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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 9/29/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

MATTHEW 7:1-12

1“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

6“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

7“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

12“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why hypocrisy is wrong. "Do as I say, and not as I do." In fact, one fallacy in argumentation is the ad hominem tu quoque, "to the person, you also." It's a fallacy (a failure in reasoning) because a true statement is not invalidated by the behavior of the speaker. Example: A father who smokes tells his son, "Son, you should not smoke because studies have shown that smoking is bad for you." The son replies, "But you smoke." The father's statement is true regardless of whether he himself smokes or not. 


So what's wrong with hypocrisy is not a logical matter. 


The wrong is found elsewhere. Imagine a slightly altered scenario: A father who smokes tells his son, "Son, I wish you would not take up smoking because it is bad for you. I've been a lifelong smoker and I've had a terrible time trying to quit. I wished I had never taken up smoking as a teenager." The son replies, "OK, Dad." 


What's the difference between the two scenarios? I believe it's this: hypocrisy "feels" wrong because often it's attached to self-righteousness or judgmentalism. We are offended when someone tells us we are doing something wrong when we discover that person is doing exactly the same thing or something worse. I am reminded of a close kin of mine who told his wife, "Honey, don't you be eating at that new Krispy Kreme. The donuts are bad for you!" A day later, lo and behold, the wife sees her husband sitting at the Krispy Kreme counter chowing down those freshly made donuts. She was angry! (And told him so.)


We feel wronged, we are offended with such hypocrisy because, essentially, hypocritical judgment is a form of deception and a form of dishonor. As long as the hypocritical behavior is not discovered, the speaker can say whatever under the presumption that the speaker himself is not engaged in it. When we discover the behavior, we feel we've been had, that we've been tricked. The dishonor comes in because the hypocritical speaker takes us to be chumps. The common decency to treat us with truth and honor is absent. In place, we are treated as fools.


Something else is going on in Jesus' teaching. The hypocrite artificially separates himself from the other person. The person with the log in the eye sees himself as superior (hence, separate) from the person with the speck in the eye. "I'm righteous; you are wicked." No empathy, no compassion, no solidarity. You are other. What Jesus is driving at indirectly in this teaching is that we are all in the same boat: we are sinners, we need grace, we need God's compassion. Therefore, we are brothers and sisters in our condition of needing God's mercy. There's a kind of solidarity at work here. We are all blind, hungry, deaf, and hopeless. No one can think, in this state, to be above others. (Jesus rejects this sort of separating self-righteousness of the religious again and again in his teaching.)


Jesus is not saying there is no speck in the other's eye. But the way we approach others should be with compassion, humility, honesty, and transparency. Only by dealing with the log in our eye can we speak authentically to others who have their own log or speck in their eye.


Let's pray: Lord Jesus, show us your mercy and compassion so that we can approach others with the same mercy and compassion. We confess our hypocritical judgmentalism. We confess that we've judged others, thought badly of others even though we've struggled with similar issues. Give us your true perspective that without your grace and mercy we would all be stuck in a sorry state. But because you are good, kind, and loving, you forgive us. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for loving us. May we love others today. In your name, amen.