A Considerable Log

I’ve heard it said that the Bible is the most perfect mirror. When we look into it, see ourselves in it, it shows us exactly as we are. It shows our good qualities and areas that we are excellent in and execute beautifully. It also shows our faults and blemishes, our sins and what we need to work on. It shows us exactly how we are.

The truth of how we are can be difficult to deal with, especially if one isn’t a very self-aware person. So when we find something that makes us feel justified and we think might exist to do so, we use it as a defense. It’s understandable.

But using “judge not” in such a way doesn’t stand because the full context of the scripture doesn’t support it.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NLT)

True, in my experiences, down to the last letter. And scripture worthy of quoting. But let’s keep reading.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” (Matthew 7:3-6, NLT)

Jesus isn’t providing a defense for our sins here. He is calling us to each get right and then help others instead of judging them for being in the same state we’ve all been in before.

Sin is sin. Little sin, big sin, one sin, living in sin – it doesn’t matter; the key word is “sin.” All that matters is if there is any sin, and regardless of how few or how many sins we find ourselves committing, regardless of how subtle or glaringly obvious our dark spots are, if we have sin, we hurt God. Sin is a great equalizer in that whenever we do it, and all of us do it, our playing field as far as God’s concerned is absolutely even.

If I have sin in my life, it is unfair and unloving for me to make a big deal out of any sin you have in your life. Jesus calls me to rid myself of my sin and then lovingly help you get rid of yours.

To be clear, there’s a difference between judging someone and giving him or her godly advice or assistance. Judgment entails feelings of inferiority, loneliness, and bitterness. Godly advice and a true desire to help comes with feelings of love and hope. If our hearts are where they should be, the person we’re helping shouldn’t feel judged.

This scripture, like most others, is one that’s not to point at others, but rather one to point back at ourselves.

And that whole bit about holy and unholy, pearls and pigs? It’s harder to decipher, but here’s what I glean from it: don’t waste your effort and wisdom on someone who simply doesn’t want it. I’ve been on both ends of this, both thrower of pearls and trampling pig, and no one wins. People get upset. Ideals are presented and lovely words and nice sentiments fall on barred ear drums. Intentions and relationships stand the potential to be questioned, and friends can even fall away from each other. It’s best to reserve spiritual assistance until it is seemingly sought and to love and respect the person even if he or she doesn’t want your insight or help.

Judgement is a very circular thing. If we give it, we are sure to get it. It is not a sign of love. It is not our job or our place. We’ve all been there, and were it not for the unbounded grace of God, we would still be there. Removing my log doesn’t give the right to condemn my fellow man for the speck in his or her eye; it simply gives me the perspective to really help them sort it all out. This scripture doesn’t exist to justify my log or my speck. It exists as a call to love, to always love

By Carrie Prevette

Angry Enough to Die

Jonah was mad.

Not at being swallowed by a fish. He wasn’t peeved at being wrapped in seaweed. He makes no marked mention of being surrounded by smaller fish, decaying in the belly of the much larger fish. He isn’t notably upset about the smell or the feel of stomach acid that was miraculously touching him but not consuming him. When Jonah left the fish, he wasn’t angry about being stranded in a fish; he was simply happy to be alive.

Nor was Jonah seemingly mad about having to go to Nineveh. As we discussed briefly last week, Jonah’s trip to the belly of the fish didn’t change his attitude about going to Nineveh. Make no mistake, Jonah wasn’t happy about going to Nineveh. The same threats and problems that existed the first time God told Jonah to go to Nineveh still existed when God told him the second time. The people of Nineveh were the same when Jonah got there as they were before. But Jonah wasn’t mad about going to Nineveh as far as we know.

Jonah was mad at God’s compassion.

God spared not just one or two people, but a whole city of people. He showed them mercy. They were to survive, to see sunsets, to watch their children grow up, to look back – look around – and see God’s grace every day after that, and that really made Jonah mad.

Are you ready to pick up stones and throw them at Jonah? I was.

I’m a pretty loving and accepting person. If someone lives his or her life differently than I live mine, that’s all on him or her. It’s his or her right and none of my business. The way I see it, and from what my Bible tells me, it is merely my place to love them. Because of this, the only people I really judge are judgmental people. So, yes, I was more than ready to hold this against Jonah.

“So [Jonah] complained to the Lord about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.’” (Jonah 4:2-3. NLT)

This is the same man who survived being inside a fish for three days. He’s the same man who prayed and sought God with what he thought to be his dying breath. And God saved Jonah. But now we see Jonah telling God to kill him if He plans to extend that same grace to the Ninevites. Jonah’s opinion of the Ninevites was low. So low, in fact, that Jonah thought them undeserving of God’s love.

But a murderer is just as undeserving of God’s love as a prophet who turns away from God. A person who tortures others is every bit as unworthy of God’s love as a man who would rather die than not see God’s wrath poured out on someone else. Was Jonah more worthy of God’s love and forgiveness that Nineveh? No, but Jonah thought so.

God’s reply to Jonah is what made me drop the proverbial stones I had gathered and was poised to throw at him. “The Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about this?’” (Jonah 4:4, NLT)

Jonah goes to the eastern part of the city and makes a shelter to sit under while waiting to see what God would do. God makes a large, leafy plant grow that shields and shades Jonah, and Jonah is happy and thankful for it. God has a worm come overnight and eat the plant to the point that it withers. The next day, with no plant to cover him, Jonah endures harsh wind and sun, and he wishes again to die.

“Then God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?’
‘Yes,’ Jonah retorted, ‘even angry enough to die!’
Then the Lord said, ‘You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?’” (Jonah 4:9-11, NLT)

The plant that grew wasn’t planted by Jonah or tended to by Jonah. It was a gift of grace from God. Being a plant, it came and went quickly. So if God is giving from His immeasurable heart, and if He’s the one who’s working on or toward something, shouldn’t people who are capable of eternity be of a much greater concern?

Jonah was trying to tell God how to be God. And no one is better at being God than God is. That’s why love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy are extended to everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are because God loves and cares for everyone equally. What we define ourselves and others by means nothing to God. God only sees people in need of Him, people to love – prophets and Ninevites alike.

By Carrie Prevette

James: Jealousy and Judgment

When I graduated from college, I was unemployed with no certainty of employment. I had no golden ticket, and I found some solace in the fact that very few people did have one. So I spent two months looking for a job. One day, I logged in to Facebook and saw that one of my best friends had found a job after much searching as well.

I adore this girl. We’ve been through everything from college to losing loved ones together. No one understands me or encourages me or loves me quite the way she does. She’s one of my favorite human beings.

And when I saw her employment status, I was somewhat mad and jealous.

Fast forward about a month or a month and a half. The two of us met up with a third amigo for lunch. The reasons for this lunch were that we missed each other and that we were celebrating my newfound job. They asked me about the job, and I told them. They asked me how much I got paid (which honestly isn’t a remarkable amount), and I told them. My aforementioned friend glared at me from across the table. Her salary at the time was lower than mine. She told me, “I kind of hate you right now.”

I replied, “That’s okay. I kind of hated you when you found a job first.”

What’s wrong with this scenario? Two people who love each other very much admitting to hating each other, however little and however temporarily. Shouldn’t they be happy for each other?

In truth, of all the emotions we were feeling at the time in regards to the other, happiness was the primary one. We love to see the other succeed. Our bad feelings came from places that really had nothing to do with each other. I felt inadequate and afraid. She felt underappreciated and underpaid (and rightfully so).

Here’s what James says about jealousy. “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3, NRSV).

We often want what others have because we see that it makes them happy, and we think it’ll be what makes us happy. We try to take their blessing from them, but we’ll settle for taking their happiness at least.

All of this because we want someone else’s blessing instead of considering our own. What makes someone else happy might make me miserable. God made me different from that person, so He has different gifts for me. We want what’ll make us feel good, but we forget that what God wants for each of us is often tailored specifically to each of us.

James goes on to say in the next verse of that same chapter, “Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (NRSV).

James isn’t talking about fraternizing with unbelievers or befriending those in lives of sin who don’t seek repentance. The friendship I believe he’s talking about is one that is bonded over shared qualities. We’re called as Christians to love everyone and to go out into the world, but we’re also told that we’re peculiar, different, set apart. So the enemy of God is one who conforms to the world and doesn’t reform to the ways of God.

What, then, are qualities and ways of the world? Hate. Jealousy. Bitterness. Judgement. Things that tear people apart instead of uniting them, that hurt instead of heal, that breed loneliness instead of lovingness.

And so James says in verses 11 and 12 (NRSV), “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?”

As someone who’s been both a judge and the one being judged, I love this scripture. It’s blunt, yes, but it’s also a little defensive, and it’s a similar defensiveness towards those being judged that Jesus had in the scriptures.

We all sin. That’s a fact. My inclinations may be different than yours. Your brand of sin may differ from the next person’s, but in God’s eyes, it’s all sin. It hurts Him equally even if it doesn’t destroy us equally.

Judgment of others is a quality of the world. A contest to see who’s better than who simply to make someone have a fleeting sense of superiority. All it does is hurt and divide.

No one is better than anyone else. The scent of sin rests on all of us. I’m every bit as unworthy of God’s mercy as you are, and you’re every bit as loved by God as I am.

James warns us of jealousy, judgment, and other habits of the world. They do us no favors, and they separate us from God. To improve our quality of life, we must turn entirely to God and leave our harmful ways behind. Just think of what God would give us and what He would take from us.

By Carrie Prevette

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