Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thoughts on Matthew

Even though I read the Bible in a haphazard manner, skipping around and such, I’ve noticed that, of the Gospel accounts, I always end up beginning with Matthew (c. AD 40-65). This time was no different. My journal notes contain thoughts on a number of passages, but today I wanted to discuss the infamous passage on judging others:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV)

There’s a hint at a difference in the quality of the two sins by Jesus Christ’s choice of words (e.g., “speck” and “log” in the English Standard Version; “tiny particle” and “beam of timber” in the Amplified Bible; “mote” and “beam” in the King James Version/Authorized Version). As many a children’s Sunday School teachers has pointed out, we should be aware of our hypocrisy and self-righteousness when we’re tempted to criticize other sinners while still wallowing in our own sin. However, as 7:5 says, our sin doesn’t preclude us from judging others at all, but only that God requires our own self-reflection and repentance before correcting others. In addition, I’d argue that the verse says that those who have healed from “worse” sins have a right – an obligation – to correct those with “minor” ones.

On the surface, that might not bother many people. However, in practice, things don’t always work out that way. Most Christians seem unprepared to accept godly criticism from each other. Maybe there’s one acceptation. We expect the woman who used to sleep around and had six kids out of wedlock to tell the junior highers to save sex for marriage, but that’s about it. If the same woman pulled you aside because you were being rude, prideful, or something of that kind, would you listen? Or would you be thinking, She used to be the town slut. I think most would fall in the latter category.

Ignoring the fact that we Christians are quite willing to take instruction from Christ-denying Peter and Christian-persecuting Paul, we’re quite insistent that the rest of humanity should feel their guilt and do perpetual penance for their mistakes, looking to those who haven’t committed comparable sins as spiritual superiors. However, Matthew tells us that these former sinners have something to teach current sinners, regardless of how their faults are compared. It would take a special kind of maturity to bite one’s lip, show humility, and acknowledge a judgment from another Christian. Their success in overcoming grave sins deserves our respect and a willingness to reexamine ourselves in light of their accusations.

15 comments:

  1. I think a lot of non-Christians use that verse to stop Christians from giving their opinions on sinful behavior. I saw it just today in a TV Guide article on Facebook asking if people cared that one of the "celebrity" contestants will be Chaz Bono (a transgender male). If anyone said they would not be watching because it went against their beliefs, there would be an angry retort throwing up Matthew 7:1-5.

    As Christians, it is our responsibility to stand up for what we believe in - even if our beliefs aren't the social norm. So I really like your comment above that said, "However, as 7:5 says, our sin doesn’t preclude us from judging others at all, but only that God requires our own self-reflection and repentance before correcting others." We aren't THE judge - but we can certainly point out behaviors that go against God's Word.

    Great post,
    :) Mags (everydayplaces.blogspot.com)

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  2. Thanks, Mags. Your example made me think of the problem from the opposite angle, because it would involve judging others' anti-transsexual religious beliefs. If it were wrong to judge others, than Christians accusing each other of judging would be guilty in the exact same way.

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  3. Amen! Excellent points, Jennifer!

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  4. I was just talking to my brother in law about this very issue today.

    Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:5-6)

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Manifest Blog

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  5. Thanks, lynnmosher.

    Stephen, I didn't think of tying that verse in, but it does work.

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  6. Very good post; This passage is probably one of the most abused in the secular -and- believing world; to bludgeon people into silence who take a right and wrong position.

    At times people fail to speak the truth in love as they ought (Eph. 4:15), and that can complicate perceptions.

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  7. Thanks, JMHead. There were a number of topics from Matthew that I probably could've blogged on instead, but this one stood out.

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  8. It is interesting to see what Strong's Lexicon says about 'Mote' and 'Beam':

    2595 karphos kar'-fos from karpho (to wither); a dry twig or straw:--mote.

    1385 dokos dok-os' from 1209 (through the idea of holding up); a stick of timber:--beam.

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  9. Yes, and the Septuagint's use of the latter reinforces the idea that Matthew wasn't talking about a splinter but a significant piece of wood.

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  10. Thanks, Jenny; good thoughts. As you note judging is not the problem, but judging wrongly. Self examination precedes any kind of judging rightly. Thus, humility is the first step.

    More personally, the other side of the coin is taken up in Matthew 18:15-20 in which we directly approach someone who sinned. Even when confronting someone who has sinned, we need to examine ourselves, and confess our sins. Then as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), we can forgive others in the same way, freely and without the judgmental spirit.

    Keep up the good writing. I have enjoyed your blog.

    Rich

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  11. lol Jenny! I don't think she is athletic either but I got it the article from yahoo lifestyle. I should probably state I don't think so lol...you can reply back on my blog :)

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  12. Jenny, I must first introduce myself. My name is Nate. I read your comment on A Pause On The Path and thought it to be very honest and unabashed.

    As God speaks more to my soul, I find that I am more flawed than I once thought, which has been distressing, to say the least, and my judging others is one of many issues, that I have prayed about on more than one occasion. I pray that this finds you well.

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  13. Thanks, exegete77 and ib.

    Sophie A., I did reply on your blog.

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  14. I agree about the obligation to correct those with the minor sins. Jesus says, "then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

    I've noticed something about this passage as well. Our judgment will be applied to ourselves in return. If we use unrighteous judgment, our hypocrisy will be judged more harshly. If we use righteous judgment, we will be judged as righteous, and our helping of a brother to see his speck will be a righteous act.

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  15. Steve Scott: That makes sense. Many would have us believe that all judgement is hypocritical, but righteous versus unrighteous judgement does seem to be Jesus Christ's point.

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