Emmanuel P. Chaaca collected several Swahili proverbs from the peoples of northern Tanzania and southwestern Kenya. One of them that struck me was, “Nyani alimcheka nyani mwenzake.” Roughly translated, it means, “Chimpanzees laugh at each other’s tail.” The idea is that it is easy to look for and criticize the mistakes of others while forgetting or ignoring our own mistakes. This is yet another example of how we may have different ways to express a truth to accommodate our culture, but human behavior is the same everywhere. Of course, the chimpanzee cannot see his own tail, but that of his neighbor is in plain sight.
Human beings, more enlightened, sophisticated and intelligent than the animals and made in the image of God, still fall prey to the same sort of thing. We can see what terrible parental choices our friends make. We cringe at the wastefulness or poor judgment of those around us. We shake our heads at the weaknesses or sin problems we perceive in others. These things are so plain and simple to see, from our perspective.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, 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 brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5). Jesus is saying that we should spend far more time examining the areas of our own lives than taking the magnifying glass to others’. I have never seen a chimpanzee without a tail or a person without problems and flaws. May this encourage us not to monkey around about these things!