instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, September 12, 2008

What's in the eye of the beholder

Today's Gospel reading includes the familiar beam and mote splinter parable:
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?

You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye."
The word that stands out for me today is "hypocrite." If, as Jesus says, I do not even notice my wooden beam, then how is it that I'm being hypocritical? Isn't hypocrisy intentionally acting like you're morally better than you are?

Pseudo-Chrysostom explains it this way:
“"How sayest thou to thy brother;" that is, with what purpose?

From charity, that you may save your neighbour? Surely not, for you would first save yourself.

You desire therefore not to heal others, but by good doctrine to cover bad life, and to gain praise of learning from men, not the reward of edifying from God, and you are a hypocrite; as it follows, "Thou hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thine own eye."
Now, you might answer, "But I don't desire to gain praise of learning by men, I just want to help my brother!"

But if you love your brother enough to worry about his motes, then you must also love yourself enough to worry about your own motes; in which case, you'd look for your own motes; in which case, you could hardly overlook your own beam.

If you don't perceive your beam, that can only mean you didn't look in yourself for what you see in your brother. It isn't that you're acting like you're morally better than you are before your brother, you're acting like you're morally better than you are before yourself.

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