It never ceases to amaze me how the Holy Spirit leads me to supernatural convergences of biblical principles that turn into truth bombs in my brain. This week, as I pondered Proverbs 6 and Matthew 7 in my daily readings, one such bomb exploded.
Many of the admonishments of the book of Proverbs, including the verses that arrested my attention, have a parental tone. In fact, the author attributes them to mothers and fathers who give good instruction to their sons and daughters. The passage at hand goes further, attributing to the Lord, the ultimate parent, an inventory of things very displeasing to him:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Prov. 6:16-19)
New atheists like to argue that while the New Testament God is a pretty reasonable guy, the God of the Old Testament is a mean, immoral bully. I believe this passage from Proverbs reveals this God of Israel (the exact same God, by the way, who is worshiped by Christians), to be more than fair. Unlike the gods of the pagans, whom worshipers could never be certain they’d appeased, our God is quite clear about what pleases him. He is also abundantly clear about human attitudes and actions that bring judgment.
God’s judgment is aroused by falsehood, pride, murder, malicious conspiracies, and the sowing of strife. But how does the judgment come? And how do we make things right?
A few verses later, Proverbs states,
“For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way to life.”
God’s teachings are a lamp that is never extinguished. Ongoing teaching should always accompany salvation because this brings us consistently into the light that the lamp of God radiates. This is called discipleship, and it never ends until we breathe our last.
Along the way, at whatever points God’s teaching brings conviction, discipline, and correction, we are assured that we are progressively gaining the way of life God prescribes. What is detestable to God becomes detestable to us as well.
This is not legalism. It is the kind of judgment we ought to welcome, because it comes from the Father heart of God via the Holy Spirit, and it is sent to restore us.
In Matthew 7, we find Jesus teaching about judgment in a different context. (*sound of pages turning*). The first verse is,
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.”
This verse is thrown around completely out of context these days by believers and unbelievers alike. It comes out of the box when someone is perceived to be questioning or condemning a particular attitude or behavior in another. The verse is a handy tool to shore up moral relativism and shoot an accusation. The accusation is, “Doesn’t the Bible say that you’re not supposed to judge? How dare you sit in judgment of how I live my life?”
Let’s look at what comes next, shall we?
“For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.
One understanding of this is that we are not to judge others without examining ourselves first. If we are caught up in our own unacknowledged, unconfessed, unrepented sin, we bring judgment upon ourselves when we judge others. We all know that old lesson about the one finger pointed out at someone while the other three fingers point back at ourselves.
There are many illustrations of this. People involved in adultery or perversion dare not judge homosexuals for their lifestyle. People who predominately use race as their way of classifying and identifying people as a means to their own political ends dare not go around accusing others of racism.
Those who routinely lie to hide their faults and weaknesses ought not call other people liars. Those who have no objection to the deaths of many millions of pre-born babies lose all credibility when they stridently claim that each human life matters, whatever amount of melanin in the skin of that human.
It is not hypocrisy to judge sin and injustice when we see it. Sometimes we must, because to represent God’s righteousness it means that we hate sin. But it is hypocrisy to call out the sin of others when we ourselves are engaging in the same sin, or a similar sin called by a different name.
Nothing is hidden from the light and judgment of God. He cares about “integrity in the inner self” (Psalm 51: 6), and he can see right through the outer shell. Because we are all works in progress, and fallible, most of the time we need to check ourselves carefully and hold our tongues.
Another understanding of Jesus’ teaching brings us back to Proverbs. The same measure we use to judge others will be used by others—and God—to judge us. For those of us who humbly love and fear God, the only proper, righteous, accurate measure of right and wrong is the commandments he has given us.
Coming into the light of his righteous, eternal command puts us back together again, and renews our fellowship with him. This brings life and peace. Denial or ignorance of God’s will is not going to be a valid excuse when we stand before the throne.
We need to examine ourselves and remove our logs before we go around scrutinizing someone else’s splinters. Jesus said this, so as his disciples, we can take it as a command. The command is our lamp. His teaching has brought it to the light. Every time we stumble into this potential error, we have the opportunity to turn and conform more closely to a Jesus way of life.
What is the measure of judgment? Obedience to God and walking in his grace and righteousness. Jesus did this perfectly, so he is entitled to use this measure to judge those whose lives demonstrate contempt for God after he has offered them his grace.
We don’t use an unreliable, changeable, temporal measuring stick provided by a debased culture. The measure we use is Scripture. When we witness in ourselves or others something God detests, we must judge it by that measure. Otherwise we quench the light of God’s truth in our own lives. But let’s make sure that we deal first deal with those logs in our own eyes.