You Get Use To It

When I was in elementary school and a student would use bad manners, several teachers would ask: “Were you raised in a barn?” Well, in a way, I was. So were a lot of my classmates. You see, I grew up in farm country and a lot of us did barn chores before and after school.

The first thing you learn when you spend a lot of time in the barn is that you don’t leave the “barn smell” behind. It travels with you. The second thing you learn is that you don’t notice it on you. Oh, but others do. And you notice it on someone else, even if you are oblivious to your own barn smell. It occurred to me recently that sin is a lot like barn smell: the longer we’re in sin, the more people notice it in us. We tend to miss “the smell” of sin in ourselves but are very good at detecting it in others. Jesus made it very clear that the Bible is intended to be a mirror to show us our own sin, more than it is binoculars to see the sin in others:

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 out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

We get used to things in ourselves that offend others and as a result, we grow increasingly unaware of the offense within us. In this passage, Jesus isn’t saying that we should never point out, in love, the sins of others. What He is saying is that we should not be hypocrites about it. He really brings the point home with this parable:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

Luke tells us that Jesus was speaking to some who “were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.” That very likely means Pharisees. Jesus made it clear that when they were smelling the stench of sin on others, they were missing it on themselves. In this case, it was the foulest-smelling sin of all: pride. It is the root sin that produces all other toxic fruit of sin. And just like today, it is the most self-righteous who were the most nose-blind to their own offense.

Before we condemn others, Jesus calls on us to assess our own sin status. We can do this in prayer, in God’s Word, and by asking people we trust. Because while we don’t notice the stench of our own sin, everyone else is well aware of it.

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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