Judge not, that you be not judged.
As we read the Gospel narratives we cannot fail to be impressed with a singular mingling of severity and kindness in the teachings of our Lord. His standard is lofty and he admits of no compromise, yet he deals gently with the erring, and he urges a similar line of conduct on his disciples. He came not to judge the world, but to save it. He bids us not judge one another, while we are to be severe in judging ourselves. Let us consider the evil of censoriousness.
I. IT IS DANGEROUS. In judging others we court judgment ourselves.
1. From men. The critic becomes unpopular. By his irritating conduct he excites animosity, and induces people to be on the look out for his offences. They will be ready to use the tu quoque argument in sheer self-defence. None of us is so perfect as to be able to stand the fire of adverse criticism without a defect being revealed. The fierce light that beats upon a critic should quiet his censoriousness.
2. From God. It is unpleasant for our faults to be exposed by men; it is far worse, it is fatal, for them to bring down upon us the judgment of God. Yet it is the repeated teaching of Christ that God will deal with us as we deal with our neighbours. If we do not forgive them, God will not forgive us. With the unmerciful he will show himself unmerciful. So long as we make it our business to point out the sins of other people there is no hope that our sins will be blotted out (Matthew 6:15).
II. IT IS HYPOCRITICAL. The censorious person is the last to perceive his own sin. It may be huge as a beam, yet he is quite unable to see it while he is busy in hunting for the speck of dust in his brother's eye. There is nothing which so hinders a person from heart-searching self-examination, nothing which so hardens him in self-complacent pride, as the habit of finding fault with other people. The prophet may be a greater sinner than the people whom he is denouncing; yet the very act of denunciation blinds him to his own great wickedness. The English bear a reputation of hypocrisy on the Continent, and are not popular there as a nation, because they are constantly denouncing "continental vices," while dishonesty in trade, self-seeking in politics, and immorality in life belie their exalted pretensions. It is a common habit of Churches to thunder against the heresies and wrong-doings of sister-communions; they would do better to look at home first. Religious people are horrified at the sight of publicans and sinners; but have they nothing to be ashamed of? Comparing their advantages with the temptations of the miserable drunkards and harlots whom they denounce, they might well ask whether their pride, uncharitableness, and covetousness may not be veritable beams in the eyes of God.
III. IT IS FUTILE. While there is a beam in his own eye the critic cannot remove the mote from his brother's eye. To do so is to perform a very delicate operation. Any obscurity of vision will allow only of a bungling attempt, that will give much pain and yet will not effect its purpose. The beam must go first. While a man is blinded to his sin, he cannot save his neighbour. Christ, the Saviour of the world, was sinless. Christians must seek deliverance from their own sins before they undertake a crusade for the saving of their brethren. The humility that confesses personal unworthiness is the spirit best fitted for seeking to save lost and degraded fellow-men and women. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Judge not, that ye be not judged.