight in discovering dirt inside our neighbor’s lives, especially when we’ve just finished sweeping the same dirt “under the rug” in our own lives. The fact is, if we are ever going to be of any real help to our neighbor in changing his life, we really need to start with our own first. The problem is that the longer we wait to bring change into our lives, the more insensitive we become to our own faults and bad habits. The longer we live with that insensitivity, the harder it becomes to see the need to change and the easier it becomes to see the need to change in other people’s lives. That’s when the qualities we find so much satisfaction in condemning in others, become merely reflections of those things that are wrong in our own lives. Is there someone in your life who just seems to bug you? Are their bad habits a constant source of irritation and discomfort? Perhaps God is trying to tell you and I something when we find it so easy to be critical of others. Perhaps their faults are merely a reflection of those that reside in our own lives. When we are quick to condemn others, the first place we should look for the evidence of wrong is in our own lives. Perhaps it is our doorstep that needs some sweeping today--not theirs.

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