In the early 2000s I was going through one of the hardest seasons of my life and God placed a woman in my path that came along side me. I often reflect on one conversation we had, where I had bared my soul and said, “I can’t imagine what you think about me.” She so kindly and lovingly said, “I have no place to judge you. I have never walked in your shoes nor lived your life. I have no room to judge only to love you.” This woman clearly understood that before she could judge me she would have had to walk in my shoes and understand my life. She could have never fully understood my life and she was wise enough to understand that concept. She was a woman of great reflection and knew how to examine her own life before trying to judge someone else’s life. She was a perfect role model for me to experience not only God’s grace but God’s love too.
Matthew 7 addresses self-judgment, judgment of other and finally God’s judgment of his people. In the first five verses of Matthew 7 the scripture addresses our own self-examination. Jesus began His teaching on judgment with the self-examination. As human beings it is so easy for us to look at the sin or wrongdoing in someone’s life and point it out but it is extremely difficult and painful for us to examine our own life. We are quick to point out error or sin in someone else, but rarely do we examine our selves first.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at 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,’ and behold, the log is 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
We form quick critical opinions about what we think we know or see in someone. It is much more difficult for us to “see” our own shortcomings and address them in ourselves. How often do we form quick opinions about others based on what we see or think we know about them or a situation? We form judgments all day … every day. We do it at the grocery store, gas station, work, school, sports field, or while watching television. Every day we judge, it’s as easy as breathing.
In this passage Jesus is tackling an issue with the people that I am quite sure he had witnessed often in his time on earth. Jesus had lived among the people and during that time I am quite sure heard from others about others. I can only imagine how it broke his heart to hear brothers and sisters judging others without first examining themselves.
In the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery the people presented this adulterous woman to Jesus. This group had already judged her for her actions and the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees were ready to stone her for her sin. When they brought her to Jesus he displayed the greatest amount of grace. Why? Why would he extend grace to an adulterous woman? Because Jesus knew what others didn’t; he knew her story. And he knew the story of all those who brought the woman to him; he knew all of their sins and shortcomings too. With one simple statement Jesus demonstrated to the crowd that he would give them what they wanted if anyone among them had never sinned. Jesus was willing to let her face the people’s judgment but only if those ready to cast the stone at her were sinless and had no fault. As he knelt there writing in the dirt he patiently waited for the people to decide. But what happened next was remarkable…they all left. Not one was left to stone the woman. Why? Jesus caused them to reflect upon and judge their own life. It’s the self-reflection that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7. They examined their own plank and could no longer see the speck in her eye.
The beautiful thing about Jesus is that he knows all of our stories and only he can truly judge us. He knows what we’ve been through, what we are going through and what we are about to go through. The unfortunate thing about us is that we don’t know everyone’s story, or where they’ve been, the hurts, pains, trials, triumphs, etc. but yet some how we feel justified in judging someone else. As difficult as it may be we need to self-reflect and slow down before we feel justified in judging someone else. We know our own story (the good, the bad and the ugly) and if we could just pause for a moment before judging someone else we might just see how often God has shown mercy to us for our shortcomings.
As Jesus so eloquently pointed out, we all have planks in our eyes. We have things in our life that are stumbling blocks or even sins that we don’t address in ourselves. In order for us to be in a place to help others we should address our own lives first and work on our own planks. When we do work on ourselves, examine our life, we are in a better place love one another and not stand in judgment of them. When we remember that we don’t know someone’s story it helps us to be slow to form hurtful and damaging opinions. When we look at others with compassion versus with contempt or self-righteousness we can be in a better position to help someone.
We must unlearn the cultural norm to judge others and learn to do the harder thing in judging ourselves. For out of own self-examination we learn to have compassion for others.
So what’s your plank?
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