Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck in your brother’s eye.
A farmer and his son go into a big city mall. There they see something they’ve never seen before. In the center of the mall is a set of shiny silver doors. People go in and out of these doors. Lights flash above them.
“What is this, father?” asks the boy.
“I don’t know, son,” replies the farmer. “Let’s watch.”
As they watch, a feeble, aging woman painfully rolls her wheelchair up to the shiny silver doors. She pushes the button. The doors open. She slowly wheels her chair into the tiny room beyond. The doors close. The lights above it flash. The doors open and out walks a beautiful young woman.
The farmer turns to his son and whispers, “Go get your mother.”
Don’t you sometimes wish there was a set of those shiny silver doors in church? You could take all the people who disagree with you and irritate you—whom you feel could stand improving—and you could shove them behind the shiny silver doors so they would come out transformed into perfect people!
I’ve been to a lot of churches, and I’ve never seen a set of doors like that, nor a congregation who has been through them and come out perfect. Here’s the thing: we often pretend like we have.
In today’s passage, Jesus uses a word for this kind of pretender: hypocrite. The Greek word hypocrite comes from the language of the Greek theater. Hypocrites were actors on a stage. In Greek theater, an actor might play more than one part, so they would wear masks to indicate the person they were pretending to be.
Jesus took this theatrical image and applied it to the arena of religion. In the same conversation, He introduces another person from the theater world: the critic. The hypocrite pretends, and the critic judges his performance.
So what’s Jesus saying to us? First, don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Don’t play the part of a Christian that’s merely an outward show. Second, don’t critique others, for you’re not qualified.
The farmer and his son only saw part of what happened behind the shiny silver doors of that mall elevator. Because they only saw what happened on the outside, they drew wrong conclusions.
So we can only see the outside of a person. God alone knows what’s going on inside. And how does God judge? The key is found in the verse just before our passage today in Luke: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Jesus, the Master Rabbi, is using a familiar Hebrew method of teaching: parallelism. When you see parallelism, you see ideas, word pictures, or even stories come in twos, threes, or even more. The teacher is driving home a point by illustrating it in multiple ways.
Here, Jesus takes a word picture familiar to His listeners: the hanging scale used by merchants in the ancient marketplace to weigh out goods. Jesus then balances two ideas, then another two ideas, and so on, giving us a seven-part parallelism:
Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Don’t pretend you’ve been through the shiny silver doors. Don’t pretend you’ve never needed mercy. “Remember who you once were,” Paul cautions in Ephesians 2. Remember what God, being rich in mercy—the God who sees behind the performance—has done out of love for you. And tip the scales in another’s favor.
- Do you think there’s pressure among Christians to act as though we have it all together? Why?
- What could you, your family, or your small group do to change that?
- The Bible teaches, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How hard are you on yourself? Is it difficult for you to accept God’s mercy?
- If we have trouble admitting that we need mercy, how might that affect our ability to present the gospel to someone else?