To Cast the First Stone (to cast aspersions)
Bible Study #11
Common Bible Phrases #8
Meaning: Do not be the first one to accuse others of their faults or mistakes. Especially with the goal of putting someone down or making them look bad.
Do not cast aspersions, that is, to say that someone's character or work is bad.
Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone. – Jesus Christ
It's not a question of who's going to throw the first stone; it's a question of who's going to start building with it” Sloan Wilson (American author 1920-2003, attended Harvard University)
When the exhibit of his paintings opened, some critics cast aspersions on both his art and character.
The Bible verses: John 8:2-7
Joh 8:1-9 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. (2) And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. (3) And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, (4) They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. (5) Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? (6) This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. (7) So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (8) And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. (9) And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
(10) When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? (11) She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
This is one of the better-known incidents from Jesus’ ministry. It may be interesting to note that at that time, Jesus did not differentiate any particular sin as being worse than another, simply, let him without sin, cast the first stone. That could be an interesting topic for another study, are there differences between sins?
But for today, let’s get back on topic! The reason that people are often open to or even quick to expose other people’s shortcomings, undoubtedly comes in part from the attitude they have about themselves. They feel justified in exposing others, ‘that person did wrong and justice needs to be done’. That feeling comes from a lack of conscience or even awareness of their own shortcomings, it’s as though they feel that they have never committed any such sin, so they are justified, just-if-I’d-never-sinned!
However, if we are really honest with ourselves and others, we all have our own mistakes and ‘sins’ (conscious wrong doings) that we have committed, in that case, does anyone have the right or privilege to condemn others for their mistakes or wrong doing? Not really, unless condemning is part of a specific job, such as a prosecutor, judge or jury participant.
That idea may be a surprise to some people. But if we look at how human interaction has happened throughout history, it’s not difficult to see that condemning others’ ideas, beliefs, attitudes, choices and actions has been an integral part of the source of countless problems.
There is a big difference between holding a different opinion to others and wanting to put down or even eliminate other people’s opinions simply because they differ from you and your opinion or viewpoint, which you believe to be the right and only justified view.
In this lesson from the Bible, we see that the woman was caught doing something that was against the tradition, law and culture of her time. So, the authorities were ‘justified’ in their view, it was part of their job to make people follow the laws and customs. The reason they brought her to Jesus however, was not really to condemn the woman, but to find something that Jesus would do that they could use to condemn him. Either, that the ‘love-less’ Jesus condemned the woman out of a lack of love, or the ‘Lawless’ Jesus taught others to break the law by forgiving her. In the end, Jesus’ answer was on a completely different level of thought that ruined their plot and exposed them as the hypocrites that they really were.
As can be seen in a simple web search, this phrase is not used or repeated often, maybe because in the end most people do know of their own hypocrisy in condemning others for things, they themselves are guilty of.
This is in contrast to the Christian view of ‘bearing one another’s burdens’, just as Christ took on the burden of our wrong doings in order to help us, not preferring himself. So should we, expose other people’s shortcomings, humbly, along with the admission of our own similar guilt and praying together when possible, for forgiveness and to do better, on this journey of life.