It’s not a coincidence that the verses that follow the “do not judge” section are about prayer. Verse 7 – ask, seek, knock. Before you confront someone, ask God for wisdom. Is my judgment even accurate? Is it a sin issue? Is it my sin issue? Is this the right time to confront? Do I really want to build this person up or am I just annoyed? These are important questions to bring to God in prayer. You can say the right thing at the wrong time. You can say the right thing at the right time in the wrong way. Right thing, right time, right way. We are not wise enough to figure out how to do this on our own.
Let me be frank here. If we simply held off on passing judgment so quickly and if we would examine our own heart first and ask God for wisdom, we would eliminate most of our relational conflicts. I don’t want to be part of a church where there is a judgmental spirit. I wouldn’t want to show up. I doubt you would either.
But I know it’s hard not to act this way. Don’t you and I find it easy to open up our mouths and shoot off our gripes? It comes so naturally, doesn’t it? If that becomes the norm around here, then like it or not, we will devolve into a legalistic, judgmental community where people are either always guilty that they made a mistake, or a perceived mistake, or they are fearful of making a mistake. Trust me – we don’t want to become a church like that.
Recap: first, deal with the plank in our own eye. Examine yourself. Second, pray, ask, seek, knock. Ask God for wisdom to be able to say the right thing at the right time in the right way. Third, after dealing with the plank in our eye and after praying for wisdom, now go with a heart to serve your brother or sister.
Now we pick up in verse 5.
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.
Timing is important. We need to follow a certain order. If we disregard Jesus’ advice, we do so at our peril. Having examined ourselves and having received wisdom and grace from God, now we’re ready to build up instead of tear down. We’re ready to judge without a judgmental spirit. We’re ready to serve our brother or sister.
Why am I using the word “serve” here? We’re talking about a little piece of sawdust. You don’t just knock somebody in the back of the head hoping that you will jar the speck loose. Removing a speck – it’s a willingness to get real close and personal, to be intimately involved in helping somebody take their next step in their journey with Jesus. You know what this is communicating? You are communicating that I will do whatever it takes to help you. You are not alone. Whatever it takes to get through this, I’m in. Helping someone in this way is very personal. You’re getting up in somebody’s eye. You don’t walk up to a stranger and invade their personal space and start messing with their eyes. That would get you a lawsuit. Helping someone get a speck out of their eye is personal and it’s private.
If I am not willing to do steps 1-2 and examine myself and pray for wisdom, then I need to keep my mouth closed. Only a prepared heart can serve by delicately and gently removing a speck out of a brother’s eye. Not pointing out a speck, but removing a speck. Often, we think we have the speck in our own eye and everyone else has the plank. But if that’s how we view the world, then we are basically disagreeing with Jesus because we think we know ourselves better than Jesus knows us. If we haven’t prepared ourselves and if we are not ready to serve in a redemptive way, then the best thing I can do for the kingdom of God is to keep my mouth closed.