Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, Leviticus 23:1-22, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, Matthew 7:1-12
[H]ow can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
Hypocrisy is one of Jesus’s biggest targets. When he criticizes the hypocrisy of religious leaders, we cheer him on. However, his admonitions are not limited to authority figures: they apply to us also. When he spoke of logs and specks, it was to his followers in general.
We are still quick to point out the hypocrisy of politicians, religious leaders, and the self-righteous, but we are often slow to recognize it in ourselves and even try to rationalize it away. Some of the most blatant examples are in politics. When the “other” side uses dirty tricks or displays unethical behavior, we point condemning fingers and demand accountability. When “our” side does something similar we attempt to explain it away or justify it as a necessary evil – often blaming the behavior of the other side as forcing our hand. Cliched as it may be, two wrongs don’t make a right. A principle we are willing to sacrifice for convenience or expedience is not a principle at all. “They did it first!” is a child’s excuse.
We can also be quick to judge others for qualities we don’t like about ourselves. Maybe that’s why there is no shortage of “family values” candidates caught in adulterous affairs and other unseemly behaviors. But our eagerness to judge them in kind (or worse to celebrate their undoing) is a hypocrisy of its own. The line between personal accountability and unholy judgment can easily blur. To bring it into focus, we can look at it through a lens of compassion: reconciliation may require consequences, but the former is a priority and the latter merely a tool.
Regarding judgment Christ tells us: “the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Being honest about our own flaws makes us less likely to judge others.
Comfort: Judging others is exhausting. Let it go, and feel yourself refreshed.
Challenge: Be slow to judge. Maybe so slow you forget about it.
Prayer: Merciful God, teach me to be humble and merciful. Have mercy on my soul. Amen.
Discussion: What are the flaws you are most likely to condemn in others? What does that say about you?
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