You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye:
hupokrita, ekbale (2SAAM) proton ek
tou ophthalmou sou ten dokon (Mt
22:18; 23:14-28; Luke 12:56; 13:15) (Psalms 51:9, 10, 11, 12, 13; Luke
4:23; 6:42; Acts 19:15)
The irony of the "speck removal
ministry" is that a man often condemns most vehemently in others is that
to which he is himself prone! Be careful where you throw stones!
Spurgeon writes that...
At the bottom of all
censoriousness lies hypocrisy. An honest man would apply to himself the
judgment which he exercises upon others, but it usually happens that
those who are so busy spying Out other people’s faults have no time to
see their own; and what is this, at the bottom, but insincerity and
The judging faculty is best
employed at home. Our tendency is to spy out splinters in other men’s
eyes, and not to see the beam in our own. Instead of beholding, with
gratified gaze, the small fault of another, we should act reasonably if
we penitently considered the greater fault of ourselves. It is the beam
in our own eye which blinds us to our own wrong doing; but such
blindness does not suffice to excuse us, since it evidently does not
shut our eyes to the little error of our brother. Officiousness pretends
to play the oculist; but in very truth it plays the fool. Fancy a man
with a beam in his eye pretending to deal with so tender a part as the
eye of another, and attempting to remove so tiny a thing as a mote or
splinter! Is he not a hypocrite to pretend to be so concerned about
other men’s eyes, and yet he never attends to his own? Jesus is gentle,
but he calls that man a “&hypocrite “& who fusses about small things in
others and pays no attention to great matters at home in his own person.
Our reformations must begin with ourselves, or they are not true, and do
not spring from a right motive. Sin we may rebuke, but not if we indulge
it. We may protest against evil, but not if we wilfully practice it. The
Pharisees were great at censuring, but slow at amending. Our Lord will
not have his kingdom made up of hypocritical theorists, he calls for
practical obedience to the rules of holiness.
After we are ourselves
sanctified, we are bound to be eyes to the blind, and correctors of
unholy living; but not till then. Till we have personal piety, our
preaching of godliness is sheer hypocrisy. May none of us provoke the
Lord to say to us, “&Thou hypocrite&”!
There may be, dear friends, a
great deal of hypocrisy about us, of which we are not aware, for when a
man sees a fault in another, and tells him of it, he says, “&You know I
am a very plain-spoken person; there is no hypocrisy about me.&” Well,
but there is, and, according to the Savior’s description, this may be
sheer hypocrisy because meanwhile in your own eye there is something
else worse than you see in your fellow, and this you pass over, and this
is simply untruthful dealing, and it amounts to hypocrisy. If you were
really so zealous to make people see, you would begin by being zealous
to see yourself, and if you were so concerned to have ,all eyes cleansed
from impurity, you would begin by cleansing your own, or seeking to have
Remember that it is only a short
step from critical to hypocritical.
(hupokrites from from hupó = under, indicating secrecy +
krino = to judge) (See related word
hupokrisis) describes one who acts
pretentiously, a counterfeit, a man who assumes and speaks or acts under
a feigned character.
Hypocrite had its origins in Greek theater, in which it described a
character who wore a mask. In the New Testament a hypocrite normally
refers to an unregenerate person who is self-deceived. Unless prompted
by the right motives, religious activities, including doing good deeds
to others, are of no real spiritual value and receive no commendation
from God. It does matter greatly why we do what we do. The hypocrite has
a duplicitous life – often without realizing it – giving appearance of
one motive when in reality a hidden motive drives him. The most
difficult type of hypocrisy to spot is not in someone else but is in
ourselves (even if it's a huge log)! We can often spot ill motives
(specks) in someone else and be
judgmental but quickly
make excuses for similar motives in our own heart! And remember that it
is but a short step from the critical to the hypocritical.
The 1828 Webster's English dictionary
says a hypocrite is
One who feigns to be what he is not;
one who has the form of godliness without the power (cf 2Ti 3:5-note),
or who assumes an appearance of piety and virtue, when he is destitute
of true religion (cf Jas 1:27-note
for definition of "true religion").
Hupokrites - 17x in 17v - Mt
6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; 22:18; 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; 24:51; Mark
7:6; Luke 6:42; 12:56; 13:15
Hupokrites occurs 2 times in the
= Job 34:30; 36:13
The original word translated
hypocrite was used by the Greeks to designate an actor. It means
literally "a second face," as Greek actors wore masks to represent the
characters portrayed. We speak
of being "two-faced." God demands reality. Our Lord insists on this. No
shallow, empty religiousness will do for Him. We cannot know Him as our
Father who loves to meet our needs in His grace and mercy, unless we are
honest in seeking His face. To judge others superciliously, while living
in sin ourselves, is abominable in His sight. If we are honestly seeking
to know Him and ready to do His will, He will guide us into the narrow
way of unselfish devotion to God. (Ironside,
Harry: Commentary on Matthew)
Ben Franklin put it this
Clean your fingers before you
point at my spots.
(proton from protos = leading, foremost,
prominent, most important) means first in time, place, order,
importance. In short, give priority to your own "eyesight"
before looking at others.
place to criticize your neighbor is in front of your own
critic who starts with himself will have no time to take on
outside contracts. - Anonymous
wise old Ben Franklin put it...
Clean your fingers before
you point at my
(ekballo from ek = out + ballo = throw, cast) means literally
to cast out, a word that includes a sense of
to force, thrust or drive out.
aorist imperative commands urgent, effective
attention. Do this now! Do it first if you want to be a "speck
minister"! As William Secker said "They are fittest to
find fault in whom there is no fault to you be found."
Many are like barbers, that trim all
men but themselves. -Thomas Adams
Ekballo - 81x in 75v - Matt
7:4f, 22; 8:12, 16, 31; 9:25, 33f, 38; 10:1, 8; 12:20, 24, 26ff, 35;
13:52; 15:17; 17:19; 21:12, 39; 22:13; 25:30; Mark 1:12, 34, 39, 43;
3:15, 22f; 5:40; 6:13; 7:26; 9:18, 28, 38, 47; 11:15; 12:8; 16:9, 17;
Luke 4:29; 6:22, 42; 9:40, 49; 10:2, 35; 11:14f, 18ff; 13:28, 32; 19:45;
20:12, 15; John 2:15; 6:37; 9:34f; 10:4; 12:31; Acts 7:58; 9:40; 13:50;
16:37; 27:38; Gal 4:30; Jas 2:25; 3 John 1:10; Rev 11:2. NAS =
brings(3), cast(28), casting(5), casts(5), drive(4), driven(1),
drove(4), eliminated*(1), leads(1), leave(1), put(2), puts(1), puts
forth(1), putting(1), scorn(1), send(2), sending...away(1), sent(3),
sent...away(1), take(6), threw(3), throw(3), throwing(1), thrown(1),
James Gordon said that...
We have a bat's eye for our own
faults, and an eagle's for the faults of others.
The log- Spurgeon
comments that the log is...
It is a beam. You do not see it
because it is in your own eye. How is it that you can be so severe
towards that which is in another, and so lenient towards yourself?
As someone has written...
Rare is the person who can weigh the
faults of others without putting his thumb on the scales.
Hendricksen writes that...
A person may be ever so
good in his own eyes (Cf. Luke 18:11, 12); yet, if he is not
humble, then, as God sees him,
there is a beam
in his eye, the beam of self-righteousness. This makes him a
blind eye-doctor who tries to perform an operation on someone
else’s eye! However grievous the other man’s error may have
seemed to the eye of the would-be corrector, was it not a mere
“speck” compared with his own self-righteousness, a defect so
glaring that in the sight of God it amounts to a beam in the
critic’s eye? When by sovereign grace this beam has been
removed, the former fault-finder will be able to see clearly
enough to take the speck out of his brother’s eye; that is, he
will then be able to “restore such a person in the spirit of
gentleness,” and, examining himself in the light, let us say,
of 1Cor. 13, will look to himself lest he also be tempted
W., & Kistemaker, S. J. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House)
We are hypocrites
when we judge and condemn others without first judging ourselves.
become provoked by the faults of others and have far bigger faults it
our own life we are hypocrites. When we are acting
out the part of righteous speck removers, oblivious to our own sin, we
As someone has
Never put your finger on someone's
faults unless it is part of a helping hand.
Two extremes must be avoided
in this matter of spiritual self-examination.
The first is the deception of a
Sometimes we are so sure of ourselves that we fail to examine our hearts
honestly and thoroughly. A quick glance into the mirror of the Word will
never reveal the true situation (James 1:22-25).
The second extreme is what I call
a “perpetual autopsy.”
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in self-examination that we become
unbalanced. But we should not look only at ourselves, or we will become
discouraged and defeated. We should look by faith to Jesus Christ and
let Him forgive and restore us. Satan is the accuser (Rev 12:10), and he
enjoys it when we accuse and condemn ourselves!
After we have judged ourselves
honestly before God, and have removed those things that blind us,
then we can help others and properly judge their works.
But if we know there are sins in our
lives, and we try to help others, we are hypocrites. In fact,
it is possible for ministry to be a device to cover up sin! The
Pharisees were guilty of this, and Jesus denounced them for it.
W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
Pastor Ray Pritchard illustrates the tendency we all have to
hypocritically criticize others of the very things we are guilty of
"The tendency toward hypocrisy shows
itself in many subtle ways. Have you ever noticed how we like to
"rename" our sins? We do that by ascribing the worst motives to others,
while using other phrases to let ourselves off the hook. If you do it,
you're a liar; I merely "stretch the truth." If you do it, you're
cheating; I am "bending the rules."
Pritchard lists additional examples of such hypocritical statements,
some of which come too close to home (!)...
You lose your temper; I have
You're a jerk; I'm having a bad day.
You have a critical spirit; I bluntly tell the truth.
You gossip; I share prayer requests.
You curse and swear; I let off steam.
You're pushy; I'm intensely goal-oriented.
You're greedy; I'm simply taking care of business.
You're a hypochondriac; but I'm really sick.
You stink; I merely have an "earthy aroma (Mr.
I. M. Okay Meets His Maker)
A Talent To Be Buried - One of
the best stories told at a missionary conference in Shanghai was of a
man who said he was afraid he was going to be of no use in the world
because he had only one talent. "Oh, that need not discourage you," said
his pastor. "What is your talent?" "The talent of criticism." "Well, I
advise you," said his pastor, "to do with it what the man of one talent
did with his. Criticism may be useful when mixed with other talents, but
those whose only activity is to criticize the workers might as well be
buried, talent and all." —Expositor
Hypocrites in the church? Yes, and in
the lodge, and at home. Don’t hunt through the church for a hypocrite.
Go home and look in the glass. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the
number one less. -- Billy Sunday
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's
kai tote diablepseis (2SFAI) ekbalein
(AAN) to karpos ek tou ophthalmou tou adelphou sou
First, take the log out by asking God to show us our sins, for until we
have done this bit of spiritual surgery, the “speck” in our brother’s
eye will look like a log to us and we won’t be able to see the log in
our own eye. Once the Spirit has been allowed to perform His painful
surgery and we have confessed, repented and mourned over our own sin,
then we ready to function as ministers in the "speck removal ministry"
and perform surgery on someone else. How do you know you are seeing
clear enough to perform is delicate surgery on another's eye? Your own
sins will bother you a lot more than the sins of others. The failures of
others won’t seem so huge to you. And finally you will know you’re ready
to talk to a brother or sister when you don’t want to do it any more.
The person who has judged himself rightly will display humility, godly
sorrow, gentleness, tenderness, restraint, longsuffering and cautious
reserve in their speech. Then you are ready to judge rightly and remove
the speck in your brother's eye.
See clearly (1227)
(diablepo from dia = through +
blepo = see) means
literally to see through and so to look intently or view attentively. To
be able to see fully or to stare with eyes wide open so that one can
Diablepo - 3x in 3v - Matt
7:5; Mark 8:25; Luke 6:42
Take out (1544)
(ekballo from ek = out of + ballo = cast, throw)
means to cast or throw out.
As someone has wisely put it, don't
put your finger on someone's faults unless that "finger" is part of a
Hughes wisely warns that the speck removal ministry is not easy
even when the speck remover has clear vision...
The procedure for removing a speck
from an eye is very difficult and delicate. There is nothing in the
human body more sensitive than the eye. The instant we touch it, it
closes up. What is required in clearing an eye is gentleness,
carefulness, patience, and sympathy for the other person. In the
spiritual realm, the care is even more delicate, for we are handling a
soul - the most sensitive part of a human being. We must be humble,
sympathetic, conscious of our own sins, and without condemnation. We
need God's mercy. We need to be people who speak the truth in love
because the love of God controls us.
(Hughes, R. K.
Sermon on the Mount: The Message of
the Kingdom. Crossway Books)
Alexander Maclaren explains that...
Our Lord points out, in Mt 7:4, a
still more subtle form of this harsh judgment, when it assumes the
appearance of solicitude for the improvement of others, and He thus
teaches us that all honest desire to help in the moral reformation of
our neighbours must be preceded by earnest efforts at mending our own
conduct. If we have grave faults of our own undetected and unconquered,
we are incapable either of judging or of helping our brethren. Such
efforts will be hypocritical, for they pretend to come from genuine zeal
for righteousness and care for another’s good, whereas their real root
is simply censorious exaggeration of a neighbor's faults; they imply
that the person affected with such a tender care for another’s eyes has
his own in good condition. A blind guide is bad enough, but a blind
oculist is a still more ridiculous anomaly. Note, too, that the result
of clearing our own vision is beautifully put as being, not ability to
see, but ability to cure, our fellows. It is only the experience of the
pain of casting out a darling evil, and the consciousness of God’s
pitying mercy as given to us, that makes the eye keen enough, and the
hand steady and gentle enough, to pull out the mote. It is a delicate
operation, and one which a clumsy operator may make very painful, and
useless, after all. A rough finger or a harsh spirit makes success
impossible. (Sermon: Judging, Asking and Giving)
Christian love is not blind for God
never says, “Ignore the faults of others.” In fact He says that love
covers a multitude of sins. But God does say, “Look at the mirror of My
Word. Take care of your own faults first.” We need to ask God...
me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if
there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
we would prayed it and meant it, we would all do a lot more confessing
and a lot less judging.
Ray Pritchard has a practical prayer for all of us who from time
to time display critical judgmental spirits writing...
I’d like to suggest a simple prayer
for the Holy Spirit to take over your life. Saying words alone won’t
change your heart, but if these words reflect your deepest desire, then
today could be a new beginning for you.
Heavenly Father, our problem is not
with your Word. We know what it says. And our problem is not with other
people, not even the ones who have hurt us deeply. Our problem is on the
inside. For too long we have tried to solve our own problems and it has
not worked. We confess that too many times we have been critical of
those around us. Forgive us our thoughtless, unkind, hurtful words. O
Lord, show us a better way! Without you, we will never change.
Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us how to live. Thank you for showing
us how to die. Thank you for showing us how to forgive the people who
have hurt us the most.
Holy Spirit, fill us with your power so that we might become truly
different people. Set us free from bitterness, from anger, and from a
judgmental spirit. Grant us power to love each other.
Make us like Jesus, full of grace and truth. And do it now, in this
moment, as we pray this prayer. Amen.
May God grant you new life through Christ in the power of the Holy
Spirit. And may you experience the freedom of forgiveness and the joy
that comes from letting him take control. Amen. (Matthew
7:1-5 Judge Not!)
Speckology And Plankitis - According to Jesus, it's a bad idea
to major in "speckology" while suffering from "plankitis." During His
Sermon on the Mount, our Lord said, "Why do you look at the speck in
your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?"
If speckology were listed in a university catalog, the course
description might read:
"The identifying and criticizing of
small shortcomings in the lives of everyone around you. Very popular
course; fills early."
Should plankitis appear in a medical
dictionary, it might be identified this way:
"A disease that distorts
self-perception and renders an individual incapable of recognizing
personal faults. Occurs worldwide."
According to our Lord, the solution
"remove the plank from your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's
eye" (Mt 7:5).
It doesn't take a carpenter or an
ophthalmologist to understand this metaphor of Jesus. We've all enrolled
in the course while suffering from the disease. But today, if we would
shift our focus from the specks we see in others to the planks in our
own eyes, what a difference it would make for us all! —D C McCasland (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
The faults I see in others' lives
Are often true of me;
So help me, Lord, to recognize
My own hypocrisy. —Sper
Be quick to judge yourself but slow
to judge others.
A lady in Switzerland bought a small
package of greatly aged cheese. Putting it into her handbag, she
continued her shopping in different stores. She was greatly repelled at
what she thought to be the malodor of the different clerks encountered.
Her thoughts ran something like this: "How can these ill-smelling clerks
maintain their positions?" Imagine her embarrassment when, upon opening
her hand bag, she discovered that it was she, not others, who was
responsible for the offensive odor!
Who's Guilty? - A North
Carolina man accused his estranged wife of being married to two men.
When the woman was arrested, she didn't deny the charge of bigamy. She
not only admitted her guilt, but she also told authorities that she must
have been crazy to get married twice without having gone through divorce
That was only half the story. What surprised her, she said, was that her
husband would turn her in, because he was guilty of the same crime. When
the countercharges were explored, the husband admitted that he too was
illegally married to two women.
This husband is an example of what Jesus described in Matthew 7:1-5.
While having a "plank" in his own eye, the man pointed critically to a
"speck" in the eye of his wife. Both had broken the law by being married
to two people at the same time. His sin, however, was the greater
because he was arrogant to think that he could get away with judging
another person for the same sin he was committing.
The message is clear. Christ shows mercy to us when we admit our sin,
but He judges our hypocrisy and pride when we refuse to be humbled in
Let's deal with our own sin and not become experts in pointing out the
sins of others. —Mart De Haan (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Don't be too harsh with the one who
Nor pelt him with word or stone,
Unless you are sure, yes, doubly sure,
That you have no sins of your own. —Anon.
Most of us are far-sighted about sin—
we see the sins of others but not our own.
When To Judge - Many people
believe that Christians are told never to judge others. As “proof,” they
quote Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: “Judge not, that you be not judged”
(Mt 7:1). But a closer look at what Jesus said shows that there are times
when we must make judgments.
In verses 1 to 5, Jesus warned us how easy it is to be blind to our own
faults while we pick at the faults of others. In verse 6, however, He
showed us the necessity of judging. He told us, “Do not give what is
holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample
them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
To follow Jesus’ teaching, we must learn the difference between judging
people and evaluating situations. But who among us is wise enough to
consider any situation without condemning or judging the persons
involved? That is why, in Mt 7:7-11, we are told to earnestly ask,
seek, and implore help from our heavenly Father. “Your Father who is in
heaven [will] give good things to those who ask Him” (Mt 7:11).
Whenever we must make judgments, we must prayerfully bear in mind that
our God is the one who “will bring every work into judgment, including
every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). —Albert
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
If you are called upon to judge—
A situation to discern,
Don’t shy away when duty calls,
But to God’s Word for wisdom turn. —Hess
The righteous Judge gives
discernment to those who ask Him.
J R Miller
Begin at Home
“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 7:5
Begin at home — that is the teaching; not at home in the general sense,
with other members of thy family, but very close at home, with thyself.
It is a good deal easier, of course, to pull motes out of other people’s
eyes than beams out of one’s own. Yet we are not put in this world to
look after other people’s faults, to pick the dust out of their eyes, to
remove their specks of blemish. Our first business is to get rid of our
own faults. At least we are scarcely competent to take the grain of dust
out of another’s eye while a beam protrudes from our own. We are not
ready to do much toward curing our friend of his faults until we have
sincerely tried to rid ourselves of our own.
We all know people whose very presence is a silent rebuke of sin. Their
lives are pure and holy, and their unconscious influence is a restraint
upon all evil. We are ofttimes told that one of the truest tests of a
good friendship is that our friend can tell us of our faults and we
shall receive it kindly. That depends first on ourselves, and then upon
our friend. If we are proud and vain, it will be very hard for any
friend, the wisest and gentlest, to speak to us of our faults, save at
the peril of the friendship. Then if the friend treats our faults in a
conceited and censorious way, it will be equally dangerous. He who would
truly help to take the motes out of our eyes must come to us in tender
love, proving his generous and unselfish interest in us. He must come to
us humbly, not as our judge but as our brother, with faults like our own
which he is trying to cure. If he approaches us in this way, conscious
of his own infirmity, desiring to be helpful to us, as Christ has been
helpful to him, nothing but unpardonable vanity and self-conceit will
prevent our accepting his kind offer.
Judging, Asking, Giving
by Alexander Maclaren
I. How can we help ‘judging,’ and
why should we not ‘judge’?
The power of seeing into character is to be coveted and cultivated, and
the absence of it makes simpletons, not saints. Quite true: but seeing
into character is not what Jesus is condemning here. The ‘judging’ of
which He speaks sees motes in a brother’s eye. That is to say, it is
one-sided, and fixes on faults, which it magnifies, passing by virtues.
Carrion flies that buzz with a sickening hum of satisfaction over sores,
and prefer corruption to soundness, are as good judges of meat as such
critics are of character. That Mephistophelean spirit of detraction has
wide scope in this day. Literature and politics, as well as social life
with its rivalries, are infested by it, and it finds its way into the
church and threatens us all. The race of fault-finders we have always
with us, blind as moles to beauties and goodness, but lynx-eyed for
failings, and finding meat and drink in proclaiming them in tones of
affected sorrow. How flagrant a breach of the laws of the kingdom this
temper implies, and how grave an evil it is, though thought little of,
or even admired as cleverness and a mark of a very superior person,
Christ shows us by this earnest warning, embedded among His fundamental
He points out first how certainly that disposition provokes retaliation.
Who is the Judge that judges us as we do others? Perhaps it is best to
say that both the divine and the human estimates are included in the
purposely undefined expression. Certainly both are included in fact. For
a carping spirit of eager fault-finding necessarily tinges people’s
feelings towards its possessor, and he cannot complain if the severe
tests which he applied to others are used on his own conduct. A cynical
critic cannot expect his victims to be profoundly attached to him, or
ready to be lenient to his failings. If he chooses to fight with a
tomahawk, he will be scalped some day, and the bystanders will not
lament profusely. But a more righteous tribunal than that of his victims
condemns him. For in God’s eyes the man who covers not his neighbour’s
faults with the mantle of charity has not his own blotted out by divine
This spirit is always accompanied by ignorance of one’s own faults,
which makes him who indulges in it ludicrous. So our Lord would seem to
intend by the figure of the mote and the beam. It takes a great deal of
close peering to see a mote; but the censorious man sees only the mote,
and sees it out of scale. No matter how bright the eye, though it be
clear as a hawk’s, its beauty is of no moment to him. The mote
magnified, and nothing but the mote, is his object; and he calls this
one-sided exaggeration ‘criticism,’ and prides himself on the accuracy
of his judgment. He makes just the opposite mistake in his estimate of
his own faults, if he sees them at all. We look at our neighbour’s
errors with a microscope, and at our own through the wrong end of a
telescope. We see neither in their real magnitude, and the former
mistake is sure to lead to the latter. We have two sets of weights and
measures: one for home use, the other for foreign. Every vice has two
names; and we call it by its flattering and minimising one when we
commit it, and by its ugly one when our neighbour does it. Everybody can
see the hump on his friend’s shoulders, but it takes some effort to see
our own. David was angry enough at the man who stole his neighbour’s ewe
lamb, but quite unaware that he was guilty of a meaner, crueller theft.
The mote can be seen; but the beam, big though it is, needs to be
‘considered.’ So it often escapes notice, and will surely do so, if we
are yielding to the temptation of harsh judgment of others. Every one
may be aware of faults of his own very much bigger than any that he can
see in another, for each of us may fathom the depth of our own
sinfulness in motive and unspoken, unacted thought, while we can see
only the surface acts of others.
Our Lord points out, in verse 4, a still more subtle form of this harsh
judgment, when it assumes the appearance of solicitude for the
improvement of others, and He thus teaches us that all honest desire to
help in the moral reformation of our neighbours must be preceded by
earnest efforts at mending our own conduct. If we have grave faults of
our own undetected and unconquered, we are incapable either of judging
or of helping our brethren. Such efforts will be hypocritical, for they
pretend to come from genuine zeal for righteousness and care for
another’s good, whereas their real root is simply censorious
exaggeration of a neighbour’s faults; they imply that the person
affected with such a tender care for another’s eyes has his own in good
condition. A blind guide is bad enough, but a blind oculist is a still
more ridiculous anomaly. Note, too, that the result of clearing our own
vision is beautifully put as being, not ability to see, but ability to
cure, our fellows. It is only the experience of the pain of casting out
a darling evil, and the consciousness of God’s pitying mercy as given to
us, that makes the eye keen enough, and the hand steady and gentle
enough, to pull out the mote. It is a delicate operation, and one which
a clumsy operator may make very painful, and useless, after all. A rough
finger or a harsh spirit makes success impossible.
II. Verse 6 comes in singular juxtaposition with the preceding
warning against uncharitable judgments.
Christ’s calling men dogs and swine does not sound like obeying His own
precept. But the very shock which the words give at first hearing is
part of their value. There are men whom Jesus, for all His gentleness,
has to estimate thus. His pitying eyes were not blind to truth. It was
no breach of infinite charity in Him to see facts, and to give them
their right names; and His previous precept does not bid us shut our
eyes, or give up the use of common sense. This verse limits the
application of the preceding one, and inculcates prudence, tact, and
discernment of character, as no less essential to His servants than the
sweet charity, slow to suspect and sorrowful to expose a brother’s
fault. The fact that His gentle lips used such words may well make us
shudder as we think of the deforming of human nature into pure animalism
which some men achieve, and which is possible for all.
The inculcation of discretion in the presentation of the truth may
easily be exaggerated into a doctrine of reserve which is more
Jesuitical than Christian. Even when guarded and limited, it may seem
scarcely in harmony with the commission to preach the gospel to every
creature, or with the sublime confidence that God’s word finds something
to appeal to in every heart, and has power to subdue the animal in every
man. But the divergence is only apparent. The most expansive zeal is to
be guided by prudence, and the most enthusiastic confidence in the
universal power of the gospel does not take leave of common sense. There
are people who will certainly be repelled, and perhaps stirred to
furious antagonism to the gospel and its messengers, if they are not
approached with discretion. It is bad to hide the treasure in a napkin;
it is quite as bad to fling it down before some people without
preparation. Jesus Himself locked His lips before Herod, although the
curious ruler asked many questions; and we have sometimes to remember
that there are people who ‘will not hear the word,’ and who must first
‘be won without the word.’ Heavy rains run off hard-baked earth. It must
first be softened by a gentle drizzle. Luther once told this fable: ‘The
lion made a great feast, and he invited all the beasts, and among the
rest, a sow. When all manner of costly dishes were set before the
guests, the sow asked, "Have you no bran?" Even so, said he, we
preachers set forth the most dainty dishes, — the forgiveness of sins,
and the grace of God; but they turn up their snouts, and grub for
This precept is one side of the truth. The other is the adaptation of
the gospel to all men, and the obligation on us to preach it to all. We
can only tell most men’s disposition towards it by offering it to them,
and we are not to be in a hurry to conclude that men are dogs and swine.
III. It may be a question whether, in verse 8, the emphasis is to be
laid on ‘every one’ or on ‘that asketh,’ or, in other words, whether the
saying is an assurance that the universal law will be followed in our
case, or a statement of the universal condition without which no
receiving is possible, and, least of all, the receiving of the gifts of
the kingdom by its subjects.
In either case, this verse gives the reason for the preceding
exhortation. Then follows the tender illustration in which the
dim-sighted love of earthly fathers is taken as a parable of the
all-wise tenderness and desire to bestow which move the hand of the
giving God. There is some resemblance between an Eastern loaf and a
stone, and some between a fish and a serpent. However imperfect a
father’s love, he will neither be cruel enough to cheat his unsuspecting
child with what looks like an answer to his wish but is useless or
hurtful, nor foolish enough to make a mistake. All human relationships
are in some measure marred by the faults of those who sustain them. What
a solemn attestation of universal sinfulness is in these words of
Christ’s, and how calmly He separates Himself by His sinlessness from
us! I do not know that there is anywhere a stronger scriptural proof of
these two truths than this one incidental clause, ‘ye, being evil.’ I
wonder whether the people who pit the Sermon on the Mount against
evangelical Christianity are ready to take this part of it into their
creeds. It is noteworthy, also, that the emphasis is laid, not on the
earthly father’s willingness, but on his knowing how to give good gifts.
Our Lord seems to think that He need not assure us of the plain truth
that of course our Father in heaven is willing, just because He is our
Father, to give us all good; but He heartens us with the assurance that
His love is wisdom, and that He cannot make any mistakes. There are no
stones mingled with our bread, nor any serpents among the fish. He gives
good, and nothing but good.
IV. The great precept which closes the section is not only to be
taken as an inference from the immediately preceding context, but as the
summing up of all the duties to our neighbours, in which Christ has been
laying down the law of the kingdom from Matthew 5:17.
This general reference of the ‘therefore’ is confirmed by the subsequent
clause, ‘this is the law and the prophets’; the summing up of the whole
past revelation of the divine will, and therefore in accordance with our
Lord’s previous exposition of the relation between His new law and that
former one. As Luther puts it in his vigorous, homely way, ‘With these
words He now closes His instructions given in these three chapters, and
ties it all up in a little bundle.’
But a connection may also be traced with the preceding paragraph. There
our desires were treated as securing God’s corresponding gifts. Here our
desires, when turned to men, are regarded, not as securing their
corresponding conduct, but as obliging us to action. By taking our
wishes as the rule of our dealings with others, we shall be like God,
who in regard to His best gifts takes our wishes as the rule of His
dealings with us. Our desires sent heavenward procure blessings for us;
sent earthward, they prescribe our blessing of others. That is a
startling turn to give to our claims on our fellows. It rests on the
principle that every man has equal rights, therefore we ought not to
look for anything from others which we are not prepared to extend to
others. A. should give B. whatever A. thinks B. should give him. Our
error is in making ourselves our own centre, and thinking more of our
claims on others than of our obligations to them. Christ teaches us that
these are one. Such a principle applied to our lives would wonderfully
pull down our expectations and lift up our obligations. It is really but
another way of putting the law of loving our neighbours as ourselves.
If observed, it would revolutionize society. Nothing short of it is the
law of the kingdom, and the duty of all who call themselves Christ’s
This is the inmost meaning, says Jesus, of the law and the prophets. All
former revelations of the divine will in regard to men’s relations to
men are summed in this. Of course, this does not mean, as some people
would like to make it mean, that morality is to take the place of
religion, but simply that all the precepts touching conduct to men are
gathered up, for the subjects of the kingdom, in this one. ‘Love worketh
no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.’
AND THE MOTE
Mt 7:3, 4, 5
OBSERVATION and experience shew, that
the less any person is acquainted with his own infirmities, the more he
will be disposed to censure the infirmities of others. But as such a
disposition is totally repugnant to that love which Christianity
inculcates, our Lord cautioned his hearers against it, and taught them,
in the parable before us, to scrutinize and reform themselves before
they presumed to take upon themselves the office of censuring and
In this parable we may observe,
I. The evil of censoriousness—
Censoriousness is a compound of pride and malice. It originates in a
high conceit of our own worth, and a desire to reduce others to a level
with ourselves, or to a state below us. It is an evil,
1. Base in itself—
[The man who censures others professes a high regard for virtue, and a
zeal for the honour of God. But what regard has he for virtue who does
not cultivate it in his own soul? or what zeal has he for the honour of
God, who does not bring his own heart into an obedience to his will?
Even supposing that he were not himself notoriously faulty in other
respects (which supposition however will never be found true) how
flagrant is his breach of duty at the very instant he pretends such a
regard for duty! He violates the most acknowledged principle of common
equity; he acts not towards others as, in a change of circumstances, he
would think it right for them to act towards him; and therefore at the
very instant he condemns others, he unwittingly condemns himself. Who
does not see the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were indignant with our
Lord for working miracles on the sabbath, while they themselves were
conspiring against his life? Such, in their degree, are all they, who
are offended with a mote in their brother’s eye, while they have a beam
in their own. Well therefore does our Lord address them by that
humiliating appellation, “Thou hypocrite.” A baser character than this
can scarcely exist.]
2. Injurious to our neighbour—
[Every person values his reputation, and esteems the loss of it as a
great misfortune. But in judging any man with severity, or exposing
needlessly his faults, we rob him of his good name, and impoverish him
without enriching ourselves. How injurious such conduct is we may see,
if we will only consider what we feel when we are rigorously or unjustly
censured. The sensibility we manifest, and the keen resentment we
express, are sufficient indications of the injury which we suppose
ourselves at least to have sustained.]
3. Insulting to our God—
[God claims it as his prerogative to judge. As he alone is privy to all
the circumstances of any case, he alone can judge of it aright: besides,
he has appointed a day wherein he will display his righteousness, in
awarding to every one a judgment suited to his real character: and he
requires us to defer our judgment till that time&&. But in taking upon
ourselves to censure and condemn others we invade his prerogative, we
usurp his power, we set ourselves in his throne, we supersede, or
anticipate at least, his judgment. In this light censoriousness is often
stated by God himself; and a holy indignation is invariably expressed
against those who shall presume to indulge it&&.]
Our Lord having exposed the unreasonableness and impiety of this sin,
II. The advice properfor those who are addicted to it—
The evil here reprobated is but too common, and that too, even among the
professors of religion: yea, perhaps, (their profession not being
sufficiently tempered with humility and love) they are more exposed to
it than others, from a mistaken idea, that their professed regard for
religion entitles them, as it were, to the office of censors. But to
every one who has been guilty of it we should say,
1. Consider your own great and manifold infirmities—
[There is no greater antidote to censoriousness than this. While we
continue ignorant of ourselves, we shall consider our own faults as few
and venial, and shall be disposed to magnify whatever we may see amiss
in others. But a knowledge of our own hearts will convince us, that if
there is “a mote in our brother’s eye, there is a beam in our own.” We
may conceive many extenuating circumstances that may lessen the enormity
of his conduct; but we shall know many aggravating circumstances to
which God and ourselves alone are privy, which may serve to heighten our
guilt, and to humble us as the very chief of sinners. When the woman
taken in adultery was brought to our Lord, he bade those of her accusers
who were without sin to execute the law upon her. We all know the effect
which a conviction of their own personal guilt produced upon them&&.
Thus shall we also drop the stone which we have taken up to cast at our
neighbour, when once we are acquainted with our own vilencss.]
2. Recollect the relation in which he, whom you would condemn, stands
[As every person wishes to conceal his own faults, so he will be ready
to extenuate the faults of those who are near and dear to him. We do not
usually hear men descanting on the infirmities of their parents or
children, their wife or brethren. Now the person whom the calumniator
would traduce, is his brother. No less than thrice in the short space of
the text is this endearing appellation given to our neighbour. Is he not
entitled then, from this consideration, to some portion of that regard
which we pay to our more immediate relatives? Should we officiously pry
into his defects? Should we presume to criminate his motives? Should we
judge of his general character by a single act; or take an instance or
two of indiscretion, and consider them as fixed and accustomed habits?
Surely our “brother” should receive far different treatment at our
hands. We should cast a veil over his infirmities, and exercise towards
him that charity which hopeth all things and believeth all things&&.]
3. Purge your own heart from evil, that you may be the better
qualified to reprove or advise others as occasion shall require—
[As persons who dispense the laws must of necessity pass judgment on
those who are brought before them, so must all the members of Christ’s
Cliurch administer fraternal correction or reproof to each other&&. It
is not all judgment that the text forbids, but all harsh and severe
judgment. It prohibits an over-officious prying into the faults of
others, and a needless exposing of them to the world; but it leaves us
at liberty to give that reproof which is necessary for the reclaiming of
an offending brother. But to admonish others with effect, we must attain
some measure at least of purity ourselves. Let every one then begin with
rectifying his own conduct. Let every one be solicitous to cast the beam
out of his own eye, that he may afterwards assist with more propriety
and effect in pulling out the mote from his brother’s eye. We must not
indeed stay till we are perfect before we attempt to benefit our
brother; but we should study to attain an unbiassed judgment, and should
hide the lancet in a sponge if we would open an imposthume; and in every
case we should regulate our endeavours with charity and discretion.]