You can't judge me! Unless, of course, you can...

"Do not judge!" This is without a doubt one of the most commonly quoted - I mean misquoted - verses of Scripture in all of the Bible. Believers and unbelievers alike enjoy pulling this one of our their arsenal to throw at anyone who espouses a belief or an opinion contrary to their own. But what does this verse in Matthew 7 really mean? In order to find out, we have to zoom out and take not just this verse but the entire passage in Matthew 7:1-6 in context.

"Do not judge, so that you won't be judged." That seems simple enough. If you don't judge others then they won't judge you. If we stop right there then there really is no need to go further with the discussion. Yet this verse is only the beginning of the passage.

"For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Did you see that? This verse doesn't condemn judging but instead gives a warning: When - not if - you judge, be prepared to be judged in return. But wait, I thought the verse before said don't judge. I'm getting confused! Read on.

"Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but don't notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck our of your eye,' and look, there's a log in your eye?" People like to use these verses out of context too to fuel their argument, but they are inseparable from the other verses. Here's the point: The kind of judging that Jesus denounces - and the kind that should bother us too - is the hypocritical kind.

The whole plank in the eye refers to the perception of the one doing the judging. Have you ever had something stuck in your eye? If so, then you know that it messes with your vision pretty badly. Even the tiniest speck of dirt or insect can feel like, well, like a plank in your eye because it is so painful and consuming. That's the point. Judging isn't forbidden. In fact, we must learn to pass judgment on each other for the purpose of accountability and purity. But when you have failed to diligently judge yourself and your own misguided and sinful motives and actions, then you are unfit to judge others' sins and hold them accountable.

"Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Ouch! Nobody wants to be called a hypocrite but that is what we are if we judge others while ignoring our own junk. So what is the solution? Take the log out of your own eye - i.e., clean your own house - before you seek to correct others.

Here is the main point in all of this: None of us are perfect enough to pass perfect judgment. Only Jesus is, which is why He has the final authority on judgment (Matthew 25:31-46 & John 5:20-30). Yet we can and must judge others, but only when we are diligently pursuing God's holiness and purity in our own lives. This isn't always easy and comfortable to do, but it is essential that we hold our brothers and sisters accountable.

Let me finish by asking you one final question: If you were to see me pursuing a relationship outside of my marriage or abusing substances that could ruin my life, would you tell me? If the answer is yes, then you aren't judging me. You are loving me.


Noland Mattocks said...

Well written Sterling. Thanks. I've read the verse and heard it quoted numerous times and never looked at it the way you explained. Keep blogging. I look forward to your next entry. And your family is beautiful. Stay healthy my brother.

scott said...

Sterling , Another good thought. Thanks for your wisdom and your biblical thought.

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