What do you get out of the following words of Jesus from Matthew 7?
1“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
What I get out of it is that we shouldn’t tell people about themselves when we have our own junk to work on. At the same time, in verse 5 Jesus says, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I interpret this to mean that once we have done the work on ourselves then we are qualified to assist our fellow humans in removing what obstructs them from seeing things clearly. However, when we take it upon ourselves to do this type of work, we better be mindful that if the people who we think we are helping have not asked for our help, they will turn on us. As Jesus put it, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” If you’ve ever tried to help out a friend who has never come out and specifically asked for it, you know what I am talking about.
Of course I wish it was not that way. I wish that we could all just work on ourselves in the faith that by that very effort the whole world could ascend to its highest potential. But unfortunately even when we have the means to do so, most of us don’t, resent those who do, and demonize those who take the risk of sharing insights that could actually help us transform. Just look at our country. God knows I love America, but guess what. I love the whole world too. I can see that with our ethnically diverse population, our means of communication, and our democratic government, we are in an awesome position to truly live into the highest spiritual ideals. Because most of us do not have to worry about our basic needs, we could actually use our time to cultivate the highest virtues rather than get caught up in “Reality” TV, personal drama, excessive partying, and other means of numbing our brains.
The sad thing is that even with this big plank in our eye, we still keep trying to tell other people about themselves. But if you look at our schools, the high levels of anxiety and depression among our citizens, and all the legalized drug commercials, it is easy to see that we are off big time. But the thing that gets me the most is that we have been warned time and time again by the likes of Jesus Christ, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King Jr. that unless we confront our issues we are going to reap some bitter fruits. And I know that people have heard these people and yet we still operate from the same mentality that prevailed in their respective times. We think we don’t because we project our issues and internal conflicts further out into other lands, but believe me, everything we do has the same dysfunctional roots.
I ask you to forgive me if you think I am being too critical. All I ask, is that before you draw that conclusion, check out The Appendix on American Christianity from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and tell me if you think we’ve changed that much in the past 150 years. If you can read it and still hold the opinion that I am speaking out of line then I may very well write a retraction of some sort. Again, I am only saying this out of love, because I believe in the capacity of all people to live into the pattern that Christ set for humanity. So as I get to the work of pulling all of the planks out of my own eye, in love, I must not ignore the specks in my sisters and brothers who are trying to see more clearly. And at the same time, I must be willing to trust those who love me to point out my speck as well.