About two years ago, I attended a church service in the village, where I grew up. Just before the main sermon was delivered, a man requested a chance to speak. I knew him, everyone knew him. Everyone knew him because his family was well-known in the area, it was a family that could be described as well-off if you used village standards.
He proceeded to give an impassioned speech about how good God had been to him and his family that year, and to give thanks for the many blessings that had been incessantly raining down on them, they had decided to give a gift to the church. He then removed an envelope from his coat pocket and asked his family to go to the front so they could all present the gift to the pastor.
They stood up, and one by one, all 12 of them, including his father, mother, wife, brothers and sisters, walked to the front. The man opened the envelop and removed some notes, which he reverently handed over to the pastor: “My family and I give a gift of 4,000 shillings to the church …”
You could have heard the stunned silence that followed this announcement. And then the silence was broken by some snickering somewhere, and then hushed whispers, delivered with sneering lips. We were all in disbelief, me included, even though unlike most of my fellow congregants, I was careful to hide my disdain.
The question on everyone’s mind was how an entire extended family of 12 could dare stage such an elaborate show only to give a measly Sh4,000.
Much later, however, when I revisited that incident, I could not help feeling ashamed of my unchristian behaviour. I was hugely embarrassed about how I had reacted, especially when I remembered that when the offering bag was passed round, I had given a mere Sh200. Yet there I was, judging a family that had given Sh4,000. Surely it shouldn’t have mattered that they were 12 of them.
That incident brought to mind how we are often quick to judge those that we perceive rich, wondering why they don’t use their money to alleviate the poverty around them, or why they don’t give money to worthwhile causes, and when they do, we accuse them of not giving enough. This, and yet we don’t give even a shilling of the ‘little’ we think we have to the less fortunate around us, that as we eat meat for supper, there is someone we know that sleeps on an empty stomach.
This disease of furtively looking at, and judging what our neighbour is or is not doing instead of focusing on what we should be doing, I think, is our biggest undoing — to borrow from the Bible, we’re too busy looking at the speck in one another’s eyes to notice the log in ours.
You only need to go online to see the hypocrisy I’m talking about, especially when the discussion is about popular personalities, those who feel are in a better standing than we are in society. Many tend to use the same skewed judgement I used that day in church. For instance, we wonder why this person’s elderly mother still sells bananas in the village market when she could be overseeing a supermarket that he has built for her, or why he still rents instead of living in a house he owns or why he still takes a matatu to work — can’t he afford a car?
I don’t know about you, but since then, I have been trying very hard to concentrate on my shortcomings rather than other people’s.