“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 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.” (Matthew 7:1–5)
When you live in a system of rules and regulations, it’s easy to think you are righteous because you are keeping all the rules. It’s pretty tempting to feel better about yourself by comparing your ability to get your act together with somebody else who’s not doing so well. “I’m on time to work every day. Jones over there is a royal slacker; he’s always late.” What you don’t know is that Jones has an autistic daughter he has to take across town to child care, and you, my arrogant little poser, live five minutes from work. When it comes to true holiness, Jesus had been saying, “It’s the condition of your heart.” Now he spoke to the issue of looking at someone else’s life. Notice that he didn’t say, “Never acknowledge there is a speck in your brother’s eye.” He said, “Deal with your own life first, and then you will be in a position to help others deal with theirs.”
Most Christians know the passage, but they think it means, “Don’t ever let yourself get in the mind-set where you think you’re right and someone else is wrong.” But, how will we know when we are right? And how will we help someone who is wrong?
Jesus also said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). Wait a second. Now Jesus is telling his followers to judge, and carefully. The context of this passage is Jesus’ healing of a blind man on the Sabbath and the Jewish leaders being so upset about it that they wanted to kill him. Talk about missing the point. They had come to worship the law, not the God of the law. As with the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows them that they missed the spirit of the law entirely. “You circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (7:22–24).
Jesus says, “You guys just don’t get it. I established the Sabbath for your restoration. A day of rest so that you may be restored. Now you’re angry with me for restoring a man on the Sabbath?! I want you to start making the right distinctions and not the wrong ones.” He does not say, “Don’t make any distinctions.” He says, “Start making a right judgment.”