All of us are slow to see our own sin as well. We explain it away; maybe there seems to be a good reason for it. Perhaps other people do the same thing we just did. Maybe we find God’s rules oppressive and we’d rather do something else. Yet we need to know how bad our sin is, and where we have made mistakes, if we are to work on our godliness.
We always tend to see the sins and shortcomings of other people more clearly than we see our own sin. As Jesus said, we are the kind of people who notice the speck in the eyes of others rather than the plank in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). It is hard to honestly assess our own spiritual condition.
This is nothing new but is inherent in what it means to be human. An unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 20 confronted King Ahab after he had disobeyed God. Ahab was expected to devote the defeated Syrian king, Ben-hadad, to destruction, but instead made a treaty with him. The prophet arranged to look injured and then cried out to the king with a story:
And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’ 40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it” (1 Ki. 20:39-40 ESV).
King Ahab thought he had made a great decision. The prophet didn’t accuse him directly, but told a story to trap the king. In the story, a soldier who was tasked to guard a man didn’t do his job. He had no good excuse for not doing it; “as your servant was busy here and there” is possibly the vaguest excuse you can think of! It is clear that the soldier was guilty. There are not even any good excuses for his behaviour. Ahab sees the obvious guilt of the soldier, but only later does he realise that the story is describing what he just did.