Scripture: Matthew 7.1, 16
Do not judge, or you too will be judged…
By their fruit you will recognize them…
Reflection: Judging Our Hearts
By John Tillman
The most often quoted portion of Matthew’s seventh chapter is probably it’s first three words: “Do not judge.” Most people stop there.
If they continued, they’d realize that Jesus spends the rest of the chapter telling us different ways to judge and the methods to do so.
Jesus gives us the most specific instructions in the section on identifying false prophets. False prophets outwardly look like they belong. Jesus refers to their disguise as sheep’s clothing that conceals an inward nature that is a violent and ferocious wolf. How are we to see through the deception?
To explain this, Jesus switches metaphors to trees and fruit. But he does not focus on fruit that doesn’t match the tree, such as getting olives from a fig tree. That discussion is in James regarding the unnatural way that our tongue blesses God, yet curses humans made by God. It is more relevant to Monday’s post, Killing with our Hearts.
Jesus, instead, shows that fruit cannot come from a plant whose inner nature is not to produce fruit. He connects the nature of the fruit to the inner nature of the tree. If the tree is sickened at its heart, the fruit will be sickened as well.
The theme of inner life affecting outward life shows up again as Jesus gives us a window of discernment into people’s inner lives. But Jesus gives us another step that precedes that—we are to first judge ourselves.
Many people have attempted to interpret verses 1-6 to mean that no one can or should judge them, and interpret verses 15-20 as their blessing to judge others. But the parable about the speck and the log is not a command to leave people alone and not judge them, it is instead a step-by-step instruction of how to judge them.
We are unequivocally commanded to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. We must, however, follow the prerequisite step of removing the log from our own. Christ’s command assumes that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can achieve both tasks.
When it comes to judging, others and ourselves, it is wise to remember another oft skimmed over verse from this passage: “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged.”
May we judge rightly, guided by the Holy Spirit. And by his mercy and grace, we be judged in the same way.
Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, I call to you; my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; lest, if you do not hear me, I become like those who go down to the Pit. — Psalm 28.1
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Philemon’s Speck and Our Log
Better that we remove the log in our own eye rather than seek to remove the speck from the eye of some deceased writer in another age.
Read More about The Churches Christ Attends
In Christ there is radical, loving confrontation and a passionate pursuit of reconciliation all wrapped up together. This is a mixture that our culture can’t stomach—we prefer excoriation to redemption.