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November 18, 2020 Wednesday 02:30:56 PM IST

Who Shall Cast the First Stone


A man was caught stealing bread from a bakery. He did it because of gnawing hunger pangs and he had no money with him. Moreover, nobody was willing to give him a helping hand. Immediately he was brought before the king who was known for very strict punishments even for the slightest of offenses. When the king interrogated the thief he immediately acknowledged his guilt. In no time the king sentenced him to capital punishment.

The poor man was aghast as he heard the verdict of the king. As he requested for mercy with folded hands tears welled up in his eyes. The king was in no mood to show him mercy. He was sent to the dungeon to await his punishment. While he was there he came up with an idea to escape his punishment. Accordingly, he said to the guard, “I would like to convey a secret to the king before I am executed. It is about planting an apple seed which can grow overnight into a fruit-bearing apple tree.”

The guard was fascinated with the story and conveyed the message to the king. The king too was captivated by what he heard. However, he had his doubts. Hence, summoning him to the royal court the king asked, “If you knew this secret why did you steal bread instead of growing apples and making a living out of it?”

“But I could not do it,” the man explained. “For the seed to grow overnight into an apple tree it should be planted by someone who has never lied, cheated or stolen anything in his life. Unfortunately, I have lied and stolen in my life. If the apple seed is planted by a truly virtuous person it will grow into a fruit-bearing tree overnight.”

The king was suspicious of what the man said. However, he wanted to test whether the apple seed would grow into a fruit-bearing tree overnight. Hence, he called his prime minister, explained the situation and asked him to plant the apple seed. When he heard that the seed should be planted by someone who has never lied, cheated or stolen anything in his life, he became frightened. “I am sorry your Majesty, if I grow the apple seed it will not grow as I am guilty of lying and cheating in my life.”

When the prime minister could not plant the apple seed the king turned to his finance minister. The finance minister was horrified when he was asked to plant the apple seed. Knowing not what to do or say he stood there speechless perspiring. “So you too have lied and cheated in your life?” the king asked. Nodding his head, the finance minister continued to stand there silently. “Have you ever stolen from the royal treasury?” the king asked. He again nodded his headed acknowledging his guilt.

The king then asked other members of the royal court to plant the apple seed. But nobody came forward. They all stood there in silence. Then the man in chains said, “If there is nobody else who is willing to plant the seed, I request your Majesty to plant it.” Immediately the king’s face fell as he remembered he was also not a virtuous person always in his life. Many occasions of lying and cheating flashed across his mind. “No, I cannot do it,” the king said without explaining further.

“If your Majesty as well as all others here are guilty of lying, cheating or stealing at some point in your life,” the man said, “what right do you have to condemn me to capital punishment for stealing a piece of bread to satisfy my hunger?” The king was impressed with his smartness and sent him home giving him many presents.

We are not always virtuous as we do not always uphold high moral standards and principles in our life. In fact, many of us often break many of the rules and regulations of the society as well as of religion. However, we are often quick in judging and condemning others even for their minor faults. When it comes to the question of our faults our tendency is to make light of them and find out all kinds of excuses. But when the question is about the faults of others, often we are eager to mete out severe punishment.

During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus condemned this attitude by asking, “And why do you look at the splinter in your brother's eye, but not notice the beam in your own eye?” (Mathew 7:3). When the woman caught in adultery was brought before him to be stoned to death, Jesus asked, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Yes, we need to be aware of our own sins before we begin to condemn others for their sins.

But it doesn’t mean that we should not punish people guilty of breaking the law. It means, we should judge others justly and the punishment given should be in proportion to the crime committed and it should help them to reform their life. Also, we should never have the impression that only those who are brought to justice are guilty of breaking the law. Even if we are not caught for committing a crime we are still guilty of it. Moreover, we should not wait to repent of a crime until we are caught; if we have ever committed a crime or a sin, we should always have genuine repentance and the willingness to amend our life. If that is the case, we will never rush to throw stones at others. 

Jose Panthaplamthottiyil

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