The Council of the Royal Academy selecting Pictures for the Exhibition, 1875,
Painted by Charles West Cope (1811-1890),
Painted in 1856,
Oil on canvas
© Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: John Hammond / Google Arts
Do not judge, and you will not be judged
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’
Reflection on the painting
Our painting by Charles West Cope depicts the Council of the Royal Academy selecting pictures for their 1875 Summer Exhibition. Works of art are being presented to them and they judge. Every year since 1769, the Royal Academy has put on an open-submission art show, called ‘The Exhibition’ in earlier days but now known as the Summer Exhibition. The works on show are selected and arranged by Royal Academicians, who also enter their own works into the exhibition, creating an eclectic mix of work by established artists alongside emerging talent and first-time exhibitors. Nowadays about 15,000 works get submitted each year. Around 95% of artworks are rejected: they are judged and not deemed good enough for display.
The ‘judging’ Jesus mentions in today's reading is much broader. He recognises that we live in a very judgemental culture. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we are all guilty of it. We quickly judge politicians, our friends, footballers,… We have a tendency to condemn and judge others. As Jesus says, we can be overly concerned about the splinter in someone else’s eye while being arrogantly oblivious to the plank in our own.
When we have a piece of dust in our eye, our eyes well up and water diminishes our sight for a few minutes. Similarly, our sight is diminished when we focus one other people’s shortcomings. Jesus is asking us not to let other people's shortcomings be like dust in our eyes.
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