December 13, 2014 by jmw
In the sermon on the mount Jesus teaches his disciples about the nature of judging others. In a well-known phrase he says, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” Jesus’ words have traditionally been interpreted as condemning the hypocritical nature of our judging others: why do you judge someone when you yourself do same/similar things, perhaps even more so?
Recently, however, I was thinking a bit more about the nature of judging others and as I reflected on Jesus’ teaching I came to another idea. I wonder if Jesus is not simply critiquing our hypocritical nature (we see the flaws in others that we dislike about ourselves), but the slothfulness of our judgments.
I got to thinking about what Jesus, a carpenter, might have meant by the phrase “the log in your own eye.” Since a log cannot literally fit in one’s eye, this hyperbole may perhaps be more about the vision of the person who judges and their position relative to their judgment. What might it mean to have a whole log in our eye?
Like I said, as a carpenter I wonder if Jesus may have meant to suggest that the person with a log in their eye is someone who has yet to do damn thing with the fresh piece of lumber before them. In other words, the person who judges or criticizes a situation while doing nothing about it is like a person who has a whole piece of fresh lumber laying around but would rather spend time judging the small flaw in someone else’s work than pitching in their own energy and resource.
I think the hypocritical nature of judgment is a sound interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. But also, from my own experience, I think there may be something to this interpretation as well. It seems to me that so often our judgment comes from a place where we have not walked in the shoes’ of those we judge nor given our own time/energy/resources to address the situation that we judge.