Judging Ourselves Rather than Judging Others
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your eye?
Our natural tendency is to see the faults of others while overlooking our own. Having addressed our attitudes towards wealth, Christ turns to our inward attitudes and character. 7:1-6 is often given the title of “Judging Others,” but it could also be given the title of “Judge Yourself.” In verse 1, Jesus warns against judging others, for our natural tendency is to judge people for their actions. The sense of the command is “Don’t make it a habit of judging.” It is easy for us to elevate ourselves and condemn others for their slightest sins, especially when we perceive that we have been slighted and offended by their actions. When people wrong us, we quickly denounce them for their actions. However, our judgment is inherently flawed, often based upon our standards rather than God’s. The only one genuinely offended by sin is God, and the only one who is perfect and untainted by sin and thus worthy to judge is God himself. When someone wrongs us, the real offense is that they have broken God’s laws and offended his standard.
In verse two, Christ points out the danger of self-righteousness and our failure to recognize our wrongdoing before God. In our judging of others, we are condemning ourselves. We look at the faults of others while excusing and justifying our shortcomings. By judging others, we are leaving no room for grace. We are motivated by retribution rather than restoration and forgiveness. But in this attitude, we minimize our sin and fail to recognize how deeply we have offended God and how he has forgiven us. By judging them, we justify ourselves, for we reveal our pride and self-righteousness, which is one of the greatest sins that Christ condemns. A self-righteous person does not see the need for divine forgiveness and the need for Christ’s salvation. To be quick to condemn others is to invite God to charge us for our sins against him is more significant than other people’s sins against us. In blaming others, we minimize our sins and justify our actions. Yet, in the end, we are the ones who face judgment, for we have refused to acknowledge or confess. And turn from our sin.
Before we condemn others, we must evaluate our own life and recognize the severity of our sins. The picture presented in vs. 3 is graphic. We see the tiniest speck of sawdust in others but fail to realize that we have a beam in our eye. The wrong we see in the other person pales to the evil God sees in us. Therefore, we are in no position to render judgment against them.
In verses 4-5, we find the application. Instead of focusing on the faults of others, we are to focus on our weaknesses. Instead of demanding repentance from those who wrong us, we must focus on our need for repentance before God. There is a place for constructive evaluation of others (see Gal. 6:1). However, before we condemn others, we must evaluate our actions (vs. 5). We must first see that our sin before God is far greater than the sins we see in others. By recognizing our sin, are no longer desire retribution but reconciliation. Instead of demanding that they “pay for their sin,” we proclaim the message of grace and hope that Christ offers the worst of sinners. Before we judge others, we must first judge ourselves, and when we do, we will realize that we are no better than the other person and both need God’s redemptive grace. Then, when we confront them, we do so with the desire to see them realize Christ's forgiveness rather than demand their punishment.