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 our local church context. 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.
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.
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 at church, then like it or not, the church 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 – you 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.
Matt 7:5 [READ]
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 you and I can do for the kingdom of God is to keep our mouths closed.
In closing, after hearing this, your reaction might be, how on earth can I live like this? How can I judge without being judgmental? It’s humanly impossible. And if this is your reaction, praise the Lord. You’re on the right track. You and I can’t work really hard and make ourselves poor in spirit, or gentle or manufacture on our own strength true hunger and thirst for righteousness, or mercy or purity of heart. These characteristics are way, way beyond human ability. Becoming a true disciple of Jesus is a supernatural work of the Spirit. Surrender to Jesus, not just once, but every day of your lives. Abide in Christ, stay close to Jesus, love Jesus and ask the Spirit to take over and produce this kind of genuine spiritual fruit in your lives.