Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:1-5).
It is amazing how we humans, including we Christians, go from one extreme to the other. Some of us go to the extreme found in verse 3: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” We are quick to spot the small sins in others, but ignore or downplay the glaring sins in ourselves. Paul has some pointed questions for us:
You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? (Rom. 2:21-23).
If we keep spotting sins in others, especially the same sin, perhaps that is so because that sin is in us. In other words, I think that everyone is a liar because I am a liar. I think that no one can be trusted because I cannot be trusted. I think that no one really loves because I do not really love. If I keep spotting the same sin in others, perhaps it is time to look past the surface of my heart and see if that sin is lurking inside me.
Others of us go to the extreme found in verse 1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” In this day and age when everyone is concerned about self-esteem and worried about offending others, we think that the most loving thing to do is to ignore people’s sins. We think that if we tell our brother that he is sinning, then we are judging him and since Jesus told us not to judge, we should not tell our brother that he is sinning. If that reasoning is true, then every preacher (except the seeker-sensitive preachers) should resign his position immediately.
The Scriptures tell us to do the exact opposite. They tell us that if we see a brother sinning, we should confront him.
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him” (Luke 17:3).
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15).
Not only should we rebuke him, we should also pray for him: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16).
And we should do this precisely because we love him and do not want his life to get worse:
Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed (Prov. 27:5).
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).
And we should do this, knowing that we are not superior to him, but knowing that we are just as weak as he is, knowing that we could fall into the very same sin:
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted (Gal. 6:1).
So, the balance between the two extremes is what Jesus says in Matt. 7:5: “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The way to deal with sin is not to condemn one another. Nor is it to ignore it in yourself or in your brother. The way to deal with it is to remove it. First remove it from yourself, then you can help your brother to remove it from himself.
Heb. 11, the Hall of Faith, is an amazing chapter, but it ends with an even more amazing statement: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Heb. 11:39-40). As amazing as these people were, as full of faith as these people were, they still will not be made perfect apart from us. This also means that we will not be made perfect apart from each other. No one of us will be made perfect without the rest of us. Either all of us will be made perfect together or none of us will be made perfect.
It is time for us to stop being hypocrites. It is time for us to acknowledge and remove the planks in our own eyes so that we can lovingly help our brothers remove the specks in their eyes. It is time for us to help perfect each other the way God intended for us to do.