So Jesus warns in v1-2.
1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
A key word in these verses is “measure.” Did you ever notice that verse? If you live with a judgmental spirit, and in your heart, you’re always pulling out the tape measure for other people and questioning their actions and motives–you are not measuring up, you’re falling short, you messed up here, where’s your heart–if this is your attitude toward others, then watch out. If you measure your judgment out this way, I only see black and white, I’m the judge, if this is you, be warned. No, you and I are not the judge. Jesus is the Judge. He is the only one who has the authority to pardon or to condemn. If you have a judgmental spirit and you are quick to condemn others, in the same way you judge and measure out your judgment toward others, it’s gonna come back at you. This is the warning Jesus issues.
How do we know if our heart and attitude are right? A few things to keep in mind. First, a right heart is always redemptive, not condemning. It builds up and lifts people up, not tears them down. Jesus doesn’t say, speck, what speck? Jesus doesn’t deny that there could be something wrong with the other person. But he doesn’t say, point it out. He says, remove it. We’re good at pointing things out. Look at that speck in his eye, look at what he or she is doing wrong. The real, discerning follower of Christ seeks to build up. A genuine Christ follower desires to help people move forward in their relationship with God. We are not to be fault finders. We are to be agents of transforming grace by not merely pointing out but helping to remove specks of sin.
Second, right judgment always deals with my own heart before dealing with others. Now it’s getting personal.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when ALL THE TIME there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
You see a speck in your brother’s eye. A speck is like a little, bitty piece of saw dust. Contrast that with a plank in your own eye. A plank is like a wooden beam that holds up the roof of a building. You get the picture? A tiny piece of sawdust, a splinter vs. a giant wooden beam.
We see things in others and it triggers a reaction in us. If I see something in somebody else’s life, that same thing is either in my life, OR by the grace of God it’s no longer in me. Either way, I’m no better. I am a fellow brother struggling with the same thing, or I am humbled because God has changed me by his grace, and not by my efforts. If I am struggling with the same sin, I am certainly not looking down on anyone. Therefore, my tone would be different. My words would not be condemning. On the flip side, if God has helped me to overcome, I would invite the person with the speck to receive the same grace in their lives. I would point them to Jesus because I can’t change them and they can’t change themselves.
What’s the point of this? If someone else’s sin is bothering you more than your own unrighteousness before God, you need to go back a chapter and get into your prayer closet. And spend some alone time with God to regain the right perspective again.
Right judgment starts with a right judgment of myself. We need to start with the plank in our own eye before we start dealing with the speck in another person’s eye. It’s a question of order and magnitude. The order is first, start with yourself. Examine yourself. Withhold judgment until you pray about yourself. And magnitude – your problem as it relates to your vision and how you see others and their faults, your problem is much greater in magnitude than the person you are trying to help. Your problem is exponentially greater in magnitude. We’re comparing a huge beam to a tiny splinter. It’s not a fair comparison. There’s no contest. If you acknowledge this truth, then we would all agree that your vision and my vision is severely impaired. More than impaired, our vision is literally blocked by a beam. Thus, the beam sticking out of your eye makes it virtually impossible to see the speck in someone else’s eye.
Does this mean that your problem is always objectively bigger than the problem in others? No, of course not. But in terms of judging and vision and seeing sins in others, we have a big problem on our hands. And the problem is not the other person. The problem is our own distorted vision.
Given our visual impairment, how we judge others is important. It’s important to judge with the right heart. First, a heart that is redemptive, not destructive. Building up the other person rather than tearing down. Second, it’s a heart that is quick to deal with the huge beam in our eye because unless we deal with this massive problem with our own vision first, we will never be able to see clearly the speck in anybody’s eye. Assuming we’ve done those things, hopefully, the judgmental spirit will no longer be there and we are in a position to judge aright.
Who’s the recipient of this judgment? Our brother. We judge fellow believers. We have a responsibility to speak into each other’s lives. God will hold us accountable if we don’t. If there is blatant sin and we look the other way, God is going to have something to say to us on our personal Judgment Day. We are responsible for other believers in this particular local church. For each person’s salvation. And for our sanctification. We’re all works in progress but church, marriage, these are tools that God uses for our personal sanctification.
I hope that there are people that you’ve invited to speak truth into your life because we are all prone to self-deception and blindness. I know I’m not the man I’m supposed to be, I know I’m not yet conformed to the image of Christ, you and I have a long way to go. That’s why we need the church.
How do we exercise judgment? Jesus gives very practical advice regarding the methodology regarding how we are to confront and judge a fellow brother or sister when we’ve been sinned against. Matt 18. He outlines 3 steps. If your brother sins against you, first, approach him alone in private. If he refuses to repent, then bring a witness or two. If he still refuses to repent, involve the church and if there is still a lack of repentance, treat him as a pagan. Matt 18 helps in our methodology.
I believe Matt 7 fills in some of the gaps regarding how we are to prepare our hearts prior to judging another believer. We already talked about the need to examine our hearts first. And to deal with the plank in your eye before going to your brother. If you see the same sin in you, then repent. It will soften you toward the other person when you confront them. If the sin used to be there but it is no longer there, thank God for the grace you experienced which led to your transformation in that area. This, too, will soften your heart toward your brother in sin.
Next, we need to pray for wisdom. This time of prayer prior to speaking out in judgment is critical. I can’t stress this enough. You can clearly see the difference, esp. if you are the recipient of someone else’s judgment about you, there is a clear difference between someone who prays and then speaks vs. someone who speaks out in the heat of the moment without praying first. I believe it is the difference in tone. If you speak out in the heat of the moment, I bet a certain, condemning tone will be communicated. A tone that will more than likely tear down instead of build up. You might not have meant it. It might have been unintentional. However, if you speak after praying, chances are, your words are going to be communicated with more of a redemptive, constructive, encouraging tone. The content could be exactly the same, but how we deliver content is very important.
Wisdom involves judging, confronting, saying difficult things with the right tone. Pray and ask God for the ability to say the right thing at the right time in the right way. What happens if you bypass self-examination and you fail to pray to God for wisdom and you don’t seek God’s timing and you just blurt things out because you just like to tell it like it is. You like to get things off your chest. You could be right on the money, but you’re probably going to speak out of annoyance or frustration and not really looking out for the good of the other person. If you skip these steps and fail to examine yourself and you fail to pray, I would bet that more often than not, you and I will be somewhat off in our assessment of others. Why? Because every single one of us has a wooden beam obstructing our view.