Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye (Matthew 7: 1-5)
The above passage forms part of Jesus’ concluding message in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7). From our article last week, we learnt that the Lord was not condemning the judging of evil doers by the civil court which is lawful and necessary. Neither was He condemning the forming of an opinion of others nor the church’s exercise of discipline on erring members. What Jesus condemned was the rash and severe judgment of our fellowmen without first considering our own faults and the circumstances of the other party. It is likely that the Lord was here highlighting the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.
The story was told of John Wesley who once misjudged a man for whom he had little respect “because he considered him to be miserly and covetous. One day when this person contributed only a small gift to a worthy charity, Wesley openly criticised him. After the incident, the man went to Wesley privately and told him he had been living on parsnips and water for several weeks. He explained that before his conversion, he had run up many bills. Now, by skimping on everything and buying nothing for himself, he was paying off his creditors one by one. “Christ has made me an honest man and so with all these debts to pay, I can give only a few offerings above my tithe. I must settle up with my worldly neighbors and show them what the grace of God can do in the heart of a man who was once dishonest.’ Needless to say, Wesley apologised to the man for judging him unrighteously and asked his forgiveness” (https://www.family-times.net/illustration/Respect/202458/).
Why should we not judge our fellow men? What principles should we apply before making judgments? Let us consider the Lord’s teachings for our further instruction:
1. We will be judged in like measure (vv 1-2)
Those who judge others must expect to be judged themselves by the same standards: “Judge not, that ye be not judged: 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (vv 1-2).
God Who is just and righteous in His judgments, applies a fair rule. Our harsh judgments of others “will be judicially returned upon ourselves when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (J F Brown Commentary). If we are extreme in censuring others, we must expect the Lord to weigh us in the same balance and judge us with the same severity. What will become of us, if God were to judge us as harshly as we judge our brethren? Do we not hope that God will deal mercifully with us? May these thoughts deter us from uncharitable judgment of others.
2. We are often blind to our own faults (vv 3-4)
Jesus justly reproved those who magnified the faults of others while they themselves harboured greater ones. Using the imagery of the mote and the beam, the Lord showed the absurdity of magnifying the small faults of our brethren while we indulge in our greater sins: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” (vv 3-4).
In the Greek, the word for “mote” is “karphos” which means “a speck” or “a little splinter”, while the beam is a huge piece of timber. It is absurd that we can easily spot a “mote” in our brother’s eye while there is a “beam” in our own eye.
“Our own sins ought to appear greater to us than the same sins in others: … There are many that have beams in their own eyes, and yet do not consider it. They are under the guilt and dominion of very great sins, and yet are not aware of it, but justify themselves, as if they needed no repentance nor reformation; … It is common for those who are most sinful themselves, and least sensible of it, to be most forward and free in judging and censuring others: the Pharisees, who were most haughty in justifying themselves, were most scornful in condemning others. They were severe upon Christ’s disciples for eating with unwashen hands, which was scarcely a mote, while they encouraged men in a contempt of their parents, which was a beam” (Matthew Henry).
3. We must first deal with our own sins (vv 4-5)
The Lord had sharp words for those who dealt harshly with the faults of others but were indulgent of their own. Chiding them for their inconsistency and hypocrisy, He commanded them to deal first with their own sins before judging others: “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (vv 4-5).
In order to correct the faults of others – to “cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” – we must first remove the “beam” that obscures our sight by dealing with our own faults. Then will we be able to “see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”.
“The sentiment is, that the readiest way to judge of the imperfections of others is to be free from greater ones ourselves. This qualifies us for judging, makes us candid and consistent, and enables us to see things as they are and to make proper allowances for frailty and imperfection” (Albert Barnes).
Brethren, let us learn to be charitable and just in all our dealings. Do not judge others harshly or severely. Strive to understand their struggles and difficult circumstances before passing judgment. Cultivate a kind and gracious spirit, remembering that none is perfect.
When we judge others, God will apply the same standards to us. Check our lives for inconsistencies and be mindful of the “beam” in our own eye. Let us first deal with our own faults before we judge others. May the Lord help us to deal lovingly and graciously with our fellowmen.