The Kalenjin tribe from Kenya brings us our proverb for the day, “A hyena cannot smell its own stench.” Isn’t it amazing how quickly we recognize the sins and faults of others, but fail to see them in ourselves? Jesus addressed this problem in Matthew 7:1-5.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce on others, 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.”
It is a common practice in almost every person I have ever met, for us to show grace and mercy to ourselves and our own weaknesses, and to be critical and judgmental in our view of others. We are eager for others to be kind and gentle when they talk with us about our failings, but we can be harsh and critical when talking to others.
In 2 Samuel 12 the Lord sends Nathan to confront King David over his sin. In a very short period of time David had been guilty of lust, adultery, murder, lying and deceit. Confronting a King concerning his sin can be a very dangerous task, so Nathan told David the story of rich man who who, refusing to take one of his own sheep, took the young lamb of his neighbor to serve at a feast for a traveling visitor. David was so enraged when he heard this story that h he ordered that the man be immediately brought to him to be executed. The King was so blind to his own actions, that he failed to understand that the story was about him. The King could not smell his own stench. It wasn’t till Nathan told David, “You are that man,” that he began to understand the serious wrong he had committed.
There are two important lessons that we need to learn from this Proverb. First, that we need to be careful of living with a harsh and judgmental attitude. Jesus warns us that God will use the same standard in judging us. Before being so quick to see the sin in our neighbor, or brother, we need to look at the sin in our own lives and take the necessary steps to remove it.
Second, we must be open to allow others to help us identify our sin. Repentance and forgiveness would not come to David’s house until he first understood the wrong he had committed. There were serious consequences that David had to face because of his sin, but the healing could not begin until he first knew he was spiritually sick.
Most of us know someone who cannot see the sin and faults in their own life and are quick to judge and condemn others. We often grow angry and frustrated with these people. Even in dealing with the worst of hypocrites we must always be reminded to first examine our own lives. I remember sitting and visiting with a counselor friend one day and I was complaining about all the bad things that people around me were doing when he shared a simple truth – “You can’t change anyone but you, and there is plenty for you to work on.”