We have all heard the expression, “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Today we will dig into that expression. Let me begin today by asking you a question. Have you ever taken delight in the misfortune of another person? Be honest. If you have, you will want to read today’s message. Click here to read more.
The German word “schadenfreude” refers to the emotion of pleasure in another person’s misfortune. Schadenfreude is considered by many to be morally evil and even less acceptable than envy, which is one of the 7 deadly sins. A philosopher once said: “To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is devilish.” There is an old Russian joke that captures perfectly the essence of this emotion. It comes in the form of the Peasant’s Prayer: “Dear God, my neighbor Ivan has a pig, and I have none. Please God, kill my neighbor’s pig.”
George Will once quipped: “schadenfreude – enjoyment of other persons’ misfortunes – is almost the national pastime.” American author Gore Vidal once said, “It is not enough to succeed; others must fail.”
When we compare ourselves to another person, our pride can lead to resentment, which in turn, leads to indignation, which turns to self-righteousness and this often finds us delighting in the misfortune of another person. Sadly, we are often highly judgmental people. Usually our judgmental attitude and remarks are far too often a case of “the pot calling the kettle black.” It always seems easier to find the fault in another person than to acknowledge our own.
Here is what the Bible tells us in Proverbs 24: 17, “do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and when they stumble, do not let your heart exult.”
Matthew 7:1-5 tells us this: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
In Matthew 18:21-22 we read about forgiveness. “Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” We must learn to forgive others as we want to be forgiven for our own trespasses.
Last Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke 15:1-32 was the story of the Prodigal Son. The older brother, when he heard that there was a feast being thrown for the return of his brother, became indignant and filled with anger, envy and pride. The reality is, we all react at times like the older brother in this story.
Satan loves to place mistrust among Christians. He plays on our suspicions. He causes us to take delight in another’s misfortune. He fills us with envy. Satan’s goal is to cause division and destroy relationships. Jesus, on the other hand, seeks to bring people together. There is no room in Christianity for self-righteous indignation. We are all sinners!
The book The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, tells the story of a woman who conceives a daughter through an affair. In the story, a crowd gathers to witness the punishment of Hester Prynne, the young woman who has given birth to a baby of unknown parentage. She is required to wear a scarlet “A” on her dress when she is in front of the townspeople to shame her. The letter “A” stands for adulteress. Her sentence required her to stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation, and to wear the scarlet “A” for the rest of her life.
I wonder how often our words essentially pin a scarlet letter on someone that we hear about who has been caught in sin. We must never forget that Jesus died for all sins and to bring forgiveness and salvation to all repentant sinners. Which of your sins would you want made public? How would you want others to react if you were forced to wear a scarlet letter?
I began today’s message with the expression, “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Allow me to conclude today with the words of Jesus from this week’s Gospel, “let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”
Here is a pile of stones in case anyone qualifies to throw one. I know I don’t.
Lord, please don’t forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, but instead grant us the grace to forgive others as you forgive us. Amen
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I want to extend a warm welcome to all of the new readers from St. Peter and Paul Parish in Philipsburg, PA and St. Peter Parish in Loudonville, OH. It was a blessing to be with all of you on your parish missions these past two weekends.