“A teacher asked a small boy what lesson he got from the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). He replied, ‘The lesson I got from it is that when I’m in trouble, my neighbors ought to help me.'”
– Excerpt from Some Do’s and Don’ts For the Christian by Leroy Brownlow, chapter 12
This snippet from Brother Brownlow’s book gave me a chuckle…but it also contains an important message: don’t go missing the man in the mirror.
By “mirror”, of course, I am referring to the mirror of all mirrors: the holy scriptures. Like the boy in the joke, it’s far too easy to read our Bibles through a lens of what others should be doing rather than what we ourselves should be doing. James 4:11 warns against this kind of arrogance:
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Judging + not doing = hypocrisy. When we are too busy sitting in judgment of others, we leave little room to improve ourselves. Now don’t misunderstand – is there a time and place to give a word of caution to a brother or sister who is in error? Most definitely…but I speak not of loving rebuke; rather, a holier-than-thou, high-horse, attitude of condemnation.
Imagine looking in a mirror and forgetting what you look like within moments (we can read about that in James 1:23-24). How about looking in a mirror and not seeing any reflection at all? Furthermore, imagine looking in a mirror and not seeing your own face reflected back at you, but seeing someone else’s reflection?! All of these notions sound utterly ridiculous; yet they’re not too far removed from how we can read scripture at times.
When we look into the mirror of God’s word, there are two opposing ways in which we can use the view. The first is…
Jessica desperately needs help with her marriage. When her husband is at work, she opens up her Bible to try to find the answers for a more loving union. She turns to Ephesians 5:25 and reads:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.
She chuckles sarcastically to herself. “Yeah right, as if! I only wish Josh loved me like Christ loved the church…he only cares about himself. He’d rather watch television than spend time with his own wife. He’s indifferent towards me and the kids. And don’t even get me started on this ‘gave himself for the church’ bit…the only sacrifice the man’s ever made is throwing away his entire paycheck on his hobbies. He’s a pitiful excuse for a husband.”
Allison has had an especially trying day with her children. Once her kids are tucked in bed, she sits down to a cup of tea and some time in God’s word to calm her frazzled nerves. She turns to Ephesians 6:1 and reads:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
“Boy, wouldn’t that be the life for a change…having kids that actually obey me (without being bribed, nagged, or reminded a hundred times!) If I had a dollar for every correction I had to dole out to Aidyn and Aspyn, I’d be living in Beverly Hills! These brats will be the death of me for sure.”
Claire is struggling at work with a hard-to-please boss. Exhausted after another day under scrutiny at the office, she climbs into bed to read some scripture before dozing off. She opens her Bible to Colossians 4:1 and reads:
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
“I sure wish I had a job where my boss treated his employees with fairness! Like that’d ever happen, though. I just know Chris shoots down all my ideas because he dislikes me personally. He shuts me down before I even get a chance to explain myself. I’m so sick of this dead-end job.”
I have given you three examples of ways we might use the mirror of God’s word to deflect blame. Each and every one of these fictional characters used their Bible time as an excuse to look down on others and stress even more over problems they had no control over. What kind of result does this approach bring? They close their Bibles feeling worse than before, and their lives continue on in a downward spiral. Now, what if each of them decided to look in the mirror a different way? Perhaps instead, they use the mirror…
Jessica desperately needs help with her marriage. When her husband is at work, she opens up her Bible to try to find the answers for a more loving union. She turns to Ephesians 5:22 and reads:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
“Wow,” she humbly admits to herself, “‘as unto the Lord?’ I’ve not been treating my husband as I’d like to think I would treat Christ. It’s no wonder Josh spends so much time avoiding me, I’ve been so irritable and negative lately. I haven’t been training the kids to reverence their Daddy, so I guess it makes sense that he doesn’t want to hear more disrespect from them, either. Maybe he spends so much on his hobbies because he wants an escape…something that makes him feel joy and purpose – a role I used to fill. Boy, do I have some serious work to do. Even so, the Lord is my strength; and He’s not asking the impossible. I can be the wife that I was created to be!”
Allison has had an especially trying day with her children. Once her kids are tucked in bed, she sits down to a cup of tea and some time in God’s word to calm her frazzled nerves. She turns to Ephesians 6:4 and reads:
And, ye fathers (re: parents), provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (clarification added)
“That’s my problem. I’ve been so busy yelling and shrieking at Aidyn and Aspyn’s misbehavior all the time that I haven’t stopped to nurture them and admonish them like the loving mother I’m called to be. My rebukes are falling on deaf ears because my children don’t feel love from me…my constant wrath is provoking them to wrath. This has got to stop. I’m the adult in the relationship, I must be the one to end this vicious cycle!”
Claire is struggling at work with a hard-to-please boss. Exhausted after another day under scrutiny at the office, she climbs into bed to read some scripture before dozing off. She opens her Bible to Colossians 3:22 and reads:
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.
“I’ve been getting so wrapped up in despising Chris, I haven’t realized that I play a huge role in his openness to my ideas. The truth is, I’ve been a little envious that he got the promotion to head of our department instead of me…after all, didn’t we go through training together?! Maybe if I stopped strutting around like a peacock and started showing some respect for his new role, he’d take me more seriously. I have been acting childish.”
Each of our three characters have made it a point not to miss the man in the mirror. They have seen that they have improvement to make in their lives, and have shifted their focus from examining others to examining themselves. They realize that, though the other parties can stand to improve themselves also, ultimately that remains in the other parties’ control. When Jessica, Allison, and Claire use their mirrors to reflect shame, they will close their Bibles with newfound determination, because the easiest person to change is one’s own self.
Do you use the mirror of God’s word to deflect blame, or to reflect shame? Friends, I implore you to release yourself from the impossible burden of trying to change everyone around you, when the man in the mirror is in serious need of a makeover. Don’t miss him. Check your mirror today!
As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.
– Proverbs 27:19 (NASB)
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.