Friday, January 25, 2013

Wagging Tongues and Pointing Fingers

     No one likes a gossip, and many a good reputation has been destroyed by people spreading stories with no basis in fact.  Unfortunately, the flesh seems to relish this activity far too often.  However, when we think about gossip or finger pointing, I don't think we understand that it is really judging someone else.
     In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-5)), Jesus says:  "Judge not, that thou be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is a log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."  How quick we are to judge someone and then spread the word to all our friends!  Clearly, Jesus is making the point that we need to get our own hearts right with him before we ever lift a finger to point at another.
     Jesus illustrated this when He was called upon by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law to pronounce judgment on a woman caught in adultery.  This incident is described in John 8:3-11:  "The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and placing her in the midst they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?'  This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.'  And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heart it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?'  She said, 'No one, Lord.'  And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.'"
     Here in the passage, we have some hard core religious leaders pointing the finger and wagging their tongues at a woman caught in adultery.  They were correct that the Law under Moses called for the death penalty.  However the Israelites were under Roman rule and only the Romans could carry out a death penalty.  The Pharisees knew this and were seeking to trap Jesus as the scripture tells us.  Furthermore, there had been no trial or presentation of evidence but merely accusations.  Jesus challenged the accusers asking them to throw the first stone if they had never sinned.  They were not qualified to be this woman's judge, and as we see in the passage, one by one they walked away.  Keep in mind that Jesus was not condoning this woman's sin, but He came to bring life and forgiveness.  Instead of condemning her, He forgave her and admonished her to go and sin no more.  Our Lord is the Lord of second chances.  If He were not, none of us would stand acquitted of our sins.
     This is why we must be very careful as believers not to point our fingers and wag our tongues about the misdeeds of another.  In fact, Galatians 6:1 has some sound advice for us:  "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."  Paul gives us good wisdom here.  Anyone can be ensnared by sin.  If we get too busy pointing out someone else's faults, we might be the next one to fall.  Therefore, instead, we need to reach out in love and forgiveness to a fellow believer even as Jesus reached out to the woman caught in adultery.    We must pray for that person rather than wag our tongues.  It does not glorify God when we contribute to spreading accusations that may or may not be true.  May we live to be ambassadors of reconciliation rather than spreaders of gossip.  This will exalt the name of God in the earth!  Selah!

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