As we have seen in our study of this chapter thus far, not to mention the whole Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not forbid Christians in all instances from judging. However, He does tell us how not to judge. We are not to use human wisdom or our own personal preferences. The judging we do should be based on God’s word and the truth’s it contains. If we are going to proclaim something (a law, for instance) to be sinful like legalized abortion or if we are going to come alongside a fellow believer and exhort them to repent of their sin, we should look to these verses so that we do so in a God honoring manner.
First of all, Jesus asks a question that my mother might have summed up this way “Rake around your own door and keep it clean before you come raking around mine.” The Lord asks us, basically, to consider our perspective. In short, the question asks why we are focused on someone else’s condition while not evaluating our own. The terms used in verse 3 (“speck” “log”) are metaphors that reflect a spiritual truth. If we take the time to “look at the speck that’s in [our] brother’s eye” then we have missed the point of our responsibility to speak the truth of God in love. The verb “look” is in the present tense in Greek which means the act of constantly looking at something—in this case a speck in our brother’s eye. This isn’t a passing glance but rather we are constantly directing our attention to the speck. We are actively examining this problem. However our Lord says that is not the first thing we should do.
He chides us for paying such close attention to this speck while not giving much needed attention to the “log” in our eye. I would submit, based on the context, that the log represents the sin of pride. Here, Jesus shows someone assuming that their poor brother needs help. He has seen the speck in his brother’s eye and knows the he can help him remove it. The problem is he has not examined himself first. He sees his brother’s needed to be cleansed of sin but does not recognize his own need. We will never, while living in the world, be free from sin. We will all have specks in our eye with which we need godly men and women to come alongside us and help us remove. But we cannot help anyone without examining ourselves first. As Paul says in Romans 1, we cannot go to someone who is dealing with sexual sin if we’re dealing with that as well. The church’s witness to the world regarding sexual morality would be much less hypocritical if we didn’t say “Homosexuality is sin” with the same mouth that we say “I want a divorce” just because we’ve decided that our spouse gets on our nerves or we fell “out of love”.
This does not preclude us from proclaiming biblical morality. It does put a high standard in front of us that we must reflect upon because, brothers and sisters, we are called to live holy lives. If we are going to witness to the world that God calls men and women everywhere to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, we must live lives consistent with our proclamation that we have done just that. We have a huge responsibility to live what we believe. If we do not examine ourselves in the light of scripture and, as David said, pray that God would show us any of our faults, there is no way we can say to the world or our fellow Christians “Let me take the speck out of your eye” when, as Jesus says in verse 4, we have a big, honkin’ huge log stuck in our eye. That log says “My sin is not as bad as your sin”. Without dealing with that self righteous attitude, we will be of no help to anyone.
In fact, Jesus commands us to drop our self righteous act (“You hypocrite”) and examine ourselves. Where are we falling short of living as God has called us to live? Is it at home? At work? We can put up a good front some of the time but there is no one who can keep it up all of the time. Our hypocritical mask of being Super-Christian is just that—a mask like a child might wear on Halloween. We are commanded to take out this log immediately. The tense of the verb gives the sense of “Do it now. Don’t delay. Quickly!” When we have done that, we are in a position to go to our brother and help him. When we have allowed God’s Holy Spirit to lead us in self examination and we have confessed our sins we are able to help others deal with theirs.
Does this sound like a tall order? I think it should. I don’t think nearly as many Christians are spiritually mature enough to help others as this verse instructs us to do. We certainly have a responsibility to speak biblical truth to people, but we must be sure that we are doing so with the proper perspective. It is imperative for us to seek to be right with God before we can help others do that.