It's fascinating to me, in the ministry of Jesus how often he did a searching and fearless moral inventory for people like us who weren't ready to do it for ourselves or had not yet seen the need.
We often think of Jesus walking around saying sweet, kind, and gentle things to people, but what actually happened more often than that is Jesus listened to people and then opened his mouth and, in a sentence or two, did a inventory that got to the heart of what was ailing them. There are many examples of this. One such one is found in Matthew, chapter 23, when Jesus is speaking to some people who would never think in a million years they needed to do a moral inventory, that was for someone else and there was very little wrong inside of them. After Jesus listened for a while, he said, you are actually some of the most hypocritical people I've ever met. Outside, what you portray to other people looks great, but I know your inside, and just under the surface you are teeming with greed and self-indulgence. There is hypocrisy and wickedness in you. Since they were not yet ready to put pen to paper, Jesus started the process for them, because he knew this is how critical this process is for real spiritual change. Jesus knew that when the insides and the outsides don't match there is danger ahead, that real spiritual growth is not possible and real connection with God is absolutely out of the question.
Now I don't know about you, but I'm really good at doing moral inventories on other people. In fact, I'm so good at it I could start an online business where you could contact me. I could have a very quick conversation with you, and because of my ability to criticize and judge and discern I would know immediately what you needed to change. We're very quick to point out the defects in other people. We perceive them with lightning speed. We are much slower to see them in ourselves. We think our annoyance with other people is justifiable and reasonable, and that is always the wrong starting place. We must begin with ourselves. We need to put aside the wrong others have done and mark it as irrelevant and look for our own mistakes. Very early on in Jesus' ministry in Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus knew this was true of us and, in kind of some hilarious use of words, he says to people who are listening to him, It's very interesting that you spend a lot of time deeply examining the little tiny piece of sawdust in the eyes of other people when what's hilarious is if you looked at that from the outside you would see that you are examining their sawdust while there is a two-by-four embedded in your eye. It is kind of funny and kind of pathetic and utterly absurd that you would spend such a lopsided amount of time on somebody else.
We need to stop pretending our lives are manageable under our own power, and we begin to actually make a list of the defects that exist in us that on our own we cannot change. Getting real is not simply advisable; it's really our only lifeline when we're desperately stuck. What's true is we don't become mature enough as Christians that we outgrow the need for this practice.
The Word became flesh… So, let’s get some skin in the game.