Sunday, June 5, 2011

Matthew 7: 1-5

Once again I'm going to select a passage from the Bible, consider it, and render my judgement of it. Today, with a wee sense of irony, I shall select Jesus's words from Matthew 7:1-5. Here's the text (King James Version):

 1Judge not, that ye be not judged.
 2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
 3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
 4Or 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?
 5Thou 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.

For comparison, here's the text of the New International Version:

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
   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? 4 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? 5 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. 
This one's a bit of a mixed bag, and could be read in two or three different ways it seems. In the first couple of verses, we've got an admonition to not judge, with a warning that if we do, we'll be judged as well. Then we have 3 verses cautioning against hypocrisy. So we have 1) Do not judge, 2) Don't be a hypocrite, or 3) Don't judge, because that makes you a hypocrite.

Let's deal with number one first. That first verse captures the essence, doesn't it? Well, bad essence. Apart from the fact that it's probably impossible to completely avoid judging someone, it's really a bad idea to even strive for that. We have a moral obligation to judge others. That's right: an obligation. If we refrain from judging others, then how are we to say that it's wrong for a priest to rape a child? Or a man to kill another for the money in his wallet? How can we say it's good for a person with money to spare to donate to the poor? Or a father to donate his time as a Little League coach? We must judge these things. Note that it's perfectly acceptable to judge something as morally neutral. Dancing to a song with a good beat? Getting a tattoo?  Morally neutral. And certainly there may be nuance to consider in various cases, but nonetheless, we must judge. To claim that beating one's wife for going outside the house without a male escort is okay because that's the culture, that we cannot judge the man because we are not in that culture? Wrong, so totally wrong. Of course we can judge him, and we must!

Nor should we consider the warning ("you too will be judged") to be a warning, but a promise, and a welcome one. If we're of good character, we should welcome it when our mistakes and immoral actions are pointed out to us, because then we have the opportunity to correct our mistakes and make amends for our actions -- or at least try.

That's interpretation one, let's deal with number two, "don't be a hypocrite." Sound advice, and a good policy to follow. It can't be judged moral to scold someone for stealing when you're cheating on your taxes.

Well, that was easy! On to number three, "don't judge, because that makes you a hypocrite." Um, no, it doesn't. True, if you're judging someone for stealing when you're cheating on taxes, you are a hypocrite, and that's bad. The person you're judging is fully justified in pointing out your own failings. However, this doesn't mean that either should avoid making the judgements, or excuse the first thief for thievery, it only means the hypocrite has more that he's doing wrong. Each should be dealt with accordingly.

So, here's my judgement of this passage:

Interpretation one: Immoral.

Interpretation two: Moral.

Interpretation three: Immoral and silly.

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