On throwing stones…

So it looks as though the UK Parliament wants to explore the banks: that’s the bankrupt banks (morally bankrupt – that’s the charge).

News this week, both nationally and locally, has had quite a bit to say about the banks. Locally, it’s been the problems of Ulster Bank, where a backlog caused by a computer glitch has led to financial problems for many of the bank’s customers. Nationally, it’s tales of skullduggery and heads rolling over a rate-fixing scandal.

And that’s what Parliament is going to explore (although they can’t agree on the extent of the enquiry – too much attempted point-scoring going on across party lines, there).

But wait. Parliament? MPs?

Not the same body that had to resort to some house-cleaning three years ago when some of its own members were caught out in an expenses scandal? Not that the worst expense-fiddlers will necessarily be on the committee to interview Mr Diamond: but Parliament?

One of my favourite preachers’ stories is about a pastor who is asked to conduct the funeral of a renowned scoundrel. The deceased’s brother promises that he will make a significant donation to the church on condition that the pastor, during the service, describes the dead man as a saint. Deal on. The preacher starts to describe the departed. A scoundrel, a crook, everything that the neighbours knew him to be. The brother scowls: so much for the deal. Until the preacher says,

But compared to his brother, he was a saint.

A plague on both their houses, someone says. Pots and kettles. Who are the politicians to judge the bankers? People living in glass houses throwing stones? Did Jesus not have something to say about stone-throwing? Did he not intervene when the self-righteous were about to execute an adulteress (funny they found her, but not the man)?

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

And he wrote on the ground. I don’t know what he wrote. Maybe he wrote enough of the Law to remind the self-righteous that if they were living in glass houses it would be best not to throw stones.

Take note of that, Mr Cameron and Mr Milliband.

But before we start to look down our own self-righteous noses at all those people, should we not hear those words of Jesus for ourselves? Without sin. You? Me? Would you be ready to throw a few, or would you be skulking away into the shadows?

And let’s not forget that he had little time for those who were proudly confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else.

Self-righteousness is such a slippery sin. Be aware of your own before you start to address someone else’s.


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