Monday, April 16, 2012

In the Eye of the Beholder

By Bessie Wilson

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 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." (Matthew 7:1-5)

Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” We have all heard this verse quoted so often to quell criticism that our mouths are closed and the person using the quote goes away satisfied.
There are two dangers in the misuse of Jesus’ statement:

1. We fail to read on to the end of verse five to see that we need to see clearly before we “remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Phillips renders it vividly in verse 4: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get the speck out of your eye’ when there is a plank in your own?'” Sometimes the speck in the eye of the other doesn’t seem like a speck at all when your own plank is gone.

2. We practice the “non-judgmental attitude” to the extent that the faculty of discernment is not used by us. This becomes the sin of tolerance. Intolerance we know, and someone is always there to say, “Judge not!” Tolerance allows people to avoid correcting their own behavior and that of others. Jesus taught that we had to meet the requirement of removing the planks from our own eyes in order to see clearly to help others.

Wrong Judgment

Having said this, let us examine what I have grown to call “a critical spirit.” In May 1979, I was deeply convicted of the sin of a critical spirit. In a letter to my husband and children (because I could not trust myself to speak to them), I wrote:

“There have been occasions in my life when God has blessed me in spite of what I know is ‘an iceberg of judgments’ resulting in bitterness of heart. Most of my Christian life I have been in Christian leadership and I see this sin (critical spirit) now as a peril in leadership. Having once prayed for discernment, I see now it needs a balance. Oswald Chambers has said, ‘Discernment is given not to criticize but to intercede.’ I have become a ‘sheriff’ in the Christian community, in my home and marriage.”

I wrote much more than this and received nothing but love and understanding from my family. However, in repentance, I cried before the Lord in a way of agony to have this sin removed from me and to be forgiven. Never before or since have I been so repentant. Does that mean I have not had the critical spirit since? Yes, I have had, but I can identify it now faster and be rid of it. I have also been able to analyse this critical spirit. It is based in pride; we make ourselves the final authority.

Right Judgment

Paul in his letter to [the] Galatians said in chapter 6, verse 1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual [in other words, have gotten rid of your own plank] should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” If we are to be capable of judging correctly—or as Jesus said in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment”—are there any scriptural guidelines? I found a great one in the neglected book of Leviticus (19:15): “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

Just because a person is poor does not mean that person has nobility of thought or action—a look at the welfare cases might jolt you to a more critical stance.
The persons of the rich and famous cannot bear the scrutiny of the Word of God. James warns in his letter about treatment of poor and rich in the church, “not to show favoritism” (2:1). Generalizations must be avoided. Some poor people are haughty and proud, some rich people humble and gracious. Don’t rush into putting everybody into one judgment category.

In 1 Peter 4:17 Peter says that “it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God.” Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29 points out that we can “eat and drink judgment” on ourselves if we do not recognize “the body of the Lord” as we receive communion. He went on to say “if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” In the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul encourages us to judge disputes in the church—appointing “even men of little account” to do so. This was to discourage going to law before unbelievers.

There are many lists in the Word by which we are to judge ourselves and others, such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

We conclude that we are not to be judgmental in viewing others, but we are certainly to discern our own and others’ spiritual needs in the light of Scripture and seek to help others once we have been cleansed ourselves. May I remind you again of Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow. this is powerful. just yesterday, through a sermon by charles stanley i was convicted that i definitely have the sin of a critical spirit. i googled it this morning for scriptures and a way "out" of it and came across your blog. thank you so much for your insights!!!
i blog at erinjunod.wordpress.com...thank you for helping me with this!