Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:1-6, Matthew 13:44-46, Romans 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, James 5:7-11
We keep all the candy in a basket in the pantry. The leftover Halloween chocolates, the Easter jelly beans, gourmet candy canes from Christmas, and the Valentine hearts—they all end up in our candy basket. A whole year’s worth of sweets for five children. It’s quite a haul. Some years we just forget about it until it degrades, and I throw it away. Once we pulled it all out and decorated our most extravagantly baroque gingerbread house ever. This year, since the kids are a little older, I’ve been pulling out treats and doling them out for occasional sugar-joy.
Since I don’t trust them to make responsible sugar choices, the kids aren’t allowed to get into the candy themselves. But I am. And I do. Not all of it tempts me. I could go the rest of my life without sour or hard candies. But there are some very grown-up chocolates and cookies that sing a sticky-gooey siren song. It floats out from under the door of the pantry, calling to me. I sneak in and steal a snack. Now, if one of my tender babes stole a treat, I would come down hard on them. I’d start by taking away the candy, then lecturing on the dangers of stealing, followed by the risks of sugar on teeth, and then I’d dole out the consequences.
I’ve got a log in my eye. I think my kids have the problem, but really it’s me. I expect my kids to adhere to a standard that I definitely do not hold myself to. I find myself extending that double standard of judgment readily and easily to other people as well.
Have you ever found yourself saying to your friends, “I can’t even imagine doing what she did”? And while it’s possible that you may never be tempted by that specific sin, you are tempted by your besetting sins. We all have those secret sins that we don’t want anyone to know about. And we all have our personal favorite everyday-variety sins that we brush away. Perhaps we’ve just brushed them away so many times that we cease to even think of them as sins.
It’s so much easier to focus on the speck in your brother’s eye, or the flaw in your sister’s character. But I’m just looking past the timber lodged in my own eye when I start looking around for everyone else’s sawdust.
Honestly, we love to judge others differently than we judge ourselves. I have reasons, excuses, justifications for my own faults. And that’s it: when we’re talking about me, they are “faults” or “weaknesses”—definitely not sins. Or so I tell myself. But God has shown us more grace than we could ever show anyone else. Knowing this, how can I judge?
The poet G.M. Hopkins writes:
“Mend first [the] vital candle in close heart’s vault:
You there are master, do your own desire;
What hinders? Are you beam-blind, yet to a fault
in a neighbor deft-handed? Are you that liar[?]”
Are you beam-blind? Do you ignore the guttering of your own candle while criticizing someone else’s flame? Do you, while camped out in utter darkness, judge the dim light of others? Do you admonish others for candy-grabbing, while you actually do the same yourself, in secret?
May God grant us ears to hear and hearts to receive this rebuke to our hypocrisy. May we not trample such precious pearls of admonition, ignoring our logs. And thanks be to God, that He does not deal with us as our iniquities deserve, but has poured out mercy on us! (Psalm 103:10).