Summary: a sermon on hypocritical judging and blaming, and God's admonition to look at our own heart first
Of Specks and Logs
June 6, 2010
Have you noticed that fixing blame on someone seems to be a big part of our culture?
Is there any spectacle that illustrates our culture of blame better than the congressional hearing? It doesn’t matter what the hearing is about. What we see is a bunch of pontificating, self-justifying, pretentious congresspersons or senators making sure someone else gets blamed for whatever the hearing is about.
We live in a culture of blame, and this is seen in so many ways. We need look no further than the daily headlines. It doesn’t matter what happens. Someone, not just someone, but someone else, has to be at fault.
President Obama must be to blame for the oil spill, and how it’s been handled. President Bush must have been to blame for Hurricane Katrina, and how that disaster was handled. It goes both ways, doesn’t it?
As if our current president wants to see the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico destroyed. As if our previous president wanted to see New Orleans destroyed.
We see this culture of blame in other ways, especially in our propensity to sue for anything and everything.
A woman who attended 'Halloween Horror Nights' at Universal Studios sued for $15,000 in damages for extreme fear, emotional distress and mental anguish. A California nudist sued an event organizer when he burned his feet while doing a fire walk, after being told the activity may be dangerous.
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. 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. 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.
What do all these things have in common? They illustrate our culture of blame. But our tendency to blame others is only one aspect of our sin nature, and part of a larger human tendency that even we believers must battle.
It’s the idea of being overly concerned about somebody else, the other guy. We see this in the areas of things such as:
1. blame for problems or circumstances (as we’ve seen in these illustrations)
2. forgiveness and judgment
3. Recognition, or lack of it
4. justifying ourselves
If we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that much of our attention, our thought-life, is concerned with somebody else, 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 as old as human history. James 1:14 addresses this idea.
James 1:14 (NIV) but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
This passage tells us we can’t blame others for our sin, our faults, our mistakes.
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. This illustrates a real difficulty we face, which scripture addresses in several contexts, including this passage from Matthew 7, beginning with verse 1:
Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV) "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.