A Spiritual Eye Examination
Generally speaking, people don’t want to be accused of being a hypocrite. Out of this fear of being hypocritical, there arises an incorrect Biblical teaching that suggests that people can never pronounce judgment on other people for anything at all.
This fear based response is a “cop out” and gives way to an attitude of tolerance to person sin, other people’s sin, and a “God knows my heart” mindset that produces lackadaisical Christians that will not enjoy eternity in heaven if that attitude isn’t examined and corrected. After all, “judge not, lest ye be judged,” right?
Let’s take a longer look at what Matthew 7:1-5 means and then we can determine if this “judge not, lest ye be judged” attitude is right.
Chapter 7 is still part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, which started back in chapter 5. Jesus asked 2 questions recorded in this passage:
Like other times, this passage records Jesus using questions to highlight, or bring to awareness a wrong way and a right way of handling a particular issue. These questions are being directed to the disciples, but we need to keep in mind that Jesus has drawn a crowd.
The multitude, comprised of scribes, Pharisees, and all other types of people are listening to His teachings. Also, let’s notice that while the questions do so much just by being asked, Jesus still provides an answer, which we will discuss in this article.
Definition of Terms
Let’s first define some of the terms, using Strong’s lexicon.
- Beholdest- to see, to discern
- mote: a dry twig or straw (so something small)
- beam-a stick of timber (so some big piece of wood)
- considerest-to observe fully.
The question Jesus asks goes something like “Why see the twig in your brother’s eye, but do not observe fully the giant stick of wood that’s sticking out of your own eye?”
Basically, you have a big log sticking through your eyeball that you are going to leave there while you “fully observe” the small particle in your brother’s eye.
To fully appreciate the question and why Jesus asks it, we must go back up to the beginning of the chapter.
Matthew 7:1 is quoted by people all over the planet, probably even a more “popular” piece of scripture than John 3:16. There was a time in my life when I could say that most people knew John 3:16 more than Matthew 7:1, but not anymore! Like many scripture references, people take this verse and run with it to fit any agenda that they want.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged” does not mean that Jesus is commanding His disciples to never judge someone else no matter what. We must properly examine the context of any passage as well as look at other passages to be sure that there are no contradictions.
Keeping in mind
IF YOU FIND A CONTRADICTION IN THE BIBLE, THAT IS THE RESULT OF YOUR OWN MISUNDERSTANDING. IT IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE WORD, IT IS THE FAULT OF THE READER.
We must be responsible students of God’s word, and this is where many people fall in to the trap of misusing and misapplying this particular scripture.
Many people say that we cannot “judge” another person, ever.
They use this verse to never set standards for themselves, and to allow themselves false comfort to think, do, and act any way that they want to act, under the principle “You can’t judge me, Jesus says so.” When, in fact, we are implicitly and explicitly commanded to judge others, but to be sure to do it righteously (John 7:24). We can find many places in which Jesus teaches that His disciples can judge. For example, in the same sermon, we find this recorded:
“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”Matthew 6:2
Righteous vs. Unrighteous Judgment
For the disciples to understand how to follow through with this command, they are going to have to discern, or judge, who are the hypocrites. They are going to have to judge by looking and observing, who is doing something for glory so that they can determine how to do it righteously.
This means, being that God has already defined what is sinful and therefore not acceptable to enter heaven in His word, I can also look and observe what others are doing, line that up with scripture, and tell whether or not they are conducting themselves in a way that is approved by God.
Then consequently, I can choose to do what they do, or alternatively choose to not do what they do and follow God. I can “discern” or “judge” whether or not someone is in sin or not IF they are clearly doing something that transgresses God’s already given command.
That is righteous judgment. That is judging someone else righteously, upon God’s standards, not my own.
When judging is wrong
Hence, we need to take a moment to determine what type of judgments Jesus is actually teaching us NOT to do from Matthew 7.
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete (estimate), it shall be measured to you again.”Matthew 7:2
The judgment I use toward other human beings, is the same judgment that will be used for me. I am going to be held up to the standard that I hold other people. In other words, how I measure (judge) someone else, I will also be measured.
Therefore, don’t expect higher standards for someone else than you do of yourself because that is wrong and Jesus calls those type of people “hypocrites.”
Let’s look at parenting. Having “unruly children” can often be a judgment. Some think that children moving around and running around in the church building after worship is “unruly” and judge (condemn) those parents as “bad” or “inattentive.”
If I am going to determine that this type of parent is “bad” or “inattentive,” but I let my own children skip worship, play sports instead, or perhaps my own children aren’t even faithful Christians, then I am violating this command that Jesus gave to me.
Consequently, according to Matthew 7, I am going to be eternally responsible for that false and hypocritical standard on which I have judged that other parent. If I am willing to judge another parent on their parenting skills, I BEST be able to hold myself at least up to that standard, if not more.
This SHOULD make us think twice about the standards that we place on others. This SHOULD cause us to be more introspective and more wiling to correct our own deficits before judging someone else.
Understanding all of this above, knowing that making judgments in and of themselves are not sinful or wrong, knowing that Jesus is not commanding us unequivocally to NEVER judge, and knowing that we can clearly discern (judge) if we or others around us, are in sin by using God’s word, NOW I can properly discern what Jesus means by asking these two questions.
It goes back to our example above,
If I condemn a fellow parent for allowing their children to run around the building after services, yet I have unfaithful children that do not even attend, I am violating this command we read about here in Matthew 7.
I am in sin because I have a “mote” in my own eye, yet I’m trying to remove a “speck” out of my brother’s eye.
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of they brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
Before condemning that parent for being “inattentive,” I need to get that beam out of my own eye. I better work on getting my own children to become faithful. I better fix my own situation, so that I can see clearly to help the other person.
There are times, when we have removed the “beam” out of our own eye and are able to properly help someone else with their small twig, but I think by then, we have developed enough Christian character that we will help that other person lovingly and with genuine care for their soul.
Can you think of other examples of when this may occur? Have you been in a situation where you have judged someone else but you really haven’t been in the position to do so because of your own life?
Have you ever been in a situation you were being judged by some person who had no right to judge because of the state of their own sinful life?
It does not feel good, and in fact, Jesus condemns it and calls that person a “hypocrite.” A hypocrite is defined in Strong’s as “a stage player.” A hypocrite is an actor, one who is not themselves, but is pretending to be someone else. Let us not be hypocrites, but let us judge ourselves and others righteously.
The Eye Exam
Sometimes, our vision is too obstructed to condemn another person. Like our example above, the one who condemns the children for being unruly in the church building has obstructed vision. That person needs to work on getting their own children in a spiritually right condition before remarking on the condition of another.
That parent has a log sticking out of their eye while they are trying to correct a speck in someone else’s. Both situations consists of the behavior of the offspring; one has children with a huge spiritual problem, while the other has a speck of a physical/behavior problem. The parallel between the two is important when considering how to judge righteously!
So, let us work toward judging righteously in all things. Let us work to improve our own lives so that we can in turn strengthen, encourage, and judge others (rightly) for the purpose of helping them get to heaven.
When we see others in sin because we have examined God’s Word, we can righteously judge that, but let’s be sure we are taking care of that transgression in our own lives as well. Implied in this righteous judgment is the difference between acting out of humility and pride. A hypocrite is full of pride and unable to judge righteously.
Let us work to have a clear vision, and to judge righteously, by looking to God’s Word and following Him as our teacher and guide. God’s word will give us the clear vision to judge ourselves and others when we follow what He says.