1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 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.
This is a challenging passage. It could very easily be one of the most misunderstood and misquoted pieces of scripture I have encountered. In reading the entire passage, it almost seems as if Jesus is contradicting Himself because He tells us not to judge but then says, “Only if you remove the log from your own eye first.” Does this mean that we can judge but only if we are perfect? Not at all.
When we feel judged, we generally quote the first half of verse 1 and forget about the rest. It is true, as humans we are very quick to judge and criticize others because we feel that someone is doing something wrong and we knock them down. This is why Jesus explains his point in the metaphor of having something in your own eye while trying to help someone remove something from theirs. Notice first how Jesus’ metaphor involves helping someone? So then Jesus’ first mention of judgment and His subsequent metaphor are talking about two different but related things: critical judgment and exhortation. In 2 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul encourages Timothy to be diligent in knowing the word and why:
1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
The word exhort here is translated from the original Greek word parakaleo which doesn’t mean to just call someone out on what they are doing wrong but to do it with love, patience, and encouragement. Jesus wants us to reveal the truth to others but not do it in a condemning way. Condemning others for what they have done wrong (initially) isn’t biblical. There are processes in the bible that explain how to handle someone that doesn’t properly receive exhortation well, but when we first confront someone about their sinfulness, we must do it out of love for them and God, not to show them how wrong they are (and thus making ourselves look better). We must never forget from where we have come: sin and death. Jesus has renewed and restored us. It isn’t because we are better than others, we were the scum of the earth before Jesus pulled us out, cleaned us off, and restored us. Ephesians 2 reminds us of this very thing:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
So when Jesus tells us not to judge, He exhorts us to not point the judgmental finger at others but to make sure we are exhorting our brothers and sisters in Christ with love, compassion, and a clear conscience. We cannot try to help someone else out of a pit if we are in the pit with them. Too many times we use the phrase “do not judge me” and by using it, we are judging others! This is why Jesus calls us hypocrites because if we are really trying to exhort someone about judgment, we cannot in “defensive mode” point a finger and say, “the bible says, do not judge.” We are condemning ourselves with those very words we speak! Instead, we should follow the advice in James 1:
19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
We must be twice as ready to receive the truth as much as give it because in doing so, the word will save our souls. We aren’t perfect. It is easy to say this but to live in humility and receive correction when it is due is another issue altogether. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong or doing something they shouldn’t be doing, but if we are truly seeking God’s direction in life and He has put people around us to help us do that, we must listen more and justify our sinfulness less. Next time someone tries to tell you something to help you be more Christlike, don’t defend yourself, but with humility listen, think, and meditate on what they said so that you may grow closer to God and that person.