I think the most well-known verse in the Bible, particularly among those who have never read the Bible, is Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, lest you be judged yourself.” The command not to judge others is universally approved (except when judging others as intolerant for calling out evil as evil; then it’s allowed). Remember when we were kids? One of our favorites phrases was, “You’re not the boss of me!” as we tried to announce our independence. As adults, “You’re not the judge of me!” has become ours and society’s mantra. But is “you’re not the judge of me” really what Jesus is saying here?
Let’s continue the passage. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 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. You hypocrite,…” (Mt 7:1-5a).
This is usually where we stop the thought in this passage of Scripture. And we conclude that it teaches, “You hypocrite, you have your own giant problems so stop correcting your brother” or “With such great flaws of your own, stop trying to point out your brother’s minor ones.” In short, “Don’t judge. In fact, never ever ever ever judge others.”
But this isn’t where Jesus stops the thought. Let’s read all of verse 5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5). Rather than falling for the modern view that we all have so many problems that we should not be judging others, Jesus calls us to take action about our sin. We are to remove the log – deal with the sin – in our own eye so that we will be clear-seeing and equipped to help our brother. Jesus is not saying to ignore each others’ sins. He is just telling us to take care of our own challenges first before we go too far down the path of trying to “help” our brother.
But what about our own sin; the log in our eye? Jesus says, “Get the log out!” We often fall into the trap of I can’t help my brother because of the log in my own eye. Well, get the log out! Jesus doesn’t conclude His teaching on judging others with, “Don’t judge, because there is a log in your eye.” He concludes with, “Get the log out and then you can see clearly to help your brother.” Let me emphasize: Jesus would not have said “Take the log out of your own eye” if it were impossible to do so.
We are now back to a prominent theme in this blog. The New Testament implores us over and over to put on the new self (Eph 4:24), put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14), put on the armor of light (Rom 13:12), lay aside the old self (Eph 4:22), lay aside the sin that entangles us (Heb 12:1), lay aside the deeds of darkness (Rom 13:12), lay aside the old self with its evil practices (Col 3:8), the time for sin is past (I Pet 4:3), and finally, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (Gal 5:16). We can do all these things by the power of the new identity, the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us. After all, would it make sense for God to tell us over and over to “lay aside the sin and put on the new nature” if it were impossible to do so? I don’t think so. So regarding these commands, you can do it!
Finally, getting the log out is not just for our own personal sanctification. It is primarily so the body of Christ can do what the body of Christ was designed for. To grow up as a body. To grow up in community. For the mature to lift up the weak. For the strong to help the struggling believer. This is what the body does. This is the church in action. Don’t fall for the world’s interpretation of Matthew 7:1-5. Let’s get busy getting the log out of our own eye and get on to the business of serving each other, even if it involves taking the speck out of our brother’s eye.