In the Gospels, Jesus imposes strong conditions around our tendency to judge others:
Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
It’s not that we’re never supposed to identify sin. What often flies under the radar in this passage – especially to those who misappropriate it to justify a permissive lifestyle – is the final verse, numero cinco. It says the goal is to help the brother remove his speck. If we’re not allowed to address each other’s sin, a primary mechanism of church health (as identified throughout Paul’s letters) is taken away from us.
Here are three things I’ve noticed about judging (yes, because I’ve done it):
1. We don’t always realize we’re doing it.
Judgment is not always a burning, eye-twitching hate that consumes our entire being. It’s more a sidelong, glancing thought, or a steady but subtle buzz like a program running in the background. That’s why we get away with it.
Catching our minds in the act of judgment requires an active monitoring of our thoughts that few of us want to be bothered with. It’s a little like Lucy and Ethel on their assembly line of chocolate candies, with the speed cranked up to Red Bull Cheetah Space Warp. But it’s necessary if we want to be holy.
2. We’re sometimes right.
Oftentimes, when we’re judging someone, we’re correct. When you look at a friend and go “Man, he just has to make everything about himself”, you might be right. When you hear someone talking about another behind their back yet again and go “she is such a gossip”, well, you’re not wrong. Some people are kind enough to make judgment obvious. That’s another reason we get away with it.
But Jesus’ commands in Matthew 7 don’t assume we’re wrong. The “log in the eye” parable grants the speck in your brother’s eye. Jesus never denies it. He just says, “knock it off until you have a better attitude”. If we’re to help a brother concerning sin, Jesus says, then we’re to do so from a profound awareness of our own. It changes our entire demeanor.
3. We judge those we love and know the most.
We don’t just judge already-disliked people in our D-lists or outer circles. We judge our closest friends and family and get away with it because of #2 – all the while loving and admiring them to pieces simultaneously. Isn’t this stuff weird?
By the grace of God, I’m praying for deliverance from these habits. It starts with remembering my own sin before I ponder others’. An unpleasant expedition, but worth it. May we all follow the Spirit’s leading in these things.
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!