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Jesus told two parables about our eyes in Luke 6:39-42. The first we discussed in the previous chapter. The second says this:
41 And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
It is well known that when the faults in others spark an emotional reaction in us, it is because we recognize those same faults in ourselves. When we react emotionally to other people’s faults, we are using them as a proxy to deal with our own faults.
I recall seeing this in the mid-1980’s when a well-known television preacher began to lash out at other preachers, even naming them openly. Many applauded his “courage” and zeal for righteousness. However, when he continued with his attacks week after week, I discerned that he was really preaching at himself. He was driven by guilt, rather than by courage. Within two years, the log in his own eye was exposed by those who had specks in their eyes.
He then learned some humility, and many helped him get it.
This parable is also recorded in Matt. 7:3-5 in connection with the law of equal weights and measures (Matt. 7:1, 2). In other words, when we judge others, we establish the manner of divine judgment if we should be guilty of the same sin. It is safer not to judge at all, but sometimes we are called to judge. Yet when called to judge, we should do so with humility, mercy, and love, or we risk being judged as harshly as we judge others.
Most of the time, men judge others without divine authorization and often for the wrong reasons. Paul discusses this in Romans 13 and 14, and I commented on this in Paul’s Epistle to the Saints in Rome, Vol. 2, chapter 15. In Rom. 13:19-21 he forbids personal vengeance. In Romans 14 he addresses doctrinal differences, specifically in the area of food and holy days. In that context, Paul says in Rom. 14:4,
4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Again, he says in Rom. 14:10-13,
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… 12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
Here Paul appeals to the law that forbids us to put stumbling blocks before the blind or to curse the deaf (Lev. 19:14). When we lay curses upon those who cannot “hear” or “see” truth as we see it, we violate the law of impartial judgment (Lev. 19:15).
The word “judge” is from the Greek word krino. It means to distinguish or discern between two or more things. We make a judgment every time we make a decision. That decision is only wrong when we “judge the servant of another” without permission. And even with authorization, if we then judge without knowing all of the facts in the case, or if we violate the procedure given in Matt. 18:15-20, we judge unjustly.
We have all been judged unkindly by others, usually without a fair hearing. Once in a while, a church tries one of its members and goes through the procedure in Matthew 18. I had a good friend (now deceased) who was tried by a denomination and expelled for not believing in the rapture. His defense was “I believe exactly what our founder believed.” Unfortunately, the denomination no longer believed what the founder believed, so he was expelled! In their hypocrisy, the denomination honored its founder, who was by then safely dead, but expelled one of his disciples.
In addition to judging incorrectly, the other problem is violating procedure. Many people pass judgment without talking to the one being judged. Even churches hold court and pass judgment on people without inviting them to their own trial. As a culture, we are so far removed from biblical law that we find it difficult to find our way back to real justice.
And so we find ourselves caught up in cycles of injustice, where we judge others unjustly, only to find that we ourselves are judged in the same manner by the same standard. We really do need to take the speck of sawdust out of our own eyes before trying to remove the log from another man’s eye.