One of the most misquoted verses in the Bible is Matthew chapter seven verse one.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Taken by itself, it seems as if Christ was commanding us to never seek to correct another human being, for fear that we too would be judged. This view is prevalent in culture.
But society, much less familial relationships, cannot exist without some form of judgment. What did Christ mean when he made that declaration?
Thankfully, if we read further, we can glean the meaning from the text.
Christ begins to give clarity to his statement in the next verse:
“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
Christ first warns that the same measure you use to judge others is going to be the one used against you. If a person goes about judging people harshly and haphazardly, not taking the time to understand, reason, or be gentle before making their judgement on another person, that’s going to be the same measure used against them.
So, we see the warning. A person will be judged the same way in which they have judged others.
In the following three verses, Christ uses another form of teaching to give an example of how we are to judge.
“Why do you see 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,’ when there is the log 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.”Matthew 7:3-5
I love Christ’s parables. Stories help us to see things in ways that deepen our understanding.
Consider this one. The eye is a pretty sensitive part of your body, susceptible to a lot of pain if handled wrongly. If we glance up at the sun too long or even get a speck in it, our eyes can be damaged. I know. I’ve had two scratched retinas. They’re no fun.
Now, imagine if you have a speck in your eye. Depending on the type of speck, it would either be a nuisance or put you in an incredible amount of pain. While one of the most sensitive parts of your body is in pain, you see a person bumbling toward you, a log jutting out of their eye, who then offers to help take a speck out of yours.
They’re going to pummel you to death with the log in their eye before they can even get close enough to remove the speck from your eye. Would you be willing to let that person perform surgery on your eye? Of course not.
But that’s the picture Christ uses to illustrate how it feels when a person tries to judge another for either a sin or error, while they themselves commit the same or similar sins and errors.
The various sins and weaknesses each of us are caught in are sensitive. No one really enjoys having another person tell them of their flaws. However, it is an imperative in the Christian walk. We are commanded to hold one another accountable as we live as Christians in this world (Prov. 27:17; Gal. 6:1-2; Matt. 18:15-17; James 5:19-20; Col. 3:16, etc.). We must correct error when we see it in another believer.
What does the parable teach us?
Take the beam out of your eye! Understand your own weakness. Know what it felt like when you were in sin, how sensitive and painful it is to have a log in your own eye. Once you have it removed, you will have the necessary clarity to gently remove that speck from your brother or sister’s eye.
Picture this scenario.
You have a friend who has been trying to quit smoking. You go over and visit them one day and notice several cigarette butts on their front porch. When you tell them about the cigarette butts, they confess they’ve been stressed lately, and in a moment of weakness, smoked a few cigarettes.
Taking the log out of your eye is the difference between shouting your friend down for their lapse in self-control, condemning them in their sin, all the while forgetting your own sin and personal struggles in the process, and understanding your friend’s weakness, encouraging them to stop, and humbly offering them ways to help them quit for good.
After removing the log out of your eye first, you will then be able to see clearly, even perhaps be able to find the root of the matter on why a person is sinning. You will then be able to deal with that as well.
Removing sin in our lives is one of the most painful things we do. Other visuals used in Scripture are iron sharpening iron and silver and gold refined in the fire. Correction cuts beneath our façade and burns away our impurities.
Removing sin will hurt. But there’s a difference between a person who has clean eyes, able to get up close enough to see the speck clearly, and a person who has a log in their eye, shouting you down from a distance. We are commanded to not simply speak the truth, but to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Like those old Three Stooges episodes where one of them has a beam over the shoulder and doesn’t realize how long it is, accidentally knocking over anyone who happens to be within range whenever they turn, so are we whenever we don’t first stop to reckon with our own weaknesses and sins before correcting another brother or sister who happens to be caught up in their own sin. The illustration may make for great comedy, but it makes for poor discipleship.
Only a humble Christian can effectively help another person wage war on their sin.