by Gina Gardner, Steppes of Faith
“So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” John 8:7 NKJ
If there’s anything that’s proven true since our wonderful country’s last presidential election is that everyone loves to criticize the other guy. The comments, opinions, and stone throwing are staggering. It’s easy to armchair quarterback what’s going on in the news or on TV. After all, we’ve never met, nor is it likely we will ever meet, that person. No harm, no foul, right?
What about the people you do know? Do you throw stones at them? Do you tend to criticize?
I was recently reminded of this when I was watching a morning news program on TV. The finger pointing of who said what, and who did what when, “he said, she said,” and if it’s all illegal or not prompted the man being interviewed to blurt out an unfounded opinion.
I’m usually one to look at both sides of an issue and to find the benefit of the doubt in every situation because you just never know what’s true unless it’s happening directly to you. I try not to judge until I’ve done my homework. However, the man on TV decided to criticize something he didn’t have complete knowledge of. I’ve decided to hear these kinds of people out and be patient, but what usually happens is that they’re just throwing stones.
It’s like the album cover from Billy Joel’s old album, “Glass Houses.” In the picture, a guy (presumably Billy Joel) is standing in front of a beautiful house in the woods that has all windows on one side. His back is to the camera, he has a huge rock in his right hand, and his arm is cocked back ready to throw it through the glass. Every time I see that album cover, my first reaction is, “Oh no! Don’t do it!” Maybe that’s the goodie good girl in me. You don’t throw rocks through someone’s windows, and certainly never on purpose.
It brings up a good point. How quick are we to throw stones through someone’s glass house? How quick are we to judge others for their sin and yet we ignore our own? We finger point and criticize, then we reach into our pocket and pull out a rock we always subconsciously carry around. We take aim and fire thinking that justice was done and wisdom has won.
No Stones in His Pockets
Jesus was known to be a light traveler. He didn’t usually have anything with Him, as far we know. No backpack of snacks, no water bottle, no change of clothes, no money, and definitely no stones. His pockets were always empty.
In John 8 we find the famous story of the adulteress who was caught in the act of sin and dragged out in front of the entire community in shame and embarrassment. There are so many things wrong with this scene from our modern perspective, mostly political and misogynistic in nature, but I won’t go there right now. Let’s suffice it to say that I felt terrible for this poor woman. As I said, I try to understand the back story of someone’s actions and practice compassion. The men in this town, however, obviously did not.
So, here’s this woman, who clearly did something very bad, was probably not fully dressed after being caught in the act, and the men- stirred up by the Pharisees- are screaming for her death. The Pharisees were still on a mission to discredit Jesus, so in John 8:3 they bring the woman to Him to hear what He has to say about it.
“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’”
Jesus had been in the middle of teaching people in the community when He was interrupted by the Pharisees. As they are asking him what to do with the woman, He just stands there. When they finished asking the question, He bent down and wrote in the dirt acting like He wasn’t listening. What He was writing, no one knows. What’s important, though, is that He was pretending not to listen.
Why would Jesus pretend to ignore them? It’s not that Jesus thought that their complaints were just jibber-jabber. What He was doing was rising above the mayhem, and displaying His wisdom and righteousness (and dare I say maturity).
And He never once reached into His pocket for a stone, unlike the men of the town.
Who Gets to Cast the First Stone?
As was the custom then, as based on Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7, if you were a witness to a crime then you were the one who was elected to begin the execution. But here’s the catch: only those who were NOT guilty of the same crime could participate.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus who should throw the first stone, the answer was obvious. Every single man in that town was widely known to have cheated on his wife with the local prostitutes (maybe even with the one in this scene). Which is why Jesus answered, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
These men were chomping at the bit to throw a stone at this woman, yet they never stopped to consider their own guilt. And so we read in verses nine through eleven,
“Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone with the woman standing in the midst.”
Alone in His Presence
I can only imagine the fear this woman had. She surely was already feeling it, but now being left alone with just one man as the center of his attention must have been truly unnerving. She didn’t know the Lord’s kindness and compassion, but she was about to.
“When Jesus had raised Himself back up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’
She said, ‘No one, Lord.’
And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’”
I could just cry every time I read that. What love and forgiveness Jesus gave to that poor woman. You can almost sense her relief…and confusion. Who was this guy defending her and refusing to condemn her? She soon came to know Jesus as we do- loving, protecting, and kind.
Jesus is the supreme model of compassion. As believers, it’s our life-long goal to behave, act, and think more like Him. If we’re actively working toward that goal every day, why is it still so hard for us to keep ourselves from throwing stones at others?
Why do we carry these stones in our pockets day after day ready to grab one anytime we feel that someone is clearly in the wrong? We condemn, disparage, grumble, complain, finger point, and slander; then, we reach in our pocket, pull out a stone of self-righteousness, and hurl it at someone like a Major League baseball pitcher with a 99-mph fastball.
Here’s the flip side of throwing stones. Time and again, we fail to see that others are ready to throw a stone at us too.
Don’t Forget to Remove the Plank
It’s so easy to point out the fault in others. Maybe we’re hard-wired to do it because Jesus cautions us about this in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5:
“Judge not that you be not judged. For with that judgment you judged, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
In other words, be careful with how you draw your conclusions and opinions about things.
I love what Jesus says next. It’s something I remind my three boys of practically daily.
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not consider the plank in your own eye…Hypocrite! First, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Like the men who wanted to stone the adulteress, we’re so quick to point out a speck of dirt in the other person’s eye without stopping to take a huge hunk of wood out of our own eye first. Think of the size difference between a speck and a whole plank. It’s enormous! And yet we seem to overlook it.
I remember something a friend’s dad told me when I was teenager about pointing fingers at someone. There’s only one finger pointing at the other person, but the other four fingers are pointing back at you. We have to think about our own faults before we go pointing fingers or mentioning the speck of imperfection in their eye or casting any stones.
God is Able to Do All Things
Take the time to do a body check on yourself. Check your pockets and see if there are any stones you’re carrying around. Take a look in the mirror and see what planks are stuck in your eye. Then step back and take a good look at yourself overall. What are your reasons for casting stones and ignoring that plank in your eye? Why is it hard to mind your own business? How’s that working for you?
Through prayer and focusing on the words of Jesus, we can drop our stones and remove our planks. We can soften our hearts, look at the situation from all possible angles, and allow God to fill us with His compassion as we seek understanding instead of criticizing.
For some, dropping stones means a complete 180-degree turnabout in attitude and behavior. Thankfully, we serve an almighty God who is able to do all things. He is mighty to save and restore. He can open our hearts to receive His peace and compassion, and He can give us wisdom and a desire to seek the truth of a situation. In Him is all truth and He is happy to share it with us.
Let God come alongside you to give you the strength and compassion you need to empty your pockets and clear up your eyes. Let God give you a fresh perspective of how we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory so that your criticizing can be put to rest.
Turn your eyes to Jesus and the cross He died on to pay for your sins. It’s only at the cross where you’ll find true love, patience, truth, and compassion for yourself and others.
Do you tend to criticize others? When you read the newspaper or watch the TV news do you usually have your opinion of things? How about when watching sports? It’s easy to throw stones when it’s not you going through the ordeal. How can you seek God in a new way so you feel compassion instead of criticism? Come join the conversation here. We’d love to hear your comments and, yes, opinions.
Healing the sick, raising the dead, and welcoming all who came to Him, Jesus is the purest example of compassion and understanding. Author Johnnie Moore does a great job describing who Jesus is in Dirty God. Walk with Jesus from His hometown of Nazareth to the big city of Jerusalem as you get a deeper understanding of who He was as a man walking among us and who He is as God. Dirty God is available right now on both Amazon and Christianbook.
Note: As an Amazon affiliate, I will receive a small payment if you order anything through Steppes of Faith, which I very much appreciate. I am not an affiliate of Christianbook, however, but hopefully one day I will be because they’re so awesome. Thanks!