This cartoon is both funny and disturbing at the the same time. It’s funny in the same way that it was funny when Jesus gave the original teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “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? 4 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? 5 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.”
It’s absurd to think that someone would ignore a plank in their own eye and focus on the speck of sawdust in someone else’s… as much as anything else, how would you see the speck if you have a plank in yours? And how could you ignore a plank in your eye?
But the problem is that he hit the nail on the head. We do. We focus on the faults that others have and ignore our own. We are very keen to point the finger at others while forgetting that three other fingers are pointing at us (try it).
It disturbs me that nearly 2000 years after Jesus gave that teaching we still have not taken it to heart. And by ‘we’ I mean Christians. And by ‘we’ I include myself.
How can it be possible that churches that follow the teaching of the Source of Grace and which is full of people who have received forgiveness that was achieved at the ultimate cost (see Easter for details) can be also people who judge others, who are willing to exclude people on that basis, and who are quicker to condemn than we are to forgive?
Let me update one of Jesus’ parables to illustrate (Matthew 18:21ff if you want to read it in the original form).
Simon was in a state of panic that left him in a cold sweat. He was a broker and that morning had bought some stock in the expectation that it would rise in value but instead it had plummeted. In order to try to cover his losses he used his firm’s money to make riskier and riskier (and shadier) investments which had higher and higher possible yields but which had instead lost more and more money. And now, at the end of the day, he had made losses that amounted to millions of pounds.
His activity had alerted his boss, who summoned him to his office. His boss had a print out of the day’s activities and Simon’s were highlighted in red. There was no denying what he had done. His boss spoke calmly (which scared Simon even more) as he set out the situation: Simon’s activities had tarnished the firm’s reputation, would cost them a fortune, and could land him in trouble with the law. Simon had no way of repaying the money and his boss told him that he was going to fire him, he would make sure that Simon never worked again in the stockbroking business and that the firm would be suing him to recover anything they could from him to cover their losses, considering the massive bonuses he had had in the past.
Simon realised that not only would he lose his job, but he would lose his house and perhaps even his family. He pleaded with his boss to allow him to give him another chance and allow him to try to work (legally and sensibly) under supervision to recover the losses.
His boss saw how sorry Simon was and decided to give him that second chance. Simon breathed a huge sigh of relief. With tears in his eyes he left his boss’s office, determined to do better.
As he wandered back to his office he saw one of his colleagues, Julie, who asked him if he was going to join the rest of them for a drink. Simon remembered that Julie owed him £25 he had lent her for the cab fare home last week, and she had not made any attempt to repay it.
How could Julie forget that she owed Simon £25? He had lent it out of the kindness of his heart so she didn’t have to walk home alone but she had forgotten all about it. Simon decided to tell Julie how it was in front of the whole office – he wanted everyone to know what had happened.
“Listen, everyone,” Simon said loudly so everyone could hear. “Last week I lent Julie £25 for a cab fare home and she hasn’t repaid me yet.”
Everyone was listening now, looking forward to the public humiliation that was to follow.
“But just now our boss gave me a second chance after I had blown a fortune today. So how can I worry about £25? Julie, consider it a gift – I am glad you got home safely.”
When Jesus told the story the major debtor did not forgive the minor one. The injustice of the situation was obvious because the lack of mercy of the major debtor clashed with the boss’s mercy. I have changed the ending because I fear that nowadays the clash is between Simon’s mercy and our expectation that he would not be merciful because we know Jesus’ story and because we like …
My concern is that the way we Christians behave sometimes suggests that we have we taken the unmerciful servant’s actions in Jesus’ version as an example to follow rather than a lesson to learn. Surely we should be ‘grace-rich’ environments?
Be blessed, be a blessing