This week during our Monday scripture study, Sandra read our text today from a version called the Amplified Bible. It caught our attention and I thought it would be good share today’s bible story from Matthew 7: 1-14 in that same language today:
Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. 2 For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment], judgment will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the [insignificant] speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice and acknowledge the [egregious] log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite (play-actor, pretender), first get the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give that which is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, for they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
7 “Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will [instead] give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will [instead] give him a snake? 11 If you then, evil (sinful by nature) as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give what is good and advantageous to those who keep on asking Him.
12 “So then, in everything treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law and the [writings of the] Prophets. 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it.
Why is it SO HARD to keep from judging others? It’s hard, right? I’m not alone? I happen to be reading a book this week called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom; without intending to be so, Don Miguel Ruiz’ book is a perfect companion to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount here in Matthew 7. Ruiz wrestles with the reasons we judge ourselves and others- and offers a pathway out of those destructive patterns. His wisdom is remarkably similar to what Jesus said long ago.
For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged.
I’d like to outline Ruiz’ four agreements for you and connect them with Jesus’ gospel teaching which promises freedom by living in the way of Christ.
The first of the four agreements is the hardest to both understand and do. 1. “Be impeccable with your word.” Ruiz describes the power of language to shape our identities and relationships. And a lot of the words that rest in our souls are not our own or God’s. They come from people who are need of redemption. It is our life’s work to re-examine those harmful words that rest in our hearts and claim a new narrative. We bear God’s image, which means we are most fully alive when we use our energy to bring love and light into this world, not harm and judgment.
Where to begin? We must first learn to let go of self-judgment. The book explains, “Being impeccable with your word is not using the word against yourself. If I see you in the street and I call you stupid, it appears that I’m using the word against you. But really I’m using my word against myself, because you’re going to hate me for this, and your hating me is not good for me.” p. 31 “Being impeccable with your word means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself [...] We have learned to use the word to curse, to blame, to find guilt, to destroy. [...] Misuse of the word is how we pull each other down and keep each other in a state of fear and doubt.”
What is the solution? As Christians, we turn to Jesus, who is always one step ahead of us humans. “So then, in everything treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law and the [writings of the] Prophets.” We can make life pretty complicated, that’s what I love about the golden rule. It’s SO straightforward. This is the road to abundant life Jesus longs for us to take; it is not easy, the path is narrow, but it’s available. We can take it anytime we’re ready.
The second and third agreement Ruiz suggests are difficult, yet more easily understood. 2. “Don’t take anything personally, and 3. don’t make assumptions.” He goes into detail I won’t today, but I encourage you to take a whole day and observe your behaviors and thoughts and feelings in light of these first three agreements. I did this, and it’s fascinating how many times I said things I didn’t intend, I took on someone else’s feelings that weren’t my own, and I assumed something without asking for clarity. I can confirm the truth in Jesus’ words: “But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life.”
Thank God that Ruiz’ fourth agreement makes the other three possible. The final agreement is this: 4. “Always do your best.” He says, “Just do you best–in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.” p. 78 Always doing your best is NOT the same as “strive to be perfect.” In fact, it’s the solution to perfectionism. Rather than demanding perfection, doing your best means you WON’T be and NEEDN’T be perfect.
Ruiz says, “The first three agreements will only work if you do your best. Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word. Your routine habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind. But you can do your best. Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally; just do your best. Don’t expect that you will never make another assumption, but you can certainly do your best. By doing your best, the habits of misusing your word, taking things personally, and making assumptions will become weaker and less frequent with time. You don’t need to judge yourself, feel guilty, or punish yourself if you cannot keep these agreements. If you’re doing your best, you will feel good about yourself even if you make mistakes.” p. 86
My favorite part of these four agreements is this: if we commit to them in our lives, we will find ourselves living the golden rule as a matter of integrity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When in doubt, follow this path and see what new life it may discover in you! You and I are beloved children of a loving God who has given us every tool we need to choose the higher road, the challenging path that leads to everlasting life. Praise God for the gift of each other for support and solidarity on the journey.
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.