Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:10-13 ESV)

I am preparing to preach on Matthew 7:1-6 this Sunday and was struck by how easily and mercilessly we judge one another. It seems to be an impossibility to do these two things at once: to humbly evaluate the status of our own souls and to remain critical and judgmental toward another.

We tend to be more gracious with ourselves and less tolerant toward others. We should reverse this trend. Jesus, in the Matthew 7:1-6 section, gives us two reasons why we should not judge and reprove others: (1) we will receive the same judgment from them and (2) we will dismiss our own weaknesses as insignificant. We will make a great deal out of a trifle in another’s life and a trifle out of a serious flaw in our own.

Much better to focus on our own weaknesses and to be gracious and kind toward others. Christ taught us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). And the passage from Romans 14 above echoes the same thought – that by forgiving others, and by humbly receiving the witness of the Lord in our own hearts and lives, we stave off both the criticisms from others and the judgment of God.

Those who are critical toward others will receive the same from the hands of others. Those who are arrogant and unforgiving, and quick to judge and to reprove, will receive the same treatment themselves. And those who are tolerant, self-rebuking, and forgiving, will also be dealt with in a more gracious and tolerant fashion.

I like the way the old Puritan scholar Matthew Henry put it in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew:

A just reproof to the censorious, who quarrel with their brother for small faults, while they allow themselves in great ones; who are quick-sighted to spy a mote in his eye, but are not sensible of a beam in their own; nay, and will be very officious to pull out the mote out of his eye, when they are as unfit to do it as if they were themselves quite blind. Note … There are degrees in sin: some sins are comparatively but as motes, others as beams; some as a gnat, others as a camel: not that there is any sin little, for there is no little God to sin against.

I love his phraseology, that all sin is against God and “there is no little God to sin against,” so all sin is serious. The slightest can lead eventually to the greatest. So the proper attitude of our souls is to constantly dwell in the reality of His grace, and then to share His grace with others. To know our own soul’s weaknesses, and to focus on those.

By the way, the teachings of Christ on this subject also command us “do not give what is holy to dogs” (Matt. 7:6), so Christ did not teach that we cannot maintain some standard of righteousness and holiness, that we cannot differentiate between truth and falsehood. We can and we must, or this very command not to judge becomes irrelevant. So in our patience, graciousness, kindness, tolerance, and humility, we cannot dispense with truth, nor fail to recognize righteousness and unrighteousness.

This creates a challenge in our lives, but the Spirit is able to navigate these passageways if we will listen to Him. He will show us how to hold dearly and deeply to the truth of God, to know right from wrong, but to patiently, graciously, and humbly deal with one another.

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