The following Comment of the Day by long, LONG time commenter Michael West is especially welcome: there’s nothing I like better than a long, erudite COTD when I feel terrible and every moment not seeping is an ordeal. For a lot of reasons, I was way behind on my usual dental care last year, and the piper must ne paid: I have two toothaches, a related sinus infection and headache, and now face three extractions next week that wish could be in the next minute. My situation is just one more fun benefit of the lockdown, drastic, sot-in-the-dark precaution that had still unmeasurable benefits and many, many costs that have still not been quantified.
But I digress. People citing the Bible as authority for dubious ethical principles or, in the case sparking the COTD, unethical conduct has always been a pet peeve of mine even before I started thinking about such matters as a career. The example abused by Don Lemon was even on the Rationalization List: #6, The Biblical Rationalizations.
As a special treat, Michael ends by taking on “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.”
Here is his erudite Comment of the Day on the first item in the post, “Ethics Exclamation Points, 3/16/21: Duh! Whoa! Yay! Gag! Asshole!”
Oh look, someone who hasn’t cracked open a Bible in decades hopes to lecture Christians or Jews on Judeo-Christianity!
Here’s the whole passage from Matthew-
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce 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 the 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. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
This comes from the famous Sermon on the Mount.
And here is Luke’s parallel in context-
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
The closest version, yet still loose, but providing clarifying value anyway, that can be found in Mark:
And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The general summation as far as my own Bible study shows me is that we are to be exceedingly careful when we “judge,’ whatever “judging” actually means when Jesus says it versus when the modern secular excuse-maker says it.
So many people fret about the “pearls before swine” and the “holiness before dogs” line, but to me its an incredibly clarifying statement, especially in light of Mark’s and Luke’s accounts. It seems that Christ is informing his followers about what attitude to approach other people – if they are penitent, humble, open to the Gospel – then be forgiving and patient and withholding of condemnation – if however they behave like wretched scoffers then don’t spread your pearls before them. Sounds like quite a bit of what is called “Christian Discernment” or what the modern secularists would deem “judgmentalism” (without even the slightest notion of what they are talking about).
Here’s some other fun sayings from the mouth of the Son of God:
“As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
“I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”
“Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.”
Then we have all the passages referring to God as the supreme judge of this world.
Abusing culturally inherited aphorisms to avoid accountability is a favorite pastime these days, so while I’m on my soap box, we should discuss the phrase “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.” While a clear opening to empathy towards another before analyzing their conduct or attitudes, the phrase is often relied upon as a discussion-stopper by those who would never expect the subject of the discussion to ever possibly improve.
Yes, before we hope to critique another’s behavior or suggest a better option, we should first understand where that person is coming from – not because that inherently changes the ethical or moral nature of the bad behavior at all…it doesn’t… but rather to seek any underlying factors that caused the person to believe the unethical or immoral conduct was the better choice of all other options.
But framed that way, the discussion CANNOT end. If one has rightly seen *why* any particular individual chose to engage in unethical or immoral behavior then that person is OBLIGATED by the golden rule and the need to improve society if only incrementally, to try to show the offending individual a better decision making process based on a better weighing of values.
“Don’t judge someone before you walk a mile in their shoes” must always be followed by “Ok, I walked a mile in their shoes and I understand why their shoes are uncomfortable, but I also noticed some ways they can change their shoes, or their pace, or their destination and I cannot be silent”
It’s me again, briefly, back for a bit of pedantry, and a lesson. “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes” is not from the Bible, and if you want a great example of how unwise it is to rely on Wikipedia, that source attributes the line to Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connelly, who once was the murderer in a “Columbo” episode. Wow, that’s terrible even for Wikipedia. The truth is that the line is ancient and unattributed, with some assigning it to Native American lore.