“Judging” is a topic that we find difficult to understand and apply. And one that the enemy tries to use against the children of God to make us impotent, compromising, and complacent. We had addressed this topic in detail (Fruit Finding vs. Branch Burning) some time ago and this response is both a synopsis and minor update.
Laying out the doctrines of the church, Paul addressed judging in some detail in 1 Corinthians 5:11-6:6. In summary, Believers are to judge each other as pertains to what is right and wrong (see also Galatians 6:1). On the other hand, Believers are not to judge unbelievers since an unbeliever is already judged because of his/her unbelief. And more pointedly, everything the unbeliever does is wrong, because his/her actions are not a result of being in a right relationship with God.
The confusion about judging comes from an incomplete reading of Matthew 7:1-5. We read verse 1 and stop there; without continuing all the way to verse 5, where Jesus says:
“…and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” ~ Matthew 7:5b
Clearly, Jesus was rebuking judging when we have a beam in our own eyes. However, the verse also shows that Jesus EXPECTS us to judge our brother when that beam is removed.
Jesus had already warned in v.2 for us to be careful of the measuring scale employed in judgment. In particular, we should use ONLY God’s Word as our “yardstick”. And Jesus says in Matthew 9:13 “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice”: i.e., we should be merciful (though not compromising or complacent) in the application of His Word.
However, we tend to place all our attention on the “beam in our eyes”, which is a critical point, but one that can be twisted if forced to stand alone, apart from the rest of Scripture.
What exactly is that beam that Jesus mentions?
Most often, we incorrectly assume that the beam Jesus mentions is sin in itself. However, if that was the case, Jesus would have set an unattainable expectation, since we never achieve sinless perfection here on earth.
Rather, the beam is whatever prevents us from seeing clearly. Eyes need light to see. Whatever blocks light from entering an eye makes it harder for that eye to see properly. Likewise, whatever blocks the light of God’s Word from entering our spiritual eyes, makes it hard for us to see spiritually.
Certainly, sin can be one of those blocks or “beams”. However, more generally, it is our biases, our wills, our selves, that get in the way of God’s light. To get a clearer picture, consider Galatians 6:1 below:
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” ~ Galatians 6:1
- 1. The instruction clearly assumes a judgment has been made.
- The one judged is a brother in Christ, not an unbeliever.
- The corrective measures (the mote removal) are to be taken by those that “are spiritual”.
We can define those that “are spiritual” as those that “are NOT carnal”, i.e., those who are not living primarily by their flesh. This distinction is important since it does not require sinless perfection. The only requirement is NON-carnality, i.e., their flesh is not in the way, their flesh is not a hindrance to the light of God’s Word.
Carnal Christians are not good at making judgments because their self/flesh-centered biases, like beams in their eyes, make it impossible to see clearly. However, those that “are spiritual”, those that are mature in Christ, have the light of God coming into their “eyes” and they can see what needs to be done.