Fixing "Stupid"

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Some of us are ready to swear off watching, reading, or listening to the news. Just when we think things couldn’t get worse, they do! You can’t fix stupid, and apparently stupidity is contagious. And it can be distressing, disturbing and dangerous to our mental and spiritual health to spend too much time focusing on the evil that men do. It’s enough to deal with my own evil let alone carry the burden of that which others engage in.

It is helpful instead to dwell on the great truth of Scripture. Here is one for today: “His eyes are on the ways of men; he sees their every step.” (Job 34:21)

We often live as though God isn’t aware of what is happening. We often live as though God doesn’t care. We often live as though He is powerless to do anything about the evils happening in this world. And that makes us anxious and upset. But in addition to reading the verse from Job this morning, I also read Romans 2 and the chilling words from verses 5, 6, 8, 9: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done…for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” We already experience snippets of that judgment that is to come, as we have throughout history: Paul says, “The wrath is God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (1:18)

So, being able (I hope) to leave God’s business in God’s hands, I need to focus on what Paul writes a little later in Romans 2:17-24 and look to myself. In keeping with 2:1-3 and Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 7:1-3, I need to deal with my own sin and rebellious spirit. Jesus says: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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 our of your own eye, and then you will see more clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Some people are swift to quote the first two verses of Matthew 7 to support their argument that none of us should judge anyone else. But that is not the sense of passage. We should not judge others without judging ourselves first (the plank and the sawdust illustration) and taking care of our own stupidity first. To do so invites judgment. And judging ourselves first has the wonderful effect of humbling us so that when we do need to help another human being with his “sawdust” we do it with grace, mercy, and compassion. We do, what the end of this particular passage tells us: “…to others what you would have them do to you.” (v 12) When we see ourselves in all our failing and frailties, we tend to be a whole lot more understanding of the failures and frailties of others. But that doesn't mean we ignore those evils any more that we should ignore our own evils. The passage is clear that our ministry to others includes "sawdust" and "plank" removal.

The grace, mercy, and compassion we extent to others as we help them deal with that which displeases God in their lives, is the same grace, mercy, and compassion we look for when they help us deal with that which displeases God in our lives.

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