Sunday Readings: Sirach 27.4-7; 1 Corinthians 15.54-58; Luke 6.39-45
Why do you see a splinter in your neighbor’s eye but not notice the beam in your own? How can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye” when you yourself do not see the beam in your own? Hypocrite, first, take the beam out of your own eye; then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye.” – Luke 6.41-42
Jesus’ sayings in Sunday’s gospel give us a collection of proverbs. Students are not greater than their teachers. Don’t try to take a speck from your neighbor’s eye when you don’t see the beam in your own. A good tree produces good fruit. These sayings which Luke includes in Jesus’ sermon on the plain are bits of folk wisdom.
Proverbs are usually short. Usually proverbs have a rhyme, a vivid image, or a twist of phrase that makes them easy to remember. They use familiar and down-to-earth imagery such as early birds and worms that make their wisdom accessible to all.
The splinter and a beam images call us to take a serious, second look at ourselves. The Greek word dokos refers to the beams to which carpenters attach rafters and studs in the whole support structure of a house. The contrast between the splinter and the beam is not only between tiny and immense, but also between a single speck and a fault underlying a whole system of behavior.
The splinter and beam images exaggerate the difference between the one, small thing one sees in the neighbor and whole, huge, deeply-rooted faults one can’t see in one’s self. This is a good-humored proverb that makes the same point as Scottish poet Robert Burn’s famous poem “To a Louse,” which ends with a louse crawling up the back of a lady’s hair in church and the poet’s observation, “Ah, to see ourselves as others see us.” Criticizing others invites their scrutiny in return.
What proverbs do you live by? What proverbs have inspired you to take a second look at yourself?