How do we reconcile the apparent “opposition” of Jesus’ words of not judging others until the plank is out of our eye (Matthew 7:1-5 or so) and “making a righteous judgment”
Put another way, how can we make a “righteous” judgment when Jesus COMMANDS us not to judge?
Jesus COMMANDS us:
“Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
We must first turn to the dictionary, to make sure that we have the right definition. I don’t think there is any doubt that what Jesus is talking about here are these two definitions: “to form an estimate or evaluation of; especially : to form a negative opinion about” or “to determine or pronounce after inquiry and deliberation.”
Spelled out, Jesus COMMAND is this:
Do not form an estimation or evaluation negatively of another, or you too will receive a negative estimation or evaluation about you.
Do not determine or pronounce a decision about someone after inquiry and deliberation or you too will receive a determination and pronouncement about you.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s some heavy stuff right there that smacks me right in the face. This is because this is God Almighty essentially giving us the ultimate dare: You judge negatively about someone else, and I – God Almighty – am going to judge YOU negatively.
There is no “UNLESS” in this (i.e., an exception), although we certainly try hard to make one.
“5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
So, hey… if we first take the planks out of our eye and become the apple of Jesus’ eye, it’s all good, right? At this point, Jesus would tell us to have at it! Judge to our hearts content. Right?
Can someone say: “Jesus did not come for me because He said He came for the sick and not the righteous (Luke 5:32, Mark 2:17)! Certainly, Jesus did not come for me, the righteous one! Right?”
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Jesus is clear that nobody is plank-free. Jesus explicitly refers to all here. Why do we look at sawdust through the planks in our eyes? He does not say: “to those of you.” Or “to many of you.” This is a question to ALL OF US because we are ALL guilty.
Here is how I have been exempting Jesus’ command:
John 7:24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.
I’m a dummy.
I’ve been saying: See?! Jesus tells me I can judge correctly, right?
Paul, referencing Psalm 14, said this:
Romans 3:9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.’
Who was Jesus directing John 7:24 to? The unrighteous Pharisees! It wasn’t a COMMAND from Jesus, it was obviously a statement of complete exasperation.
Jesus made this comment right at the time that the Pharisees were judging Him under the 4th commandment, the observance of the Sabbath, after He healed someone on the Sabbath.
Did He have expectation that the Pharisees WOULD make a “right judgment?”
I don’t think so.
But, He made the message clear. When He was being attacked for not following the law, as perceived and interpreted by men, the men who were perceiving and interpreting the law were WRONG notwithstanding their best intentions.
It became clear to me this morning, then, that John 7:24 is not an exception to the rule, but a clear confirmation that the rule of Matthew 7:1 is purposeful, powerful, and the truth that we need to pay attention to.
So, I’m going to try and shut my trap when it comes to pointing out others’ sin. I hope that someone else can provide some clarity here if I am wrong.
I close with:
2 Timothy 2:25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…”
Does Jesus, telling us not to judge, rule out correction? Of course not. But, perhaps God made certain to tell us to instruct gently because our instruction may turn into self-righteous, negative judging at the drop of the hat.
And, of course, there is always the possibility that because we have planks in our own eyes, that our own gentle instruction might be nothing more than gentle garbage.