GOSPEL READING: Matthew 7:1-5
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Meditation: How do you wish to be judged by others? Everybody is a critic, but who wants to be judged negatively? Judgmentalism is rampant, even among Christians. So how can we avoid this poisonous sin and not be contaminated by the world’s view of who is good and who is bad? “Thinking the best of other people” is necessary if we wish to grow in love. And kindliness in judgment is nothing less that a sacred duty. The Rabbis warned people: “He who judges his neighbor favorably will be judged favorably by God.”
Who can judge rightly?
How easy it is to misjudge and how difficult it is to be impartial in judgment. Our judgment of others is usually “off the mark” because we can’t see inside the person to their inner motives and intentions, or we don’t have access to all the facts, or we are swayed by instinct and unreasoning reactions to people. It is easier to find fault in others than in oneself.
Why did Jesus calls his critics hypocrites? Listen to Augustine of Hippo’s (354-430 A.D) explanation of this passage:
“The word hypocrite is aptly employed here, since the denouncing of evils is best viewed as a matter only for upright persons of goodwill. When the wicked engage in it, they are like impersonators, masqueraders, hiding their real selves behind a mask, while they portray another’s character through the mask. The word hypocrites in fact signifies pretenders. Hence we ought especially to avoid that meddlesome class of pretenders who under the pretense of seeking advice undertake the censure of all kinds of vices. They are often moved by hatred and malice.
“Rather, whenever necessity compels one to reprove or rebuke another, we ought to proceed with godly discernment and caution. First of all, let us consider whether the other fault is such as we ourselves have never had or whether it is one that we have overcome. Then, if we have never had such a fault, let us remember that we are human and could have had it. But if we have had it and are rid of it now, let us remember our common frailty, in order that mercy, not hatred, may lead us to the giving of correction and admonition. In this way, whether the admonition occasions the amendment or the worsening of the one for whose sake we are offering it (for the result cannot be foreseen), we ourselves shall be made safe through singleness of eye. But if on reflection we find that we ourselves have the same fault as the one we are about to reprove, let us neither correct nor rebuke that one. Rather, let us bemoan the fault ourselves and induce that person to a similar concern, without asking him to submit to our correction.” (excerpt from SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.19.64)
Merciful healing and removal of sin
Jesus states a heavenly principle we can stake our lives on: what you give to others (and how you treat others) will return to you in like manner. The Lord knows our faults, weaknesses, and sins and he sees everything, even the imperfections and hidden sins of the heart which we cannot recognize in ourselves. Like a gentle father and a skillful doctor he patiently draws us to his seat of mercy and removes the cancer of sin which inhabits our hearts.
Do you trust in God’s mercy and grace? And do you submit to his truth about what is right and wrong, good and evil, helpful and harmful for your welfare and the welfare of your neighbor as well? Ask the Lord to purify your heart with his loving-kindness and mercy that you may have ample room for charity and forbearance towards your neighbor.
O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst. This we ask for thy name’s sake. (Prayer of William Barclay, 20th century)
3 You have made your people suffer hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us reel.
4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you, to rally to it from the bow. [Selah]
5 That your beloved may be delivered, give victory by your right hand and answer us!
6 God has spoken in his sanctuary: “With exultation I will divide up Shechem and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
7 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; E’phraim is my helmet; Judah is my scepter.
8 Moab is my washbasin; upon Edom I cast my shoe; over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
9 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go forth, O God, with our armies.
11 O grant us help against the foe, for vain is the help of man!
12 With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.