St John Chrysostom Homily XXIII.
Matt. VII. 1.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
What then? Ought we not to blame them that sin? Because Paul also saith this selfsame thing: or rather, there too it is Christ, speaking by Paul, and saying,972“Why dost thou judge thy brother? And thou, why dost thou set at nought thy brother?” and, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?”973 And again, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.”974
How then doth He say elsewhere, “Reprove, rebuke, exhort,”975and, “Them that sin rebuke before all?”976 And Christ too to Peter, “Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone,” and if he neglect to hear, add to thyself another also; and if not even so doth he yield, declare it to the church likewise?”977 And how hath He set over us so many to reprove; and not only to reprove, but also to punish? For him that hearkens to none of these, He hath commanded to be “as a heathen man and a publican.”978 And how gave He them the keys also? since if they are not to judge, they will be without authority in any matter, and in vain have they received the power to bind and to loose.
And besides, if this were to obtain, all would be lost alike, whether in churches, or in states,979or in houses. For except the master judge the servant, and the mistress the maid, and the father the son, and friends one another, there will be an increase of all wickedness. And why say I, friends? unless we judge our enemies, we shall never be able to put an end to our enmity, but all things will be turned upside down.
What then can the saying be? Let us carefully attend, lest the medicines of salvation, and the laws of peace, be accounted by any man laws of overthrow and confusion. First of all, then, even by what follows, He hath pointed out to them that have understanding the excellency of this law, saying, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”980
But if to many of the less attentive, it seem yet rather obscure, I will endeavor to explain it from the beginning. In this place, then, as it seems at least to me, He doth not simply command us not to judge any of men’s sins, neither doth He simply forbid the doing of such a thing, but to them that are full of innumerable ills, and are trampling upon other men for trifles. And I think that certain Jews too are here hinted at, for that while they were bitter accusing their neighbors for small faults, and such as came to nothing, they were themselves insensibly committing deadly981sins. Herewith towards the end also He was upbraiding them, when He said, “Ye bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, but ye will not move them with your finger,”982and, “ye pay tithe of mint and anise, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”983
Well then, I think that these are comprehended in His invective; that He is checking them beforehand as to those things, wherein they were hereafter to accuse His disciples. For although His disciples had been guilty of no such sin, yet in them were supposed to be offenses; as, for instance, not keeping the sabbath, eating with unwashen hands, sitting at meat with publicans; of which He saith also in another place, “Ye which strain at the gnat, and swallow the camel.”984 But yet it is also a general law that He is laying down on these matters.
And the Corinthians985too Paul did not absolutely command not to judge, but not to judge their own superiors, and upon grounds that are not acknowledged; not absolutely to refrain from correcting them that sin. Neither indeed was He then rebuking all without distinction, but disciples doing so to their teachers were the object of His reproof; and they who, being guilty of innumerable sins, bring an evil report upon the guiltless.
This then is the sort of thing which Christ also in this place intimated; not intimated merely, but guarded986it too with a great ter 155 ror, and the punishment from which no prayers can deliver.
2. “For with what judgment ye judge,” saith He, “ye shall be judged.”987
That is, “it is not the other,” saith Christ, “that thou condemnest, but thyself, and thou art making the judgment-seat dreadful to thyself, and the account strict.” As then in the forgiveness of our sins the beginnings are from us, so also in this judgment, it is by ourselves that the measures of our condemnation are laid down. You see, we ought not to upbraid nor trample upon them, but to admonish; not to revile, but to advise; not to assail with pride, but to correct with tenderness. For not him, but thyself, dost thou give over to extreme vengeance, by not sparing him, when it may be needful to give sentence on his offenses.
Seest thou, how these two commandments are both easy, and fraught with great blessings to the obedient, even as of evils on the other hand, to the regardless? For both he that forgives his neighbor, hath freed himself first of the two from the grounds of complaint, and that without any labor; and he that with tenderness and indulgence inquires into other men’s offenses, great is the allowance988of pardon, which he hath by his judgment laid up beforehand for himself.
“What then!” say you: “if one commit fornication, may I not say that fornication is a bad thing, nor at all correct him that is playing the wanton?” Nay, correct him, but not as a foe, nor as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing medicines. For neither did Christ say, “stay not him that is sinning,” but “judge not;” that is, be not bitter in pronouncing sentence.
And besides, it is not of great things (as I have already observed), nor of things prohibited, that this is said, but of those which are not even counted offenses. Wherefore He said also.
“Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye?”989
Yea, for many now do this; if they see but a monk wearing an unnecessary garment, they produce against him the law of our Lord,990while they themselves are extorting without end, and defrauding men every day. If they see him but partaking rather largely of food, they become bitter accusers, while they themselves are daily drinking to excess and surfeiting: not knowing, that besides their own sins, they do hereby gather up for themselves a greater flame, and deprive themselves of every plea. For on this point, that thine own doings must be strictly inquired into, thou thyself hast first made the law, by thus sentencing those of thy neighbor. Account it not then to be a grievous thing, if thou art also thyself to undergo the same kind of trial.
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye.”991
Here His will is to signify the great wrath, which He hath against them that do such things. For so, wheresoever He would indicate that the sin is great, and the punishment and wrath in store for it grievous, He begins with a reproach.992 As then unto him that was exacting the hundred pence, He said in His deep displeasure, “Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt;”993even so here also, “Thou hypocrite.” For not of protecting care comes such a judgment, but of ill will to man; and while a man puts forward a mask of benevolence, he is doing a work of the utmost wickedness, causing reproaches without ground, and accusations, to cleave unto his neighbors, and usurping a teacher’s rank, when he is not worthy to be so much as a disciple. On account of this He called him “hypocrite.” For thou, who in other men’s doings art so bitter, as to see even the little things; how hast thou become so remiss in thine own, as that even the great things are hurried over by thee?
“First cast out the beam out of thine own eye.”
Seest thou, that He forbids not judging, but commands to cast out first the beam from thine eye, and then to set right the doings of the rest of the world? For indeed each one knows his own things better than those of others; and sees the greater rather than the less; and loves himself more than his neighbor. Wherefore, if thou doest it out of guardian care, I bid thee care for thyself first, in whose case the sin is both more certain and greater. But if thou neglect thyself, it is quite evident that neither dost thou judge thy brother in care for him, but in hatred, and wishing to expose him. For what if he ought to be judged? it should be by one who commits no such sin, not by thee.
Thus, because He had introduced great and high doctrines of self denial, lest any man should say, it is easy so to practise it in words; He willing to signify His entire confidence, and that He was not chargeable with any of the things that had been mentioned, but had duly fulfilled all, spake this parable. And that, because He too was afterwards to 156 judge, saying, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.”994 Yet was not he chargeable with what hath been mentioned; for neither did He pull out a mote, nor had He a beam on His eyes, but being clean from all these, He so corrected the faults of all. “For it is not at all meet,” saith He, “to judge others, when one is chargeable with the same things.” And why marvel at His establishing this law, when even the very thief knew it upon the cross, saying to the other thief, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing we are in the same condemnation;”995expressing the same sentiments with Christ?
But thou, so far from casting out thine own beam, dost not even see it, but another’s mote thou not only seest, but also judgest, and essayest to cast it out; as if any one seized with a grievous dropsy, or indeed with any other incurable disease, were to neglect this, and find fault with another who was neglecting a slight swelling. And if it be an evil not to see one’s own sins, it is a twofold and threefold evil to be even sitting in judgment on others, while men themselves, as if past feeling, are bearing about beams in their own eyes: since no beam is so heavy as sin.
His injunction therefore in these words is as follows, that he who is chargeable with countless evil deeds, should not be a bitter censor of other men’s offenses, and especially when these are trifling. He is not overthrowing reproof nor correction, but forbidding men to neglect their own faults, and exult over those of other men.
For indeed this was a cause of men’s going unto great vice, bringing in a twofold wickedness. For he, whose practice it had been to slight his own faults, great as they were, and to search bitterly into those of others, being slight and of no account, was spoiling himself two ways: first, by thinking lightly of his own faults; next, by incurring enmities and feuds with all men, and training himself every day to extreme fierceness, and want of feeling for others.