Seeing Clearly, Not Critically

Eric Russ

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  (Matthew 7:1-5)

As Christians, we love to use these verses as justification for our own discomfort in calling out the sin in other believers’ lives.  We are aware of the fact that we ourselves are sinful, so who think, “who are we to challenge or admonish or rebuke a fellow small group member when they do something unwise or crazy or wrong?”

However, if we conclude that in Matthew 7 Jesus is saying that He does not want us to judge others until we ourselves are perfect, then, well, so much for accountability.

Rather, it seems the interpretive key of this passage is how Jesus compares the state of the one judging with the one being judged, and in v. 5 He tells us not to be a hypocrite and that when we have proper awareness of our own sin we will then be able to help others in their issues.  To be clear, Jesus wants us to judge the sin of others.  He just doesn’t want the judgment to come from a place of pride in which we are unaware of our own junk and are trying to “fix” others.  Another key piece into affirming that God wants us to be discerning judgers is found in v. 6

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

This verse may seem out of place, but actually it makes perfect sense.  Jesus is assuming that after appropriate self-assessment, we are now ready to judge sin; however, in doing so, godly wisdom is not always well received. God’s wisdom is sacred and when we dispense it to people who are un-teachable and unrepentant it is like giving pearls to pigs.  (And too often, they will destroy the pearl and then come for you as the entrée.)  But we must not let that deter us from speaking truth into peoples lives.

As Christians we so fear being critical toward others that we don’t press into their sin and as a result we run the risk of becoming blind in our truth telling and discernment.  But our unwillingness to confront someone’s sin is one of the major reasons why discipleship-relationships and small groups never mature or develop the juice to be redemptive. It is the cultural norm and an issue that has been extremely hard to fight in my own local church body.

However, it is assumed by Christ that we will be honest, gracious and discerning about our reality, and this is key in cultivating a healthy discipleship-making ministry.  As much as we desire for others to walk with Christ and obey Scripture, we often find ourselves letting passivity dictate our relationships rather than trusting the Lord.  And we wonder why people are not experiencing heart change.  We must operate out of consistent courage to not please people but love them radically by being discerning and confronting them when there is sin.