“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.Matthew 7:1-5, NLT
Jesus is a master of exaggeration, and this analogy about the speck and log is among his best hyperbole. His first-century audience may have even laughed when Jesus proposed a man walking around with a beam or log in his eye.
Why the overstatement? Jesus was wanting his audience to see what being a critic is like — always happy to point out the foibles of his/her human companions but far more in need of some of his own home improvement.
However, when Jesus was saying, “Don’t judge,” he was not asking us to suspend moral/ethical judgment about a wrongful action like stealing something from your neighbor, lying to a friend, or being unfaithful to a spouse. Those things are clearly condemned by God, and judgment about those actions comes from God.
On the other hand, pretending to know why someone did something is far “above our pay scale.” Anthony de Mello said that in order to avoid this sin of judging we should practice the “art of looking.” de Mello believed that we should all begin with self when we feel tempted to judge. We should ask, “What does my irritation with the other person tell me about myself?” Perhaps the desire to judge the other person arises from the fact that you possess the same defects.
A final thing to consider before judging another is to consider what their background, life experience, and awareness are. Perhaps they cannot help behaving as they do. For example, a person who is sarcastic, rude, or angry, may have been treated the same way by a parent or spouse. It does not lessen the pain or irritation they may cause you, but it also increases the inclination to compassion and patience. Who knows? You may have an opportunity to offer some constructive help to them.
Famous Russian writer, Dostoevsky said that the one tempted to judge should also consider the possibility that his/her own failure to influence and teach may also contribute to the bad behavior of the other. He said, “If you had been a light, you would have lightened the path for others, too, and the evil-doer might perhaps have been saved from his sin by your light.”
It is really easy to judge another person if you consider yourself to be above reproach. But, if like de Mello and Dostoevsky said, you judge yourself first, you will find a compassionate and humble servant arise.
Prayer: Dear Father, you are the only perfect and wise judge. We do not possess the standing or the perfection that would qualify us to speak about human brokenness, except to offer help and insight to our fellow travelers. Please help us to bite our tongues when we are tempted to speak about another’s motives and awareness. May we have the heart of Christ. In whom we pray. Amen.