There have been times when I have said things in the classroom or from the pulpit that some people considered to be judgmental. It is very difficult to talk about any type of sin without casting it in a somewhat negative light. By implication that discussion would imply that the people who do such things are sinners (myself included). Inevitably, in such an exchange, someone will quote Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” It always carries more weight when you quote things in the Authorized King James Version. (Happy 400th Birthday KJV!) I usually have wanted to tell them that in saying that I was being judgmental, they were making a judgment about me.
What a fallacy it is to think that we are not judgmental. We constantly make judgments about the actions of others, and they do the same to us. The Church is called to be a witness to the world and to call the world to Christ Jesus. It is going to be more than a little difficult to tell the world to turn away from sin without being a bit judgmental. Repentance doesn’t make much sense in the absence of sin. But this is not the type of judging Jesus is talking about. Jesus is talking about the kind of judgmental attitudes that were displayed by the Pharisees.
There are some who believe they are more righteous than others. As such they can readily perceive the sins of others and are quick to point them out. Sitting in the saddles on their “high horses” they have a vantage point so that they can see the speck in their brother’s eye. There are present day Pharisees in the Church and we have all met them. They see everything clearly except themselves. They have “plank eye” vision. The technical term for such people is hypocrite. Jesus is warning us against falling into the trap of hypocrisy.
Jesus says to them, and to us, “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.” My wife and I have a mechanism for dealing with each other when one of us gets on our “high horse” during an argument or discussion. The other person will shout out the old cavalry command, “Dismount.” It is only after we step down from the pedestals and dismount from our high horses that we can have any meaningful discussion about the sin in someone’s life. We have to honestly examine our own lives and become fully aware of our own sins before we can help anyone else with theirs.
We are called to reprove our brothers and sisters when we see that they are headed down a wrong path. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (Galatians 6:1) Furthermore, we are admonished to do so gently and in love. (2 Thess. 3:15; Tim. 2:25, 1 Thess. 5:13) If we have removed the plank from our own eye, we can approach others by showing them the scars of our own sinful lives. As wounded healers the experiences of suffering and wrestling with our own sins can give strength to those who are struggling. It would be far easier to simply be judgmental, as it requires much less energy and absolutely no love.
Each of us can suffer from “plank vision” from time to time. We are all human and will drift in and out of the Pharisees’ camp. We will not always be loving and kind to one another. We will not always be capable of removing the planks from our eyes without help. Luckily, we follow one who is a carpenter and he knows how to work with planks.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, and this posting seems familiar to you, it was originally posted on March 3, 2011. The issue was time, but I assure you it is still true.