Our attention is drawn to a number of practical points on Christian living, which are broad in scope and rich in truth. Following Jesus is a serious occupation and leaves no room for comfortable complacency. Our words and conversation, the fruit of our tongues are a true indication of our spiritual health and our Christian life. When we open our lips we should be intent on praising God and refrain from hurting our neighbour. We are asked to search as carefully for our own faults as we do for the faults of others, because concentrating on ridding ourselves of the big blotches in our personal lives will leave precious little time for comment on the failures of others. The person who is aware of their own weaknesses and is striving to overcome them is slow to judge and swift to give benefit of the doubt.
Then preaching, Jesus drew his examples from the obvious in everyday life and here we have him commenting on the people who are preoccupied with spotlighting someone else’s faults and yet are blind to their own. The appealing thing about fault finding in others is that it takes the focus off our own deficiencies and helps us to feel ever so self-righteous. How miserable it all becomes when it spills over into spiteful personal gossip. It’s no exaggeration to say that gossip is the most vicious and dangerous type of talk. All this business of tittle tattle, passing on scandalous tales about people, does untold damage as it results in tearing reputations to shreds. All who have been victims of wagging tongues know the pain inflicted. Socrates once said that nature has given us two ears, two eyes and only one tongue so that we should hear more than we speak! If we cannot say something good about another person then it is better to remain silent. Isn’t it lovely when occasionally we meet someone who isn’t interested in people’s failing but only their good points.
The lesson on how dangerous it is to pass judgement on others stands at the heart of the gospel message. Jesus was never in the judgement business. He used words to heal, restore and to bring back life, joy and hope. Our striving to imitate the Lord and produce the fruits of good living is seriously hampered when we allow judgemental attitudes to take root in our lives. The honest and perceptive Christian will pay more attention to personal shortcomings, knowing that it is only with God’s help that they can be overcome.
Fr Peter Tipene