2 Kgs 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18
We live in a somewhat judgmental society. If someone fails in some way, people can take a certain delight in drawing attention to their failure. In that sense, the message of Jesus in today’s gospel reading has a somewhat subversive feel to it, ‘do not judge, and you will not be judged’.
Jesus seems to be suggesting that when we judge others, we are leaving ourselves open to God’s judgment. Jesus may be implying that when we judge someone, we are doing something that only God can do. We simply do not have the insight into others to judge them fairly or justly.
Also, our own perception of others is restricted because of our own failings. This seems to be the point of the humorous image uses of someone with a plank in their eye trying to take a splinter out of someone else’s eye. Because of all kinds of prejudices and failings in ourselves, we don’t see clearly enough to make a sound judgment of others. There is a line in the Jewish Scriptures, ‘the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’.
In John’s gospel, it is said of Jesus, ‘he himself knew what was in everyone’. Jesus is considered unique in this regard. No one else knows what is in everyone. Our limited insight into others, arising partly out of our own failings, should make us slow to judge others. Saint Paul was true to the teaching of Jesus in this matter of judging others. He says in his first letter to the Corinthians, ‘Do not pronounce judgment, before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and disclose the purposes of the heart’.
Only the Lord can disclose the purposes of the human heart; we can never get inside the heart of another. It is clear from the gospel reading that Jesus wants us to work on our own failings before focusing unduly on the failings of others. ‘Take the plank out of your own eye first’. There is enough there to be going on with, for most of us. Amen
Fr John Peter