A young preacher came to Charles H. Spurgeon with a complaint. Someone was making false accusations against him. Spurgeon nodded sagely, and advised: “Get on your knees and thank God for these accusations. Thank Him that your accuser doesn’t really know you.”
All of us, because we are yet sinners, are easy targets. What often makes some folks more inviting targets, however, is not their many sins but their many blessings. When God determines to use a man, Satan determines to accuse him. Such happened to George Whitefield.
“Success” often comes by cutting a few corners, and is fed by the pursuit of ego. But I also know this: “Success” always breeds irrational jealousy. It is fueled by frustrated ego. All hearts are deceitful, the accused’s and the accuser’s.
How, then, do we keep from sliding into the slough of moral equivalence or the morass of ethical relativism? “We’re all sinners” is true enough, but it doesn’t tell us how to deal with sinners, or how to deal with ourselves. That is why Scripture enjoins us to tend our own gardens. Yes, we are to goad each other on, but we are to take care of the logs in our own eyes before we fret over the motes in the eyes of others.
Nathan, like Whitefield after him, had the capacity to use a story to make a point. What made Nathan’s story so effective, however, was that it tapped into this human truth. The king was doubly proud. He was proud that he knew he was God’s king. But among the things that made David such a fine king was that which Nathan appealed to—his compassion for the little guy. Nathan appealed to that which was pure in David, and so exposed that which was putrid.
We come to this story shaking our heads in dismay at the blindness and hypocrisy of David. But if we would read this story rightly, it would end not with Nathan’s declaration to David, but with Nathan’s declaration to each of us: “You are the man.”
Moral indignation has its place. That place, however, is in ourselves. We have our own gardens to tend, and digging up the dirt of others’ gardens will help us little. We do not win peace by our moral acuity with respect to others, but, as David would pray, by a broken and contrite spirit. This is God’s pattern. First comes humiliation, then glorification. First comes exposure, then cover. First comes death, then life, and life everlasting.