Twisting scripture is an easy thing to do if you’ve been a Christian for some time. If you have attended church and listened to countless sermons on certain passages, you might be tempted to think you know a passage so well that you don’t really need to read it again. The danger in this approach to scripture is that over time you will misinterpret the passage and you will miss the beauty of that passage’s real intention for your life.
One such passage that I have seen misused over and over is Matthew 7:1 -5. This is especially so when two people are in disagreement or in conflict. Let’s take a marriage conflict as our example. Two heated people are pointing out each other’s wrongs. With anger and self-righteous attitudes flying, they accuse each other imperfectly.
One might say, “You dare to look at my speck when you can’t even see the log in your own eye!”
The other retorts, “What log? You need to take a look at the boulder in your eye before I do anything!”
On and on they go never resolving the issue; they just keep heaping more specks and logs into the relationship.
The conflict becomes a war zone…each partner is ready for combat…both armed to annihilate.
I have also seen in some cases where one spouse will point out the sins of another; and their response is, “Jesus said, ‘Do not judge!’” This only excuses the sin and keeps the concerned party silent.
No resolution is ever made in this scenario.
Are these the purposes in Matthew 7:1-5 that Jesus hoped for?
Does Jesus enjoy the merry-go-round marriage, the excuses for sin, and the silencing of concerned parties?
What did Jesus really mean?
Looking at this passage, section by section, we can see something quite different than what we may have assumed it to say.
Section One: (Verses 1-2)
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If we judge another without a humble look at ourselves, we only welcome the other party’s unrighteous judgement of us. In other words, we create a series of incorrect charges. Nothing is resolved. We just go around and around the merry-go-round. A solution is not the goal anymore; it’s who can spin the merry-go-round faster.
Understanding that we have our own faults can help us learn how to resolve a conflict with grace and humility. While our sins may not be the same, it’s good to understand that no one is sinless. In any conflict, both parties play a part. No one is without their own failings.
During my young married years, the arguments we had were unfair and without mercy. I judged my husband without humility; he did the same to me. Now judging in itself was not wrong; for sin is sin. However, it was our approach and an inflated view of our own self that was the problem.
Just because I am a Christian and didn’t commit some of the same sins that my husband did does not mean I didn’t have my own sin to resolve. My comparison should not have been measured by my husband’s; it should have been measured by Jesus’ sinless character. As I mentioned earlier none of us are without our own failings. Paul says it well, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Jesus is not telling us not to judge; instead He is saying to do it with the right attitude and with a proper understanding of ourselves. We see this more clearly in the next section of this passage.
Section Two: (verse 3-4)
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye?” We need to judge righteously. One way to do that is to look at our own log first. This does not mean to ignore the other party’s speck. After all, Jesus did say in John 7:24, “…make a right judgment.” He also emphasized in this verse to “stop judging according to outward appearances.”
To ignore our log is to judge only by what we want to see. In marriage we may look at our spouse’s behavior, and not look at the cause of it. We see their sin and think, “I wouldn’t have done that” vs. considering how we may have aroused their sin or where have we been wrong in this situation. We look at how they have harmed us instead of how we may have harmed them; we ignore our part in the conflict and just look at theirs. These judge by mere appearances…again only by what we want to see.
When we are angry, this is so easy to do!
It’s time to cool off and really look at what Jesus’ process to resolve conflict in Matthew 7:1-5 actually is – it’s a process of right judgement; it’s not a command not to judge. He has said to first look at where we are wrong. Look at our failings in the conflict. Take a good humble look at how we have caused the problem. Once we can take this honest look at ourselves, then we can do what Jesus says to do in our next section.
Section Three (verse 5)
As you “…First take the log out of your eye…then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Notice what Jesus doesn’t say. He does not say in this verse, “First take the log out of your eye and never correct your brother’s speck.” No, He says to first consider your own sin. Compare yourself to Jesus and His righteous judgement and then you are able, with clarity, to help your brother be free from their own failings.
It’s amazing how this process quenches the original fire that starts. Humility drops our weapons and keeps the conflict from turning into a war zone.
Mercy attained. Compassion regained.
Differences are dealt with according to God’s definition of love…it does not keep a record of wrongs…it seeks truth…it hopes…it does not act improperly…it is patient…it is not selfish…
With this approach and process that Jesus has given us when it comes to judgement, we can then be truly helpful to the one we are in disagreement. Without this humble approach, we are not helpful, we are damaging.
On the other hand, with meekness of heart, we become honey to the relationship…a soothing balm in the midst of battle. While we may have begun ready to fight, we can end in the arms of our love.
Peace is restored, the devil is leveled, and Jesus’ purposes are exalted.