Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

It’s Best To Look In The Mirror Before Looking Out The Window!

Matthew 7:1-5

                1 “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 someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say, ‘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 the other person’s eye.

            In C.S. Lewis’s, The Chronicles Of Narnia, there is a character named Puddleglum. What a descriptive name! “Puddleglum.” You can almost tell what he is like can’t you?

            According to C.S. Lewis’s imagination, Puddleglum is a Marsh-wiggle who lives in a wigwam in the Eastern Marshes. He is known for expecting the worst possible scenario in every situation. When the children first meet Puddleglum, he is fishing for eels, and he tells them he does not expect to catch any eels, but ends up catching a dozen or so. One of the children described Puddleglum as “a wet blanket.”

            Let me introduce Puddleglum to you in his own words, from the book The Silver Chair, in the Chronicles of Narnia.

            “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it. I can always tell you again.” (SC, Ch. 5)

            “Why, it’s not in reason that you should like our sort of [food], though I’ve no doubt you’ll put a bold face on it. All the same, while I am a catching [eels], if you two could try to light the fire—no harm trying—! The wood’s behind the wigwam. It may be wet. You could light it inside the wigwam, and then we’d get all the smoke in our eyes. Or you could light it outside, and then the rain would come and put it out. Here’s my tinder-box. You wouldn’t know how to use it, I expect.” (SC, Ch. 5)

            “Those eels will take a mortal long time to cook, and either of you might faint with hunger before they’re done. I knew a little girl—but I’d better not tell you that story. It might lower your spirits, and that’s a thing I never do.” (SC, Ch. 5)

            “And you must always remember there’s one good thing about being trapped down here: It’ll save funeral expenses.” (SC, Ch. 14)

            C. S. Lewis’ inspiration for Puddleglum came from Fred Paxford (1898 – 1979), who served as a handyman, a gardener, and occasional cook for over 30 years at Lewis’ home (the Kilns) in Oxford. Paxford was described as “a simple and earthy man who might be called a cheerful, eternal pessimist.” If someone said “good morning” to Paxford, he might respond by saying “Ah, looks like rain before lunch though if it doesn’t snow or hail that is.”

            Do you know any Puddleglum’s in your life?

            You know what I’m talking about…people who are quick to criticize, find fault, and complain about everything and everyone.

            They are fun to be around, aren’t they?

            They make life such a joy, don’t they?

            Why do people do that?

            Why are they so quick to judge, find fault, and criticize?

            Are they that much more superior and perfect than everyone else?

            Why is it that some folks are known for nothing more than having a “critical spirit?”

            A “critical spirit,” is an obsessive attitude of criticism and fault-finding, which seeks to tear others down.

            A person with a critical spirit usually dwells on the negative, looks for flaws rather than good things. They’re a complainer, usually always upset, and generally have a problem or a complaint about something. They often have little control over their tongue, their temper, and have tendencies for gossip and slander.

            Have you ever wondered what causes people to have a critical spirit?

            For one thing, I think it is insecurity. Criticism is often a subconscious means to “elevate one’s own self image.” We may not think it, but when we tear other people down, it makes us feel like we are raising ourselves up.

            Another reason for a critical spirit is immaturity. People who have not grown spiritually may still act like a child. They may see other people who are growing and developing in their faith and feel threatened by it, due to their lack of growth. This jealousy causes people to focus on the flaws and shortcomings of others, instead of working to deal with their own.

            A third reason for a critical spirit is a mind that has not been renewed by the transforming power of God.

            Romans 12:2 says:

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

            Put-downs, making-fun-of, criticism, sarcasm are the world’s ways of reacting to the faults of people. However, as Christians we don’t behave this way. Our thinking and attitude should be renewed by the Word of God, which teaches us to bear the infirmities of the weak, to love, and show compassion and encouragement (Rom. 12:2).

            And finally, I think a critical spirit is a symptom of evil. In the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, Satan is referred to as “the accuser of our brothers and sisters.”

            Listen to that verse from Revelation 12:10:

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

            Are you an accuser of the brothers and sisters?

            I think we need to remind ourselves that to be overcome by a critical spirit is to be under the influence of evil!

            The Bible tells us how we are to use the words that come out of our mouths. In Ephesians 4:29 the Bible says:

                29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

            When Jesus was teaching us in the Sermon on the Mount how to get along with others, He spoke about having a “critical spirit.”

            Let’s look at what He had to teach us.

(1) A critical spirit toward others is a sign of a deeper issue within (Matthew 7:3).

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

            Jesus describes people who can always find the worst in every person and every situation.

            Do you know people like that?

            They are folks who are quick to spot every thing wrong with others, but they never seem to see anything wrong with themselves.

            I heard a story once about a little boy named Andrew. While visiting a neighbor, five-year-old Andrew pulled out his kindergarten class picture and immediately began describing each classmate. Here is what he said: “This is Robert; he hits everyone. This is Stephen. He never listens to the teacher. This is Mark. He chases us and is very noisy.” Pointing to his own picture, Andrew commented, “And this is me. I’m just sitting here minding my own business.”

            Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, has lectured throughout this country on the powerful, and often negative, impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying “yes.” Others laugh, and quite a large number call out, “no!”

The Rabbi responds: “Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.”

(2) People tend to criticize the worst in others what they hate the most in themselves (Matthew 7:4).

4 How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

            Have you ever thought that maybe what people find most offensive in others is the very thing they are struggling with in their own lives…and maybe at an even greater level?

            In his book Confessions of a Pastor, Craig Groeschel tells a story that happened to him:

            One time I was praying during worship, a few moments before preaching. Eyes closed, focusing on God, I felt someone slip a note into my hand. I never saw who it was, but the note was marked “Personal.” I thought to myself, Someone probably wrote a nice note to encourage me before I preach. A warm, loving feeling settled over me as I unfolded the paper.

A moment later, I lost that loving feeling.

            Evidently, the note was from a woman who had tried to see me on Friday, my day off. She took offense at my absence and blasted me with hateful accusations. This happened literally seconds before I was to stand up to preach. In that moment, I had a choice. I could internalize the offense and become demoralized and discouraged. Or I could ask myself, I wonder what she’s experiencing that caused her to lash out?

            I chose compassion over depression. My heart hurt for her. I knew that such a disproportionate reaction must indicate deep pain, so I didn’t take her note personally.

            Here’s what Groeschel wants us to know from this story:

            It’s a fact that “hurt people hurt people.” They usually dislike themselves and criticize others in a misguided effort to validate themselves. If one of these injured souls lobs a criticism grenade in your direction, defuse it with understanding. Part of considering the source is seeking awareness of what that person may be going through…

Consider the source. And consider the possibility that the jab may have come from an injured heart. Dismiss it and move on. If you don’t, you may become the very thing you despise.

            Pastor Groeschel is right. The next time you are on the receiving end of a critical spirit you might try two responses. First, just say to yourself, “Hello Puddleglum!” Just don’t say it out loud! Secondly, you need to remind yourself that they person spewing out all this hurt is a hurting person and they need help. As Groeschel says, “Consider the source.” Give them the compassion, forgiveness, and grace they need. Then, move on!

            Thomas à Kempis once said:

            Be not angry that you cannot make others as you want them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

(3) It is best to look in the mirror before looking out the window (Matthew 7:5).

5 …first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)

            Do you see what Jesus means?

            Before we are to look out the window to fix the problems of others, we would be wise to look in the mirror and see our own. Jesus would have us “fix” us, before we try to “fix” others!

            A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.

            The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young

woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.

            ‘That laundry is not very clean’, she said.

‘She doesn’t know how to wash correctly.

Perhaps she needs better laundry detergent.’

            Her husband looked on, but remained silent.

            Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the

young woman would make the same comments.

            About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a

nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:

            ‘Look, our neighbor has finally learned how to wash clothes correctly.

 I wonder who taught her this?’

            The husband said, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’

            And so it is with life. What we see when watching others

depends on the purity of the window through which we look.

            In James 2:13 the Bible says, “…mercy triumphs over judgment.”

            When Jesus looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin, though it is abundant. He sees His sacrifice which washes us clean. Instead of judgment, Jesus offers us mercy.

            And He tells us that we are to love others, as He has loved us.

            In this world, there is nothing else but sinful, flawed people.

            Will you allow mercy to triumph over judgment in your dealings with them?

            And may Jesus offer us the same judgment that we offer others!


One Response to “It’s Best To Look In The Mirror Before Looking Out The Window!”

  1. Wonderfully stated. Thank you!

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