Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Mt. 7:1-2)
Now here is a verse that people love to quote out of context. It seems that anytime you offer a criticism to someone, they will shout back "JUDGE NOT THAT YE BE NOT JUDGED!" Back when I was younger that was always my standard reply to criticism. At least, it was until I actually read and studied the whole passage in Matthew seven from verse one through five.
Careful reading of the whole passage shows the first verse is only an introduction to the second verse and what follows. For with what judgment ye judge - This gets to the real meat of what Jesus was saying. It isn't that we don't judge at all, since we should always measure everything against God's revealed word. This does indicate that we shouldn't try to set ourselves up as a superior to others, and we should be very cautious about offering judgment. Whatever judgment we think should apply to others we must be willing to apply to ourselves. Thus, it's not a good idea to go around judging others, since it's doubtful that any of us could stand up to the same critical evaluation. That's the really crucial thing.
The most difficult image to look at is the one in the mirror. Of course, I'm not talking about the physical appearance we see. We may like or dislike our physical appearance, but I'm talking here about seeing our true spiritual condition reflected back. It's easy to see the sins of others; it's another thing entirely to be willing to look on the same ugliness in ourselves.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (Mt. 7:3-4)
When looking at the sin in someone else, our own ego isn't involved and thus there is no threat to our presumed self-perfection. It's much easier to see the sin in someone else. Because we have such difficulty looking on our own problems, we often have to be shown our problems through others. It's easy when we are being persecuted to see what the other person is doing. If we are being manipulated, stolen from, hated, etc., it creates a righteous anger at what that other person is doing, and it is easy to strike out in condemnation of what they are doing. Don't we just love to point out the faults in others and condemn them, but have a real problem applying the same thing to ourselves? Consider this:
And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
And there came a traveler unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; . . . And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. (II Samuel 12:1-7)
For those who don't know, or don't remember, David had sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. If that wasn't enough, David went to great lengths to try and cover up his sin, even to the point of getting Uriah killed. (II Samuel ch. 11) Rather than just point out David's sin, the prophet first gets David angry and judgmental against the sin. Then, the spotlight is turned around on David. To be fair, David had to admit that he deserved the same punishment that he stated against this sin.
In a previous article (Sharp Words) I described a dream I had where one man was measuring something and another was wielding a knife. As I pointed out, one end of the measuring tape was attached to me. This is very symbolic. When we want to hold up a measure against someone else, we need to first measure against our own heart. Furthermore, before we start in cutting on someone else, we have to first excise our own heart of the same thing.
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Mt. 7:5)
In thinking on these passages, I've come to understand that this is a way the Lord often convicts and heals us of our own sin. We don't want to confront our own sin, so He shows us the sin in others first. Unfortunately, we get filled with righteous indignation at the sin we see in others and have a tendency to treat this as a commission from God to go after the other person. Then, just like with David, once we are good and worked up, the Lord can turn the light onto our own heart and show us that we have this same problem. We have to be willing to stop and clean our own house first. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:5, once we have learned to confront and eliminate this sin in our own heart, only then are we prepared to gently help a Brother or Sister to overcome the same problem. We can then say, "Brother, I know that speck in your eye is a problem because I have dealt with the same thing. If you would like me to help, let me show you how to get rid of that thing ." This becomes judging in Love and not out of hypocrisy.