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Monday, September 19, 2011

Golden Axes

“And why do you look at 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,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3, 4 (New American Standard Bible)

A colorful yet out of place term to come out of England during the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century was ‘Dutch Uncle.’ It was originally meant as an insult. A Dutch Uncle was one who ‘educates’ someone through frank, harsh and severe criticism in order to better the person of their attention. Self righteous judgment is like listening to fingernails on a blackboard. While the other person is saying their peace in words that are meant to be ‘instructive and encouraging’ the manner and tone of the person giving it nearly shrivels the soul and spirit with ridicule and disdain. I believe every one of us has encountered someone like this in our lifetime.

The Pharisees were ignoring the Law and the Prophets concerning Jesus the Messiah. Jesus had become the target of self-righteous men’s judgment because in their eyes He did not fulfill the Jewish vision of what the Messiah would do. He moved on to illustrate His point with a word picture that is the best in history when it comes to judging another’s sawdust speck while peering around the log in their own eye. It is a humorous illustration from the Master story teller. I’m sure as He gave this illustration there were giggles and smiles from many in the crowd at the audacity, yet all too true reality, of how many of us are all too quick to self righteously judge another person. These so-called ‘wood expert’ do-gooders swing golden axes. They are meant to look pretty but they still cut deeply.

This passage does not teach that judgments should never be made. Christ speaks of removing the speck from a brother’s eye. Christ here was warning that those who habitually lean toward critical judgment become hypocritical. If we do speak to another about a trespass Paul tells us to gently restore such a one with gentleness, looking to ourselves, lest we too be tempted (Galatians 6:1). Golden axes are pretty but their sole purpose is to cut. Christ calls us to lay aside those kinds of tools and depend on the word of God given in a spirit of humility. It is sharper than any tool in our kit and is able to judge the thoughts and intent of the heart better than any uncle could.