Matthew 7:2-5 (New American Standard Bible)
2“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5“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.
So many times over the past year, I’ve been reminded of Matthew 7:2-4 by various people. I fully understand that we should be cautious with our judgment, but many times those using this passage use it to defend preachers in error. The context of Matthew 7:2-4 is seen in Matthew 7:5. We are advised to correct our own problems first so that we will be able to help our fellow man. I find it interesting in verse 5, the “first take the log out of your own eye” passage actually deals more with the one passing judgment; the accuser has a bigger and more blinding problem than the accused if we fail to rid ourselves of our own errors and sins! If we refuse to address our own problems prior to passing judgment on another, we are called hypocrites. So in context, in order to be able to admonish and advise our brothers/sisters (2 Thessalonians 3:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15), we must practice self criticism first (1 John 1:8-10, 1 John 2:1-3).
Far too often, Matthew 7:2-4 is used to defend actions that do not warrant defending. Using only verses 2-4, makes it seem that no one can criticize the actions done by Christians and leaders of the church. What is disturbing is how the defenders overlook verse 5, “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,” which gives us liberty to correct those in error and warn the brethren.
I have observed the following when many people use the “do not judge” defense to defend the indefensible:
- They never quote Matthew 7:5.
- Generally Matthew 7:2-4 is used to defend open sin and open errors.(2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Timothy 4:3-4)
- Those using Matthew 7:2-4 use it to discourage Biblical discernment (Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 2:15)
- Many times those using Matthew 7:2-4 are guilty of passing the same judgment about which they are complaining.
A deeper problem addressed in verse 5 is pride.
Proverbs 11:2 (New American Standard Bible)
2When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom.
A prideful person does not like correction, and they do not like to admit they are wrong. Pride is a deadly cancer that will destroy us quickly. It will transform us into judgmental hypocrites because we are far too concerned with other people’s errors and sins rather than our own.
It is a severe injustice to quote Matthew 7:2-4 and omit verse 5 which tells us we must cleanse our own heart of sin before judging another person’s sin. Verse 5 is a thorn in the side of those with a prideful and legalistic mindset.
Proverbs 12:1 (New International Version)
1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid.
Being able to truly practice discernment starts within ourselves. In order to truly help other people, we must first be able to accept help from others. If we are unwilling to accept criticism, then how can we be in a position to judge? If we are not humble enough to listen to our critics – family, friends, church members, and people in general – then how can we expect people to listen to us?
From 2008 to 2009, I personally went through a lot of self criticism and rebellion. It was hard for me to see through the veil that covered my eyes during those years. I was always quick to defend that which was close to my heart even when it was wrong. What I learned the hard way is that pride will tear you down to a point to where you are stupid (See Proverbs 12:1). I too was guilty of only applying Matthew 7:2-4 to critics of the purpose-driven movement in order to defend what I thought was right.
As I was reorganizing my blog’s categories, I could not help but notice how anger and painful scars influenced my writings greatly. I could have worded my statements nicer without some of the name-calling and overly blunt comments. I was tempted to remove some of my posts, not because I was wrong in what I said, but because of how I worded some of my concerns with certain issues. I decided to leave everything intact because I view it as a growing experience and a reminder of how I need to control my mouth and temper. I vowed to put more thought into my blogs and to reflect more of a Christian attitude when I critique a pastor, church, movement, etc… To anyone I have offended with my mouth in the past, I apologize publicly for my past actions.
To wrap all this up, being able to discern and judge starts within our own lives. Without becoming totally submissive to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we cannot help other people. We must evaluate our actions, words, and our walk with Jesus Christ before we set out to advise, warn, and judge other people’s beliefs and deeds. Discernment starts within ourselves when we ask God to show us our own faults and errors.
I fully understand that there are people who criticize and judge just to be judging. I fully agree that we should not get bogged down by people whose sole purpose is just to complain without offering any real solutions (Titus 3:8-10). If we take Matthew 7:2-5 at face value, then we will be equipped not only to cleanse our own faults, but we will be able to offer real solutions to those people with whom we disagree.
When dealing with people judging us we must:
- Discern the foundation of the criticism.
- Not be overtaken by pride and become offended that someone would dare speak up against our beliefs, deeds, and teachings.
- Be ready to back up our beliefs with the Holy Scriptures in context.
- Be kind and respectful to all of our critics by treating them in a manner that if God-honoring.