You have heard the saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” It makes sense, although someone would be quite weird and conspicuous by living in a glass house. The proverb, which has been used for centuries, is meant to remind us not to criticize someone for a flaw that we might also have.
As a youngster, I loved to throw stones and sometimes it got me into trouble. Once, I tried to stone a butterfly (yes, you read that correctly) and the stone went through our kitchen window. My mother was not impressed!
Another time, I was walking home from my one-room country school and, with nothing else to do, I threw a stone at the window of an abandoned house. The stone hit the middle frame of the window and demolished two windows with one shot. “Pretty good,” I thought, until the teacher, who for some reason was watching from the school, saw me and reported me to the police. My teacher was not impressed!
I lived in the country, and we would see, perhaps once a year, a police car. The police had more interesting work to do than investigating broken windows, so nothing happened to me. But I had been warned, and my delight in pitching stones, and later baseballs, had to be modified. I learned that it was a sin (in the words of my neighbor) to stone birds. This was after I had—I admit with shame—killed a robin.
In college, I was going to baseball practice one afternoon and decided to throw a ball on the roof of Joice’s dorm to get her attention. I missed the roof and broke another window! Joice was not impressed, and I was out a couple of dollars.
I have many more examples of my throwing stones (and baseballs) but these are enough to make my point: throwing stones can do damage. As a young teenager, I transferred my energy to throwing baseballs. I would set up a bale of hay near the barn, retreat to my imaginary outfield position, toss the ball in the air, catch it and fire at the bale. I would spend hours doing this and was known on my high school and college teams as having a “strong arm” (not underarm). I don’t know if that has helped me to become a Bible translator, but it provided some casual relief from farm chores and work.
When Jesus had a conflict with the religious leaders, on one occasion they wanted to stone him: Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” (John 10.31-32).
On another occasion (John 8), some Pharisees and teachers of the law caught a woman in adultery and took to the woman to Jesus. They wanted to see if Jesus would obey the Law of Moses and let them stone her, but Jesus said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The accusers left, one by one, beginning with the older ones. Some of the religious leaders were living in glass houses.
Stoning has been used as capital punishment and a way of killing someone. It was not uncommon in Bible times and persists today in some cultures. “Iran has the world’s highest rate of execution by stoning, and the Middle Eastern country regularly makes headlines for its employment of the practice, which came into force after the 1979 revolution. The Library of Congress believes that around 150 people were stoned to death in Iran between 1980 and 2009, although the reported numbers are probably lower than the actual figures.” (source: theweek.co.uk) Not only does Iran have stoning in its penal code, it determines the size of the stone. It can’t be so large that it would kill the accused with “one or two throws,” and it must not be so small that it can’t be called a stone.
In the rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14), only the glory of the Lord kept the people from stoning them. Paul condoned the stoning of Christians (Acts 7.58) and was later stoned himself (2 Corinthians 11.25). Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7.59) and yet prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
It is more challenging to note that Jesus is referred to as the Living Stone and we are also to be “living stones.” 2 Peter 2.4-6: “Come to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says:
“I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” (Isaiah 28:16)
Our salvation depends on that stone.