Jesus desires for none of His disciples to be hypocrites. Jesus in the latter portion of His Sermon on the Mount shifts His focus so that His disciples’ eyes can be opened to the nature of God, of His justice, our hidden sin, our hypocritical ways and the solution to it all. In what is best described as one of the most misinterpreted sections of the gospels, Jesus gives us His teaching on Christians and judgment.
The first thing we have to note is that Matthew 7:1-6 is broken up into several sections, the first which gives us the famous command, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1 ESV). Jesus then gives us a reason as to why we should no judge, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:2 ESV) Jesus goes on to explain this teaching through means of the infamous plank-in-the-eye disciple judging the speck-in-the-eye disciple for his eye condition. This plank-eyed parable is meant to show the absurdity in our hypocrisy of judging others who do far less wrong than we ourselves. Jesus explained further the absurdity of such heinous interactions in Luke’s parallel to our Matthew passage, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39 ESV). What Jesus is saying is that the sawdust-eyed gentleman and the plank-eyed gentleman are both in need of the same procedure: both need their eyes fixed.
But if all Christ is doing is calling His disciples to cease from judging, how could there be any misinterpretation? It would be simple: Don’t ever judge, no matter what! However, Jesus does not end with the simple declaration of the plank-eye simply being a hypocrite. Rather what we see is that v. 5 functions as the key to understanding the passage as a whole, it is an interpretive key so to speak.
Jesus says, “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.” (Matt. 7:5 ESV) Jesus gives us two steps then: 1) We need to remove the log from our own eye; 2) We need to take the speck out of our brother’s eye.
Therefore, “judging” as Jesus mentions it in v.1 is not a command to reject all forms of discernment, judgment or testing. For even the beloved disciple, John, told the church to judge the words of teachers wisely when he writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 ESV) In addition, the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:12 established the paradigm and norm for church discipline, which is right judgment led by the elders for the sake of the Church. What we see then is that context is king, individual verses (v.1) must be translated in light of their context (v.5) and the surrounding book (Matt. 18) and the surrounding books (e.g., 1 Cor. 5).
Jesus does not prohibit all forms of judgment, but only that kind which is hypocritical. A failure to judge is hardly a hallmark of holiness. Instead it is the badge of vain piety failing to honor Christ’s command to judge rightly (cf. Matt. 7:5; 18) We are called to judge, not in order to tear down, but to bring reconciliation and healing.
Jesus taught that our now repaired log-eyes, which have been healed from the moral misperception which is false self-righteousness, are healed so that we can in turn aid in the healing of others. To have the log removed is to understand ourselves rightly as sinners unable to earn our right-standing before God. We are wholly dependent upon the work of Christ in our place.
Only hearts that have understood and received such grace can aid in the redemption of those who are equally blind to the truth of God’s grace and offenders of a lesser degree. We who have been forgiven must forgive and aid those who still wander with specks in their eye.
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