Signposts: Daily Devotions

Jesus said, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
—Matthew 11:18-19

Joan Chittister has many wonderful books, including one called Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light. The book is full of wonderful sayings of the desert monastics of fourth-century Egypt. The following words introduce the chapter on Humility.

Abba Xanthias said: “A dog is better than I am because a dog also has love but, unlike I myself, the dog does not pass judgment.”

Amen! Have you ever thought how much lighter our lives would be if we stopped passing judgment? I can hardly imagine it: watch television without making nasty cracks about a Republican OR a Democrat? Spend an entire day without criticizing someone?  Worship on Sunday without a single disparaging remark afterwards?

This gospel assures us that judging others has been around for a long, long time. Jesus simply said what was obvious: We can’t please people no matter what we do or don’t do; the rub comes when we realize that WE are the “people”!  Sure, we are judged, but more often than not, we are the judges.

What makes us so judgmental? The answer may lie in humility, or lack thereof. My favorite definition of humility comes from Frederick Buechner: “True humility doesn’t consist of thinking ill of yourself but of not thinking of yourself much differently from the way you’d be apt to think of anybody else.”

Joan Chittister echoes Buechner: When we are realistic about our own limitations, we can accept others. “Then I can,” she writes, “walk through the world quietly, without bluster, without calling attention to myself and concentrated on the God within.”  Only then, she says, “can we empty ourselves of the need to play God that day, with anyone, in any way.”

Help me, O God, to gently let go of my critical nature. Thank you for the wisdom of those who enlighten us about ourselves, and others. Amen.

Copyright ©2005 Margaret W. Jones.