Summary: Our culture of blame influences how we look at others, but the Lord says examine your own heart first.
My “Other” Life
February 7, 1999
A lawyer in San Diego filed a lawsuit against the city because, during a rock concert at a city facility, he was "forced" (that’s the word the news item used) to use the women’s restroom. GET THIS: he also sued the company that SOLD HIM THE BEER!
•Outraged by a referee’s call, several Washington Redskins fans filed a lawsuit in federal court demanding it be overturned.
- The University of Michigan was sued for $853,000 by a disgruntled student who received an F in German.
•A convict who escaped from prison sued his county and the sheriff for negligence in allowing him to escape. Another convict sued his county and sheriff for the emotional stress he suffered while trying to escape.
•A 9-year-old girl sued the makers of Cracker Jacks because her box contained no prize.
•The National Parks Service was sued for $2.5 million when visitors to a federal park were struck by lightning.
- a surfer filed a lawsuit because another surfer stole his wave
- a Los Angeles lawyer sued a colleague for causing him “mental anguish” because the colleague joked about the death of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia - you have to like lawyers suing lawyers
• A man sued the St. Paul Saints baseball team for $50,000 after allegedly getting hurt while participating in a grocery chain’s “Shop ‘Til You Drop” contest during a baseball game. The man said the baseball club never warned him that the contest required physical exertion.
• The city of Brooklyn Park, MN was sued by a man who was asked to cut down a diseased tree on his property. The man put a ladder on top of his van and began cutting the tree. He sued the city when he fell and hurt his head. The city spent $4,000 defending itself.
-A drunk woman’s estate received $1 million after she entered a closed city park and drowned in three feet of water. The state appellate court reversed the decision.
TV’s "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher points out, "If you blame an accident caused by your own stupidity on corporate negligence -- because no one told you not to be an idiot -- you’re contributing to the breakdown of our system."
What do all these things have in common?
They reflect our culture of blame, but our culture of blame is only one aspect of a larger human tendency that even we believers must battle. It’s the idea of being concerned about “the other guy” - in the areas of things such as:
1. blame for problems or circumstances
2. forgiveness and judgment
3. recognition or lack of it
4. justifying ourselves
5. jealousy, even the good things that happen to someone else
That’s why this message is called My “Other” Life - not because I have a secret job as a double-naught spy that none of you know about, but because much of our attention, our thought-life, is concerned about the “other” person, to the extent that we ignore or miss what God wants to do in us as individuals.
You may remember the riots in April 1992 after the first Rodney King trial verdict was handed down. The media blamed it on racism; they blamed it on poverty. Responding to those riots, former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said that, instead, "the blame for riots and killings rests with the rioters and killers. To suggest otherwise undermines the efforts of decent, law-abiding parents and their children, the majority of whom did not participate in riots. We most need to affirm belief in individual responsibility..."
While this is clearly a problem in our culture today, it’s a problem in humanity as old as history. In James 1:14 it says that sin cannot be blamed on external factors; it is always the result of a person being led astray by his or her own desires – “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away
What we will look at in-depth in just a moment is the last verse of this short passage, verse 5, which says, “You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye....”
This verse shows God’s response to much of this “other” guy problem of blame, recognition, forgiveness, jealousy, justifying ourselves, etc.
God’s response is to look at yourself first, examine your own heart first. However, before we get into that, I want to take a short detour.
Must detour to be clear here, because this is a passage that is probably among the most abused in all of the Bible, and we could point to many examples in current events. Especially verse 1: judge not, lest you be judged.