Nitpicking, fault-finding, and a hypercritical spirit

This passage has always convinced me that Jesus had a sense of humor. If what he’s saying wasn’t so completely serious, it’d be downright hilarious.

Try to visualize the image he paints:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5).

I like The Message’s paraphrase:

That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

You know what he’s talking about, right? The church-member who’s happy to point out the faults of everyone else at church but completely oblivious to her own. The guy you work with who tears your work apart but who (apparently) never makes a mistake.

To get the full impact of Jesus’ words, think of someone who’s got a 2×4 sticking out of his eye while he’s trying his best to help someone get the splinter out of hers.

Jesus is pretty blunt: Look, worry about the big stick of wood in your own eye before you start obsessing over everyone else’s splinters. You’ve got your own problems to think about.

The mentality he’s talking about is the nitpicking, fault-finding, hypercritical spirit that we’ve all experienced before—and maybe received a time or two.

But here’s the clincher. Though it’s easy to think about someone we know who judges harshly, we’ve probably done the same thing more than we’d like to admit.

I wonder how many kids are discouraged by parents who criticize everything they do? How many women feel like their husbands never see anything good they do but never miss a single mistake they make? Are there husbands whose wives ignore their strong points but freely point out their shortcomings?

The thing is, it makes us feel better. If I can think about, talk about, and shake my head about all of yourproblems, it makes me feel better about my own. “Well, Lord, I know I’ve got a few problems, but at least I’m not like . . .” As long as I use a microscope on your sins and ignore my own, I can feel pretty good about my Christian walk.

It’s wrong, of course, and it devastates the morale and spirit of the people around us. Jesus warns us of the danger of whitewashing our own sins by pointing out others’ faults. He’s telling us that it’s hypocritical, hypercritical, and sinful.

Let’s pray about it today. Maybe your prayer will go something like this: “Father, forgive me for being too judgmental and critical. Shine the light of your word onmy life, my sins, my struggles, and help me first to deal with my own issues before I start helping other people with theirs. Convict me when I start to get hung up on everybody else’s mistakes instead of my own. Help me never again to embrace the secret pleasure of reveling in anyone’s sins.”

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