Matthew 7:1-5, the plank in your eye
7:1 “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.(Matt 7:1-5 WEB)
7:2 For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.
7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?
7:4 Or how will you tell your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and behold, the beam is in your own eye?
7:5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Judged as you judge
Here Jesus’ context is still the tenth commandment. In Hebrew culture, the eye was a thing that gave out, casting a soul’s light upon others for their benefit or withholding it to their detriment. The exercise of generosity was therefore intimately linked with looking benevolently upon others.
The figurative obstructions of speck and beam (or plank) both stood in the way of the eyes proper function. Both limited the amount that it could give out. Hence, Jesus cautions against judging other’s generosity as meagre, when we have yet to appreciate the full extent of our own lack of generosity.
This verse is often taken as applying to judgment in general. Such a generalization is quite appropriate and may even have been Jesus’ original intention, for what is true for an individual’s generosity is true for the light from the lamp of their soul as well. That light is the godly wisdom that is characteristic of a good leader. If a leader could not see better than those they aim to lead, then what use was the blind leading the partially-sighted. The one who wants to judge others should therefore judge themselves first.
Jesus’ accusation of hypocrisy appears indirectly aimed at the Pharisees, whom he accused of paying undue attention to the small details of giving, such as tithing mint and cumin, whilst ignoring bigger issues, such as giving John the Baptist and his followers the honour that they were due.