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The Beam And The Mote

by Ullas Nair

"Judge not that ye be not judged.
For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged,
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye,
but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye;
and behold, a beam is in thine own eye.
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye;
and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

Matthew 7:1-5

This teaching of the Lord is clear and precise yet even this simple teaching can be misconstrued by many to say that we cannot judge, period. The scope of my presentation will be to show that we can indeed make judgments on others based on the Scripture, and that there is also a type of judgement that is not correct in God's eye.

To define judgments or to judge would mean to make an opinion of a person's actions or deeds, to derive at a verdict, to determine something, a yardstick, set a standard, measure up a person, evaluate; at times it would also mean to criticise, or arbitrate, making a decision. In the parable of the beam and the mote or speck, the Lord knew that his disciples would soon be beginning their great work of teaching others, so He was using the occasion to teach them about having the moral perception to deal properly with whatever situation that may arise. As teachers and disciples and some apostles they would be called upon to pass judgements and those decisions that they were to make had to be consistent, sincere and righteous.

The common argument by the inconsistent and unrighteous people who are also insincere is that "the Bible tells us not to judge". This defensive stance is the opposite of what the Bible clearly teaches. We are plainly told "judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgements" (John 7: 24). All judgments were not condemned. Is it any wonder at all that God had a whole book in the Old Testament called the book of "Judges". This was the period where God used wise and righteous men to be judges over his people. Sadly though, man's "wisdom" soon made them ask for kings, to be like the nations around them. So there you have it, a book of judges.

God would not have us be mote hunters or avengers. A mote is a tiny speck. A beam, by contrast, is a big piece of log and the location of both the mote and the beam is the eye. Why the eye? Because "the lamp of the body is the eye, if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light, but if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness" (Matt. 6: 22-23). It is an evil eye that cannot see or admit its own moral blindness and sin yet try and correct the sight of others.

The mote and the beam is once again illustrated in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18: 19 ff. The Lord told the story of two men who went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee, self righteous, boastful and blinded by his pride stood by himself with the beam protruding from his eye and prayed. He had his evil eye on another, good eye on himself and no eye on God. All his praying was useless because he was so concerned with the mote, that speck on the eye of the publican. The man with the mote went home feeling justified, because he had his eyes on himself, his self guilt and humility. The Pharisee who could not see his own shortcomings was in no position to make judgments on others; this is the type of judging that finds no favour in God's eye. Jesus wants us to examine ourselves in a sincere manner to ensure that we do not practice things that we accuse others of.

To the brethren in Rome, Paul wrote "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things... and do you think that you, 0 man who practice such things that you shall escape the judgment of God" (Rom. 2: 1-3). What it means plainly is that those who criticise actively should not be surprised when they are criticised or judged by the same standards. A very serious warning.

So there we have it. If we judge others we must ourselves not be hypocrites. This is the type of judgement in which we are forbidden to engage. "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matt. 7: 1); but some have again twisted this to mean that we cannot judge at all. Going back to the definitions, we are talking about making an opinion, coming to a conclusion of, determining etc.

The denominationalists often use passages like Matthew 7: 1 to shut themselves off from any thing that is contrary to their beliefs. They come to the ultimate conclusion that, since no one could be certain of any Biblical point that was so certain that a person could stand on it, so let us each do his own thing without criticism from others. The "You don't judge me and I won't judge me" principle. What a shame they can't even stand on their own doctrines!

In our daily living we make judgements everyday: at homes, at our workplace, at play, at almost every situation. Why should we stop when it comes to the most important area, that of Christian conduct? It is in I Cor 6, where Paul censured the Corinthian congregation for not making judgments in a given area. Paul chastised them that, as being Saints, they failed to judge in the matter of difference between brethren, so that someone else was needed to judge between them. This example will show that Christians can make righteous judgments.

Righteous judgment involves two things:
        1. It must be righteous in motivation and not hypocritical
        2. I must make judgements based on God's standard, the Word (Psalm 119: 172). This is the acid test for righteous judgments.

"Righteous" can also be defined as ethical, blameless, honest, upright, integrity, goodness, morality. When we study the term righteousness, we realise what the Bible has to say about God, that is God is:
        1. God of righteousness (Psalm 7: 9; 116:5)
        2. Righteous father (John 17: 25)
        3. Righteous judge (2 Tim 4: 8)

These are but some verses that talk about our God who is righteous. And God expects his faithful to act in righteousness (1 Tim 6: 11; 2 Tim 2: 22). We are to seek righteousness (Matt. 6: 33). Thus when it comes to judging others or one's own self, we have to deal righteously, if not we will not be pleasing to God.

Christian judgements should not be:
        1. Revenge taking or to settle a score
        2. Based on insufficient evidences, forming an opinion without all the facts, rash judgements.
        3. Based on hearsay evidences only.
        4. Hypocritical judgements. John 8:15 "you judge according to the flesh".
        5. Condemnation which is not constructive - Christ was condemned for allowing a "sinner" to touch him (Luke             7.36-58).
        6. Wrong motives, envy, pride or putting prejudices in place of principle - Jesus again was judged for healing on the             Sabbath day (Matt. 12: 1-8).
        7. Imputing motives that are not there.

We must not rush into judgements without gathering all the facts. We cannot attempt to judge what we do not know either. Who can judge the inner person? Only God. Let us not let "righteous judgements" be a reason for "looking into the heart"; let's not indict the motives of others or the brethren. These are the realms of God, who alone knows the thoughts of all men, even their innermost things.

The Bible indeed exhorts us to be people who judge righteously, this includes:
        1. Heb. 5: 14 - discern good from evil
        2. Thess 5: 12 - prove all things
        3. Rom. 16: 17 - mark them that are causing divisions (this calls for judgments to be made, does it not?)
        4. Thess. 3: 6 - withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly. That demands a sense of judgement, does it not?
        5. Tim. 4: 2- reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering. How do we comply with this Scripture if we cannot judge?.
        6. Tim. 5: 20- "them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear".
        7. Eph. 5: 11-12 - have no fellowship.

The aim of judging others is not meant to condemn a person but to be constructive in addressing their sin and to elicit a change in that person's actions or deeds. Throughout the Bible we see men judging men:
        1. Moses judged his people - Exodus 32: 19-35: Moses judged the actions of the Israelites who built the golden calf.
        2. Samuel judged King Saul- (1 Sam. 15: 26) upon Saul's non-compliance with God's decree.
        3. Nathan judged David - (2 Sam 12: 1-3) for David's adulterous actions.
        4. The sin of Achan - Joshua 7: 10-15: judgment of Joshua on Achan for not obeying God's commandments.
        5. Peter judges Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) for lying.

This lesson will not be complete if we do not look at John 8: 1-11. The example of the women taken in adultery is a case of the Pharisees demanding God's judgement, yet unable to see their own sin. Is it an oversight that they did not bring the man involved in this event, or selective justice? They had brought this woman to the Lord to test him (wrong motive) and they had hoped to "fix" the Lord. But the Lord in his calm and clear manner asked "he who is without sin among you let him throw a stone at her first" (John 8: 1-11). Jesus did not condone her sin but He could see that the Pharisees were not out for justice for the sake of justice. They were hypocrites.

What if we go to the extremes and say leave all judging to God? The net result will be:
        1. It means that we accommodate sins, accept them or pretend that they don't exist.
        2. It means that no one can judge others at all, no matter what that person has done, lying cheating, sowing discord, those who have fallen
           away and refuse to return, those who propagate false doctrines etc.
        3. It means a person who has sinned either wilfully or ignorantly may not be made aware of their sin or misdeeds by the righteous person since we cannot judge.

These are not Biblical concepts but man's doctrines: it will encourage sins and weaken the body of Christ

When we have to make judgements or judge others we need to do so with the following thoughts in mind:
        1. He is my brother in Christ
        2. Approach the sin in that person in humility
        3. Be conscious of your own weaknesses
        4. Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4: 15)
        5. Aim to restore that person (Gal 6: 1-2)
        6. It can be a painful experience for both the dispenser and the recipient but it must be done. It is a delicate action.

To the recipient of corrections or judgements I have this to say based on the Scripture:
        1. Accept that we can make mistakes in our lives.
        2. That we need the love and assistance of our brethren from time to time to correct our ways.
        3. Don't be defensive if we have sinned and redirect our anger back to the one correcting us.
        4. Don't leave the church and blame others for our sins.
        5. If we seek to advise others we must ourselves be prepared to be judged.

Let us take heart that it is better to judge a person now and have him repent than to have him face God's judgement when it is too late. The notion that we must be absolutely perfect before we judge others is incorrect. Only God is perfect, God's Word urges us to be blameless, not perfect in our words and our deeds. In the Bible, elders are exhorted to be blameless (1 Tim. 3: 2 and Titus 1: 7). This is the perfection that God demands of his faithful. This is stated as one of the criteria for deacons and elders. By stating that one cannot be perfect so he cannot judge another is another escape clause used by man to hide his weakness.

Is the judge of the criminal court who sits upon the judgement seat to deliver his verdict against an accused person a perfect person? Surely not. Was Moses perfect in God's sight when he passed judgments on his people? We read that he had his sins too but he repented and got on with the job at hand. Were David, Abraham, Jonah, Elijah and the apostles perfect in all their deeds?

In Genesis 6: 9 the Bible states that "Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations..". Noah was perfect yet we read in Genesis 9: 21 he was found to be in a drunken state. Once again "perfect" is to be blameless or having integrity: only God is perfect in every area.

The Bible states that all have sinned (Rom. 3: 23). Yet when we look at making a opinion, or evaluating or judging another, we are addressing a particular issue at hand: that is the point we need to focus on.


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