Bit of straw vs. beam in one’s eye
Judge not, that you be not judged. For in what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and in what measure you measure, it shall be measured back to you. And why dost thou look at1 the bit of straw2 in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Permit me to cast out the bit of straw from thine eye, and behold, the beam is in thine own eye? Hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt look carefully to cast out the bit of straw out of thy brother’s eye.3
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
CL 523. By [these words] can by no means be meant the judgment of the moral and civil life of anyone in the world, but the judgment as to his spiritual and heavenly life. Who does not see that if one may not judge as to the moral life of those who dwell with him in the world, society would perish? What would society be if there were no public judgments, or if everyone might not form his judgment of another? But to judge what his interior mind or soul is, thus what is his spiritual state and therefore his lot after death, of this one may not judge, for it is known only to the Lord. And the Lord does not reveal it until after death, in order that everyone may do what he does in freedom....
CL 523:2. A general judgment is allowed, such as the following, “If you are in your inward qualities as you appear in your outward ones, you will be saved or condemned.” But a specific judgment such as, “You are of this or that character in your inward qualities and therefore you will be saved or condemned,” is not allowed.
CL 453:2. I have met with several who in the world had lived like others in externals, clothing themselves splendidly, faring sumptuously, doing business with advantage as others did, seeing theatrical entertainments, jesting about love affairs as if from lust, and other like things, and yet to some the angels imputed these things as evils of sin and to some not as evils; and the latter they pronounced guiltless, but the others guilty. To the question why they did so, when yet they had done similar things, they answered that they view everyone according to his purpose, intention, or end, and according to this they distinguish them. And therefore those whom the end excuses or condemns they excuse or condemn, for all in heaven have an end of good, and all in hell have an end of evil. And this and nothing else is meant by the Lord’s words: Judge not that you be not condemned (Matt. 7:1).
AC 3796:3. It is... the part of a wise man to know the ends [or goals] that are in him. Sometimes it appears as if his ends were for self when yet they are not so; for it is the nature of man to reflect upon himself in everything, and this from custom and habit.
But if anyone desires to know the ends that are within him, let him merely pay attention to the delight he perceives in himself from the praise and glory of self, and to the delight he perceives from use separate from self. If he perceives this latter delight, he is in genuine affection. He must also pay attention to the various states in which he is, for the states themselves very much vary the perception.
A man can explore these things in himself, but not in others; for the ends of each person’s affection are known to the Lord alone.... For a thousand persons may appear to be in a like affection in respect to truth and good, and yet every one of them be in an affection that is unlike in respect to origin, that is, in respect to end.
AC 2284:4–5. It is very common for those who have taken up an opinion respecting any truth of faith, to judge of others that they cannot be saved unless they believe as they do—a judgment which the Lord has forbidden (Matt. 7:1–2). On the other hand, I have learned from much experience that men of every religion are saved, provided that by a life of charity they have received remains of good and of apparent truth. The life of charity consists in thinking kindly of another and in wishing him well, and in perceiving joy in oneself from the fact that others also are saved....
How wilt thou say to thy brother....
AC 2360. In the Word “brother” signifies the same as “neighbor,” for the reason that everyone ought to love his neighbor as himself. Thus brothers were so called from love, or what is the same, from good. This manner of naming and addressing the neighbor comes from the fact that in heaven, the Lord is the Father of all and loves all as His children; and thus that love is spiritual conjunction. From this the universal heaven resembles as it were one family derived from love and charity (n. 685, 917).
The bit of straw and the beam
AE 746:16. Because this [teaching] treats of charity, the term “brother” is used, for “to cast out the bit of straw out of a brother’s eye” signifies to instruct respecting falsity and evil, and to reform.... A “bit of straw” signifies a slight falsity of evil, and a “beam” a great falsity of evil, and the “eye” signifies the understanding and also faith. “Bit of straw” and “beam” signify the falsity of evil, because “wood” signifies good; and thus a “beam” signifies the truth of good, and in the contrary sense the falsity of evil....
1 Latin cerno, that is, discern (AC 2360, 9051, AE 746:16)
2 Latin festuca, a small piece of wood or straw (AC 9051:3, AE 746:16)
3 See also Luke 6:37–38, Mark 4:24–25.
Questions and Comments
- Which is the more common problem: people refusing or even being forbidden to make necessary judgments, or people treating others as condemned to hell? Why does the Lord address the one problem and not so much the other in Matthew?
- Does AC 3796 offer a useful tool for self-examination? How do we repent of too much delight in praise?
- Why do we have a great beam, while our brother has only a bit of straw, obstructing our sight of truth?