Summary: A call for the Church universal (individuals and institutions)to be united together "on the Lord’s side"
There once were a baker and a farmer who entered into a business agreement. The baker would purchase the farmer’s butter while the farmer purchased the baker’s bread. The agreement seemed like a match made in heaven. Day in and day out butter and bread would exchange hands. But all was not as it seemed. The baker began to suspect that the farmer was not being honest in his measurement of the butter. He believed that the farmer was short weighing the baker’s portion. So for an entire week the baker carefully weighed the butter, and sure enough, his suspicions were confirmed – each day the butter was exactly the same weight… and each day the butter was exactly 14 ounces - 2 ounces short of a pound. Two ounces didn’t sound like much, but over time the baker had been shorted pounds of butter! Irate, that he was being swindled by the farmer, the baker took his proof to the judge and had the farmer arrested.
A hearing was scheduled without delay. The judge reviewed the evidence presented by the baker, and turning to the farmer he said, “I assume you use the standard weights when measuring out your goods?”
To which the farmer replied, “Well, sir, as a matter of fact, I don’t.”
Intrigued the judge said, “Well then, exactly how do you do your measuring?”
“You see, your Honor,” said the farmer, “the baker and I had an agreement. I would buy a pound of bread from him and he would in return buy a pound of butter from me. So, having no reason not to trust him, I would place his pound of bread on the scale and measure the butter accordingly.”
The judge had quite a conundrum, didn’t he? The baker was cheating the farmer all along, but when the farmer gave the baker an equal portion to what he received, the baker was upset. So, who was really in the wrong? Well, they both were! The baker and the farmer both short weighed their goods and we all know that two wrongs don’t make a right! Moreover, the baker knowingly cheated the farmer and tried to keep it a secret until the farmer began to do the same thing in return. Then he got angry. It’s a classic case of do what I say, not what I do! A classic case of actions not mirroring the words spoken. Classic example of the way many Christians live their lives.
Classic case of hypocrisy and the notion that I can ignore my sins, but I’m going to point out your transgressions! Hypocrisy within the faith is an age-old problem. We faithful people are really good at wanting to be the gatekeepers of heaven. We love scrutinizing the lives of others, weighing their actions against their words, placing stumbling blocks in the path of righteousness all in the name of keeping the faith “pure.” Yet, when the tables are turned and someone looks at us, criticizing our living, calling out our inconsistencies, questioning our actions, suddenly they are being judgmental and withholding God’s grace.
John came running up to Jesus, “Teacher! Teacher!”” he tattled, “We just saw a man driving out demons in your name. But he wasn’t one of “us” so we told him to stop! Didn’t we do a great job? Aren’t you proud of us for keeping the faith pure? Come on, Jesus, pat us on the back and tell us how well we have done!”
Imagine John’s surprise when he did not receive praise for his actions. Imagine his surprise when instead Jesus turned to him and said, “What… have… you…done? Who told you to stop people who were ministering in my name simply because they were not part of our inner circle? Don’t you ever stop ANYONE from performing a miracle in my name! And further more… if YOUR actions cause anyone to sin, it would be better to be drowned than to face your judgment!”
Whoa! Stop! Where is happy, loving, gracious, joyful Jesus? Where is our Savior who preaches peace and forgiveness? Where has he gone and who is this person who is now preaching about damnation for those who cause others to sin? This is one of those times in scripture when I’d like to skip over what Jesus is saying to us. For this passage is not fuzzy lambs and eternal hugs. This passage is a call to examine our lives and to weigh our righteous living not against others, but against the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The truth is, we can always find someone in the world that is worse than we are – at least in our eyes! There will always be someone who commits a more grievous sin than you do. It’s especially easy in this day and age of instant information to look at those people and come running to Jesus saying, “Jesus we told them to stop!” Genocide in Africa makes our neglect of the poor and homeless seem like nothing. Terroristic suicide bombers make our occasional racial slur a mere drop of water in the ocean. Pedophiles and sex-slave bosses are off the chart sinful compared to our occasional exploitation of people for goods and services. Not stopping to pick up a piece of garbage that I dropped on the ground can’t really compare to companies like Doe Run that spew millions of gallons of pollution into the air and water in La Oroya, Peru. Right? My sins in comparison to sins of others seem like nothing!