There’s no doubt about the meaning of today’s gospel (MT 7:1-5). Jesus begins with “STOP JUDGING!” (Emphasis mine). Those words are enough for me as my judgmental mind knows the strength of my tendency to judge everything – and everyone – by appearance. This is my most consistent spiritual practice: to let go of judging others and myself by the measure of perfection that I appropriated in childhood or along the way from culture or image of God or the opinions of others. Our voyeuristic culture loves to sneak into the lives of the rich and famous and find their flaws. Our economic culture tells us what is “in” to wear and drive and eat and do for recreation. Our religious upbringing sometimes still sends echoes of “not good enough” into our minds while God withholds nothing from us if we look to our hearts.
Judging is sometimes an automatic function of our make-up but is not always a bad thing. We must be discriminative in our choices in life and so the ability to judge between goods, or between what would be good for us and what would not, is crucial. I know that isn’t what Jesus is talking about this morning, however, because he goes on to say, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” That sentence always stops me cold as I think of how even the smallest foreign object in my eye hurts. Humility quickly follows as I ponder my judgmental self. Then I take a breath, try to let go of what I’m thinking (even though I’d rather share my opinion!) and start again to walk the better path where I know God waits with a smile of understanding.