Have you noticed how easy it is to figure out another person? We can look into their eyes and know what they are thinking. We can hear their words and know what they meant even though their words didn’t say anything close to it. A few days ago I was privileged to be in a place and situation where I could witness two very young girls in conversation with each other. They may have been aware that I was around but didn’t seem to really consider that anyone else might be listening in. They were talking about some boys that they went to school with. One said to the other, “Did you hear what he said about me?” The other one looked somewhat puzzled and said, “No, I don’t remember him saying anything about you.” Then the first one responded, “Oh, he didn’t mention my name but I know he was talking about me.” Then she proceeded to talk about what the boy had said but then moved beyond what he had said to what she knew that he meant by what he said. I was smiling to myself as I walked away and thinking about how young this mentality had developed. She knew for sure he was talking about her even though her name wasn’t mentioned and she knew what he meant by what he said even though what she knew he meant wasn’t anything close to what he had actually said. Now if such things only happened with young girls we could just laugh about it and think how they would learn better as they grew up.
But let’s face the fact that attitude goes on with us through life. It is very common to hear someone say about another person, “This is what they said, but this is what they meant by it.” We often look at a person’s expression or even their lack of expression to determine what they are thinking on a topic. Here is a fact that is very hard for us to believe. “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” ( I Corinthians 2:11) Paul was discussing the subject of inspiration and declaring that we can’t know the mind of God unless the Spirit of God reveals to us through inspiration what God thinks. In that discussion he pointed out that we can’t even know the thoughts of another person unless they tell us. We don’t have the ability to read another person’s mind. Not long ago I was in a group of people in a classroom at church and to be perfectly honest my mind was off somewhere else and I wasn’t tuned in at all to the conversation going on around me. Suddenly, one of the people in the group grabbed my attention by saying, “I know what you are thinking, but you are dead wrong on it.” He was looking directly at me when he said it and for the life of me I had no idea what he was talking about. I tried for a moment to figure out what was going on and what they had been discussing so that I wouldn’t let it out that I hadn’t been paying any attention but it was futile since I was just guessing what it was all about. But the funny part to me was that when I said, “I’m sorry, I guess my mind had wandered away from here and I don’t have a clue what you are talking about” the one who was certain he knew what I was thinking said, “Oh yes you do know what we were talking about. You aren’t going to get off that easy.” He was obviously frustrated with what he was sure I was thinking and I never did know what I was supposed to be thinking. You can’t know what is in another person’s mind unless they tell you. Even then, all you know is what they tell. If they choose to hold back some information then you will be left in the dark. So, I need to be very careful about jumping to conclusions on what another person is thinking or what they meant on some occasion because I may be wrong.
Remember Jesus statement in Matthew 7:1-5 about judging others. He said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This passage is one of the most well known and most misquoted of any text of Scripture. Notice it doesn’t tell us we are never to judge another person. It says instead that before judging another we must look closely into our own eyes and remove the things that are wrong in our life so that we can see clearly to help the other person get the speck from their eyes. Too often we read the passage as though we are simply to ignore the sawdust in the other person’s eyes. The point is to look into our own heart and find our sins and remove them before telling another person how to live. In I Corinthians 11:17ff. Paul described the taking of the Lord’s Supper. In doing so he said everyone should examine themselves and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. One thing he didn’t ever tell us to do in taking of the supper was to examine our neighbors or friends before they could eat. He said look closely into your own life and correct your problems before communing with the Lord.
But let me suggest another look that is vital for each person to take. We need to look inside to correct our life before trying to correct another person’s life. But it is vital always that we look up and remember the hand of God working in us all the time. I love Romans 8:26-30 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Notice the Spirit of God helps us in our our weaknesses. And God causes all things to work together for our good if we love him and are called according to his purpose. It is vital to remember that good doesn’t mean just what we want. Good is defined by God as anything that causes us to be conformed to the image of Jesus. God uses our troubles, trials, difficult situations and our blessings to mold us into the image of his Son. So, when you look around and look inside never forget to look up and see the hand of God working in you for your very best.