The Mote and the Beam

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The Parable of the Mote and the Beam by Domenico Fetti c. 1619

The Mote and the Beam is a parable of Jesus given in the Sermon on the Mount[1] in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 1 to 5. The discourse is fairly brief, and begins by warning his followers of the dangers of judging others, stating that they too would be judged by the same standard. The Sermon on the Plain has a similar passage in Luke 6:37–42.[2]

Narrative[edit]

In the Wycliffe and King James versions bibles, the word "mote" refers to a speck, and the "beam" is a wooden plank or log.

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

— Matthew 7:1–5 KJV (Matthew 7:1–5 other versions)

A Modern English version is as follows:

1 Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
2 For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.

In the King James Version, the first two verses use plural "ye" and "you", and the next three verses use the singular "thou", "thy" and "thine" to the individual. (Luke 6:41 was translated "thou" after using "ye" in Luke 6:37.)

Interpretation[edit]

The Parable of the Mote and the Beam. Drawing by Ottmar Elliger the Younger (1666–1735).

The moral lesson is to avoid hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and censoriousness. The analogy used is of a small object in another's eye as compared with a large beam of wood in one's own. The original Greek word translated as "mote" (κάρφος karphos) meant "any small dry body".[3] The terms mote and beam are from the King James Version; other translations use different words, e.g. the New International Version uses "speck (of sawdust)" and "plank". In 21st century English a "mote" is more normally a particle of dust – particularly one that is floating in the air – rather than a tiny splinter of wood. The analogy is suggestive of a carpenter's workshop, with which Jesus would have been familiar.

In the analogy, the one seeking to remove the impediment in the eye of his brother has the larger impediment in his own eye, suggesting metaphorically that the one who attempts to regulate his brother often displays the greater blindness and hypocrisy.

A proverb of this sort was familiar to the Jews,[4] and appears in numerous other cultures too,[5] such as the Latin proverb of later Roman days referenced by Athenagoras of Athens, meretrix pudicam.[a]

Mindfulness and Non-resistance Interpretation[edit]

Eckhart Tolle interprets Jesus Christ's teachings as being centred around Mindfulness and Acceptance.[6] To judge something as good or bad is to enter into the world of dualities, and this creates psychological, or spiritual, tension. Tolle interprets "Judge not, that ye be not judged" as that if you categorise something or someone negatively or positively, you affirm that its opposite polarity must also exist, and so resistance, conflict, suffering, sin, become possible.[6]

In The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment Tolle says:

To relinquish judgment does not mean that you do not recognize dysfunction and unconsciousness when you see it. It means "being the knowing" rather than "being the reaction'' and the judge. [7]

Relinquishing judgement is, in this sense, about not imbuing reality with dualistic concepts that distract you from the singular reality of the present moment. [6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Generally translated "The harlot rebuketh the chaste", the case-endings obviating the verb

References[edit]

  1. ^ Matthew by Charles H. Talbert 2010 ISBN 0-8010-3192-3 page 93 view 93
  2. ^ Steven L. Cox, Kendell H. Easley, 2007 Harmony of the Gospels ISBN 0-8054-9444-8 page 72 view 72
  3. ^ Henry Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon: κάρφος [1].
  4. ^ J. B. Lightfoot, referred to by Henry Alford in Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford on Matthew 7, accessed 15 November 2022
  5. ^ James Hastings (October 2004), "Beam and Mote", A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol. 1, The Minerva Group, ISBN 9781410217851 text source
  6. ^ a b c d Tolle, Eckhart (1999). The power of now : a guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, California. pp. 12, 101–102, 128. ISBN 1-57731-152-3. OCLC 42061039.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. ^ "You will then either be totally free of reaction or you may react and still be the knowing, the space in which the reaction is watched and allowed to be. Instead of fighting the darkness, you bring in the light. Instead of reacting to delusion, you see the delusion yet at the same time look through it. Being the knowing creates a clear space of loving presence that allows all things and all people to be as they are. No greater catalyst for transformation exists."[6]

Further reading[edit]

The Mote and the Beam
Preceded by New Testament
Events
Succeeded by