Thursday, November 17, 2016

Matthew 7:1-5 -- On Motes and Beams and Judgments

"Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye."
Matthew 7:1-5

The commandment not to judge here is tempered elsewhere in the scriptures with advice on judging righteously, and on making wise choices (John 7:24; Alma 41:14).  We can't get through life making zero judgments, but these verses, along with the following verses talking about motes and beams give us some important warnings about the judgments that we make... because everything comes back to us.

We often like to distance ourselves from things because it is less painful.  It's easier to think about wars, poverty, and hardship happening in distant lands than it is in our own neighborhoods, because it's a step away from us... something that it is safe to express concern about, but not something immediate enough where we actually have to do something about it.  We do it with commandments and laws as well.  We criticize other people for not being righteous, or for not following the law of the land, while forgiving ourselves for sin or lawbreaking because of our circumstances, which obviously give us a pass.  It's a common ailment in our society, and I think that we have all done it... a little hypocrisy, a little judgment: casting stones when we are clearly not without sin ourselves (John 8:7).

I think what God is saying to us here is that we're going to be judged by the judgments we make... by our choices, by our thoughts and our actions concerning others, as well as our efforts to live the commandments ourselves, and so we need to stop our prejudgments and stereotypes and labels and hatred without knowing people individually, because if we don't, that is exactly what we are going to get in return.  When God asks us to first look at the beam in our own eye, he's saying hey, let's switch things up.  Instead of looking to others first and thinking about how other people are bad or misusing their freedom and choices, or how other people aren't doing this or that or the other good thing, or how they are doing all of these other bad things... instead of all of that, look first to yourself.  And when we hear this message and we really do look inward, we find much worse problems within ourselves than we are looking at externally.  A lack of compassion, for instance.  A refusal to listen, or a closed mind or heart.  Hatred or intolerance.  (In ourselves, remember, not in others.)  ... So many things that we need to clean out of our minds and hearts.  Our souls need a good power-washing.  And God knows this, and so he tells us... hey.  Lay off.  Don't judge.  First, think.  Stop blinding yourself with emotion before you go to interact with others.  They don't deserve your venom.

Today, let's get those beams out of our eyes so that we can see others clearly... and if we do end up judging them, let's make sure we can judge them with love, and compassion, and charity, and humanity, and mercy.  So, hopefully, we will be judged similarly.

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