Daily Office Readings – Gospel ( Matthew 7:1-12 )
The other day, I ran across a Twitter stream ripping on everyone and anyone who had caused the Tweeter even a most minor offense. On and on the rant went, with name calling, spreading of lies and misinformation, and just plain meanness. So much hate and judgment directed at those that dared to suggest that the Tweeter was at fault in any small way.
Seriously, after reading it I felt I needed to wash myself clean somehow, because it was just such a display of awfulness. I figured Twitter would have blocked or deleted some of these tweets because they violated Twitter’s terms of service and code of conduct. But, of course, Twitter did nothing, and instead considers the Tweeter’s comments to be “in the public interest.”
What a bunch of spineless, no good, do-nothings. Obviously too scared to take a stand against moral depravity and vile behavior. They must have grown up in a —
Wait. I’m doing it too, aren’t I?
Jesus tells us not to pass judgment on others, because whatever standard we hold others to will be applied to us, and then he also tells us that we really, really like to find faults with others while ignoring the same faults within ourselves. He calls us out for being a bunch of hypocrites when it comes to judging others.
Not a day goes by without us judging others. We make judgments on whether someone’s pants are too tight, if they’re wearing white after Labor Day, and whether they type in complete words and sentences in text messages. We decided whether we should pay attention to them based on their looks, and we decide if we can trust them by the shape of their eyes. And even now “in these uncertain times,” we judge others by whether they wear a mask in public or not.
We judge others. A lot.
None of this is new. Jesus knew it.
But he wanted us to become more aware of it.
I’ve recently run across a book titled “Why everyone ^(else) is a hypocrite – Evolution and the modular mind.” The book makes the argument that hypocrisy is the natural state of the mind. We all deceive ourselves, and we all understand that for us and our behavior, there are exceptions, there are extenuating circumstances that caused us to break our own rule.
This is also not a novel concept, but it brings together a bunch of science to help us understand basically this: we’re so focused on the speck in our neighbor’s eye that we don’t even notice the log in our own.
So what are all of us judgmental jerks supposed to do if we’re hard-wired to make snap judgments and expect people to live up to a higher standard than that which we hold up for ourselves?
Like so many of Jesus’ teachings, there’s some hyperbole involved. Jesus tells us to remove all our own faults before we judge our neighbor.
Which, of course, we cannot do. Trying to eradicate sin in our lives is like playing moral whack-a-mole.
We will never stop judging. We will never stop making snap judgments, or waxing eloquent about the immorality of others. Never.
But if we are willing to allow grace in our own lives for all of those extenuating circumstances that caused us to step outside of our own neatly colored lines, then we can certainly find ways to offer others that same grace and understanding and learn about their extenuating circumstances.
All of this is just another way of Jesus saying what he said earlier in the sermon on the mount: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This comment about the speck and the log is just another concrete example of how that plays out in our daily life.