By Lou Coleman
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” [Matthew 7:4]. I want you to know that in my years of ministry I have seen church folks judging each other, criticizing each other, running each other down, talking on the phone about each other and the list could go on and on. Just because you say you know the Lord, dress up on Sunday, go to church, read Scripture, sing and shout does not mean you are totally right with God. You do all of these activities on Sunday then turn right around on Monday and judge and criticize one another. That should not be! We are to have judgment that only comes through the Spirit of God. We have wrongly judged another person and have sinned in the process. In our rush to judgment, in our haste to make sure someone else takes the blame, in our zeal to find the guilty party, we have violated the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The words are simple and clear. They are plain and unambiguous. But because they are familiar we tend to forget about them. Listen, we are not to be faultfinders. Proverbs 11:12 tells us, “It is foolish to belittle a neighbor; a person with good sense remains silent.” The Message is even more pointed: “Mean-spirited slander is heartless; quiet discretion accompanies good sense.” Don’t you know that faultfinding is the “venom of the soul?” It destroys your joy, drains your happiness, and prevents you from having close friendships. Truth be told, you criticize others in order to bring them down to your level. Or worse, you try to tear them down to prove they are really beneath you. What a spiritual vulture you are. Like the vultures of the air that live off dead, rotting flesh, you thrive on the mistakes and sins of others. You ought to repent!
Jesus said, “Judge not!” But oh, how we break this command: Blowing small things all out of proportion; Maximizing the sins of others—their faults, foibles and their petty ways. Coming to quick, hasty, negative conclusions; Making mountains out of molehills. Getting involved in situations where you should not be involved. Passing along critical stories to others; having a strong bias to find others guilty; adding aggravating remarks when telling a story. Dismissing an unkind remark by saying, “I was only joking.” Saying something critical and then trying to cover it up. Being unkind and then quickly changing the subject. Telling too many people about what others have done to us; Taking pleasure in condemning others; Telling the truth in order to hurt, not to help; Putting others down in order to make yourself look better; Minimizing your sins while magnifying the sins of others. That’s why Jesus said in verse 5, “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.” Judge not lest you shall be Judge!”
Hey, who can argue with Jesus—right? The verse is taken to mean nobody has the right to judge anybody for anything at any time. The problem… The verse has a context. When Jesus spoke these words on the slopes surrounding the Sea of Galilee, He wasn’t saying never to judge. He simply warned about doing it the wrong way—by telling us how to make judgments the right way. And believe me, it ain’t easy. Christian love is not blind. God never says, “Ignore the faults of others.” But He does say, “Take care of your own faults first.” Look in the mirror! Ask God to show you your own sins. The familiar words of Psalm 139:23-24 come to mind: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” If we would pray that way and mean it, we would do a lot more confessing and a lot less judging. And that my friend is God’s message for us today!