The Beatitudes and Beyond
Three Fingers Pointing Back


    If your mother was like mine, she probably told you at one time or another in your life when you were criticizing somebody else something like, "Remember, dear, when you point a finger at somebody else, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself."

    Jesus says something very similar in the Sermon On the Mount.

    I found this passage interesting in light of an "ego defense" known to therapists as "projection."  Here's the basic theory.  We are a composite of parts.  Some of these parts are good.  Some need some work.  For instance, one person's life might look something like this:

    There are several good parts to the circle, but some things like being prideful, judgmental and gossipping.  We don't like those parts about ourselves.  We feel justifiably guilty (we Christians call this "conviction") so we split those parts off from ourselves and don't acknowledge them as applying to us.  So, now we look like this:

We are no longer taking ownership over our entire self.  But we can't really separate ourselves from our faults that easily so what we do is that we put them onto somebody else.  How this often works in practice is that we see someone involved in a similar activity and it really bothers us.  We talk about them.  We condemn them.  We put on a big show about it.  Why? Because it is touching too close to home.

Those feelings we have of discomfort should be our wake-up call from the Lord and not our opportunity to trash somebody else.  Instead of saying to ourselves, or worse, to others, "Look at that person.  Look how they are behaving.  Isn't that awful." We should be saying, "Lord, why does that bother me so.  Is that something I need to work on.  Is that a sin, I am holding on to?"

As we do that, we begin the process of healing and wholeness.  We cannot deal with issues in our lives which we do not take ownership over.  We cannot repent of sins we do not acknowledge.  And we certainly cannot grow as Christians as long as we continue to project our shortcomings onto other people.

So, the next time you feel like criticising another person, remember the words of the old spiritual: "It's not my brother or my sister, but it's me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer."

Study Questions:

Matthew 7.1-2

A. What does Jesus say here is the result of judging others?
B.  What type of judgement comes upon those who criticize others?

Matthew 7.3-5

A. Why is it so easy for us to see the mote in someone else's eye and not see the beam in
our own eye?
B. What would happen if someone with a log or beam in their eye tried to pull a speck of
dust out of another person's eye?  What happens when we, who are sinful, try to correct
everybody else?

Romans 14.4
A. Paul says we have no right to judge another person, but what are some excuses people
use to do this very thing?
B. Who will uphold the one who is weak?  Who is capable of taking care of them?  If that
is the case what should we be doing?

James 4.12

A. Who gave the law?  Who is righteous enough to Judge purely?
B. Why are we incapable of judging righteously?

Romans 14.13
A. What can judging another person do?
B. Has there ever been a time in your life when someone judged you harshly and it
almost caused you to stumble?

I Corinthians 4.3-5

A. How did Paul respond to being judged?
B. Who was Paul's Judge?
C. How can we take comfort in this fact? (v.5)

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