“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s[ eye.
Matthew 7:1-5 NRSV
During our Trenton United Church study group on the Sermon on the Mount using Amy-Jill Levine's excellent book of the same name we received many of her insights into verses and passages we may have read for a lifetime. One was regarding Jesus' often misunderstood teaching on not judging others. This has always seemed both hopeful and baffling, at least to me. We make judgments every day which are necessary, everything from entering an intersection while driving to weighing moral circumstances which are choices between good and evil. It would be naive to suggest that we can live without elements of judgment.
Levine suggests that Jesus is speaking about the fault-finding which can be so destructive, including in communities of faith. I thought about all this again when I came upon a word I'd never heard before which is "smellfungus."
It was coined in the 18th century by author Laurence Sterne, a poet and author. A smellfungus is a person who grumbles and complains and finds fault in others. This is a brilliant word and seems to sum up the worst of judgmentalism, as opposed to the sound judgment we all need to practice.
I was blessed during my decades of ministry to meet and work with hundreds of fine Christians who lived the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that inspired me. This is my lasting memory of congregational life.
I also had to deal with individuals and "clatches" of people whose surname should have been changed to Smellfungus. Too often their pernicious grumbling and fault-finding undermined the well-being of congregations and quenched the spirit of life together as the body of Christ. At times it sapped me of energy for leadership and sadly some left congregations because of the nastiness of the complainers.
It wouldn't be a good idea to find fault with Jesus, all considered, but it would have been helpful if he had offered an over the counter topical smellfungus treatment which might be daubed on lips rather than feet. I would have purchased it in bulk. Perhaps that would be too great a miracle to expect!