Matthew 7:1-12 (CEB): “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. Don’t give holy things to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls in front of pigs. They will stomp on the pearls, then turn around and attack you.
“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.”
There’s a lot of good stuff in the Gospel reading today. First up is the idea of judging others. It seems that a lot of us seem to forget this passage. ‘You’ll receive the same judgment you give’. Some people call this karma, but whatever one calls it, ‘what goes around, comes around’. We seem to forget that, maybe, the reason others are judging us is that we have judged others. And, if we feel that we are being judged unfairly, perhaps we have judged others unfairly, too.
‘But they started it!’ some may claim. I know that I do this sometimes, too. I think it part of our sin addicted selves. I react to how others act toward me. If someone is short and snaps at me, if I feel it’s unjust, I’ll react in kind. But what I think Jesus is telling us here is that we can stop the cycle. We don’t have to react the same way. We can be full of God’s Grace and love and just let those judgments fall to the floor.
Furthermore, we are so quick to point out that, yes, Jesus did say that we could judge other people. But only after we remove the log from our own eyes. The people who quickly point this out, it seems to me, haven’t really removed the log from their own eye. I know, that when I pause for a moment, and reflect about a situation, I quickly see that I may be looking at the thing wrong. I may not have all of the information. For example, someone dented the side of our car (not too badly, but still). Now, one reaction was to lash out in anger to this phantom person. But, as was also pointed out, we don’t really know the circumstances of the dent. Maybe someone received an emergency phone call about a loved one and in the rush to get to the emergency room, backed into the car and dented it. We can certainly see how leaving a note with all of the proper information on it was not the top priority at the moment. And, perhaps further, maybe we had wronged someone and we didn’t respond properly? In some instances, we are not innocent victims.
And, even if we are in the right, we should be cautious about placing judgment. Jesus contends that it would be like giving ‘holy things to dogs’ or ‘throw[ing] pearls in front of pigs’. The one being judged will just stomp all over it. The question we should ask ourselves is are we really so pure that we can pass judgment on someone else? Do we have all the information? Do we really see it for what it is (whatever ‘it’ may be)? Most likely not. So, again, caution should be considered before passing judgment.
There is a lot of talk about the ten commandments on court house walls or on the grounds of court buildings. I think we should really remove these and replace them with the ‘Golden Rule’: ‘You should treat people the way you want people to treat you.’ If the ‘Golden Rule’ actually shaped our lives, there wouldn’t be (or at least a lot less) violence in the world - whether it’s directed toward nature, animals, or other humans. We would stop playing politics with helping our brothers and sisters who are poor and seen as outcasts. We would be putting an end to poverty and curable diseases. There would not be an ‘us’ verses ‘them’. The whole world be at peace and would be as one. Jesus is telling us that this is how we are to live. That this is what it looks like to be a person of ‘The Way’.
To flesh this out a little bit more, St Paul wrote what some have called the ‘Platinum Rule’: ‘Don’t do anything for selfish purposes but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others’ (Philippians 2.3-4 CEB). The point of both of these passages is people who claim to follow Christ should be humble as Christ was humble and empty ourselves in the service of others (Philippians 2.1-11 CEB). Anyone who does that will fulfill the ‘Law and the Prophets’.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC