“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 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. (Matthew 7:1-5).
This is an often quoted passage. When taken in its proper context it is an incredibly applicable warning for our lives today, but when misused it becomes almost impossible to use correctly. There are those who take this passage, and assume it means that we must not confront other people on their sin. We cannot express a hint of judging them since we are just as sinful. Confronting sin would make us a hypocrite.
There is no doubt this passage is warning us to refrain from being hypocrites, but is it really saying we can never point at the sin in another person life? Let me start by giving a couple point of what this passage is not saying.
1. This passage is not saying we should never confront sin. If that were the case we could never read parts of Scripture to others that mention various acts as sin. We could never put a criminal on trial. We would be required to live in an entirely postmodern society.
2. It is not saying you must be sinless in order to confront someone on their sin. It is not telling us we can only confront sins we have never dealt with. Either of these interpretations of this passage would be missing the major point in a big way.
So what is this passage saying?
1. It is telling us to keep our hearts in check. What is your attitude in confronting someone? Is it one of self-righteous? Is it out of a sense that you feel you personally have been wronged? Is it to guide them towards a better future? Is it to make them feel embarrassed? Is it to press your personal standards on them or to remind them of what God’s Word says? Our attitudes in confronting are crucial. It must always be with a sincere and humble heart.
2. Don’t cast out sentencing. It is one thing to confront someone on a sin, but it is another to cast sentencing on that action. We don’t get to choose what the punishment should be for their actions. We don’t really even declare their guilt. All we can do is point to their action, or at least how their action appeared to be from our viewpoint, and show how God’s word is calling them to a standard higher than that action. The difference may appear nuanced, but it is crucial.
3. Don’t call someone out on a sin you refuse to call yourself out on. You can’t hold yourself to a different standard than others. If you confront someone for appearing to be disrespectful to you, nut notoriously gossip about others then there is a problem. It becomes especially more complicated when you regularly do that sin in front of the person you are not confronting.
4. Don’t jump the gun. That whole getting the plank out of your own eye before removing the speck in someone else’s has a lot of different elements to it, but this is one that I think often gets overlooked. Sometimes we confront sin that is not sin, but simply our misunderstanding of someone’s actions, or what sin is. In other words, sometimes we confront people when they don’t need to be confronted.
I have a request for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to stop quoting this passage whenever we are confronted, or see someone be confronted on their sin. The majority of the time I see this passage brought up, it is used out of its intended context. It is used to say that no human has the right or ability to confront another human on their sin. When we do this we throw things off. Not only do we sin by misusing God’s word, we also severely damage those who have opportunity to use this passage in the right way.
I have been in situations where I could very easily quote this passage to directly apply to a confrontational situation, but I never do. Why? Because it has been far to misused by those who are confronted and react with a negative spirit. It has gotten to the point where one cannot seem to quote this passage without appearing to be rebellious against confrontation. It needs to stop. What should you do if you are wrongfully judged by another? This passage actually gives an answer for that.
“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” In other words, let God take care of it.