No, Let Me Go First

It’s mostly wrong for me to focus on myself, but it can be helpful at times. This morning, for example, I ran across a quote from Abbot Tryphon that reminded me of what I should tell myself often: “When we take our eyes off our own sins, we focus only on the sins of the other.” When I give my full attention to the shortcomings of other people, I forget to fight the battles against my own failures that cause me to miss the mark and to fall short of God’s best for me.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Applying that truth to this blog, when I ignore my own weaknesses, I let my guard down and my heart is unhealthy. On the other hand, when I remember my own sins, I realize how much grace and forgiveness I need, which makes me less likely to see (much less judge) the sins of others.
Jesus spoke about this issue in Matthew 7:3-5:
“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? 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? 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 easy for me to judge the angry person in traffic who honks and yells at another driver—a complete stranger to him—while forgetting how I flew off the handle at my own wife, who loves me more than anyone in the world. In other words, it’s easy to see the speck of dust in someone else’s eye and forget about the plank in my own eye. As I’ll share in the next message from our series, Getting Rid of the Gorilla, I’ve run five marathons and numerous other races of various distances. In some of those races, I zipped by quite a few people, feeling good about myself, like I was some impressive runner. But I compared myself to the wrong people; the runners who won those races, or who were fast enough to have a chance to win, brought me back down to earth. I did not see those runners after the start of the race for one simple reason: I could never keep up with them.
Something like that happens when I think about the sins and failures of other people. I forget that the yardstick for moral comparison is not another person, but God Himself. Of course I will appear more moral to myself than the gossip who slandered me or the office supervisor who mistreated me. Pain makes it hard to be objective and I will always seem better in my own eyes than the person who hurt me.
In the movie, Blue Like Jazz, the main character, Don, is a Southern Baptist youth who flees his fundamentalist upbringing when he goes to college, and who starts to realize how he has set a bad example for those who don’t follow Jesus. Near the end of the movie, Don sets up a confession booth on campus and as it turns out, it’s not for him to take confessions, but to give them. When the first person comes in to talk, Don stops him and says, “No, let me go first.” He insists on being the one to confess his sin. In my own life, the next time I believe another person is sinning, or when someone comes up to me and wants to confess something, I might just stop them and say, “No, let me go first.”
Troy Burns