Jesus’ favorite target for his ire was the religious hypocrites – the Pharisees. Modern day religious hypocrites can often be identified by their usage of Gospel verses that deflect any attack against their hypocrisy. One of my favorites is when the self-righteous attack with the line, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” and yet they are judging you. Even worse is their misuse of Matthew 7:3.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
There’s so much wrong with using this passage to attack someone else. The most obvious is that this is a selection that is specifically about self-awareness. It addresses in no uncertain terms that we must be introspective; that we must be aware of our own biases and faults before we can seek to help our brother. In no way does it ever imply that we should attack our brother for being biased. Yet the self-righteous use this verse to attack people they judge to be judgmental.
Second, there’s a subtle psychological beauty in Jesus’ words. There always is. In verse five he literally calls us “hypocrites” for judging others before we self-judge. In a beautifully tragic way, we who are religious hypocrites will naturally assume that Jesus can’t possibly be talking about us; he must be talking about those other nasty people who aren’t as righteous as we are. We externalize our own faults as a way to deny that we have those faults.
No. This verse is 100% absolutely about self-judgment. This is about introspection. This is about coming to terms with our own internal demons before we start damning others for theirs.
As for judging other, well… it turns out Jesus was okay with that. In fact, he urged us to judge people – especially when they’re self-righteous hypocrites. Like the Pharisees.
“But, Tom. Everyone knows Jesus told us not to judge!”
No, Sunshine, he didn’t tell us that at all. He told us to be sure to self-judge before we judge others.
Now, for those of you who thought this was going to be a post about the physics implications of Planck’s Constant, sorry.