Community Group Study Guide — Eyes That See Clearly
It is human nature to make snap judgements. Your brain is wired to form conclusions based on partial information and often you act on these conclusions. It becomes spiritually dangerous when we allow these judgments to turn into condemnation, especially when it comes from comparison and pride. This is behind Jesus’ admonition to “judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). To “judge” is to “evaluate” or “decide” and we do this activity all the time, sometimes it is helpful but often it can be harmful.
There were two groups of people in the crowd listening to the Sermon on the Mount, and often they’re the people listening to most of Jesus teaching in other parts of the gospels. The first group is the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. We can think of them as the religious elites of the day. The second group were those who were on the margins of the society. We see this second group in Matthew 4:23-25 and they’re described as the demon possessed, disease ridden and afflicted. This second group flocked to Jesus and made up the types of people addressed in the Beatitudes (5:1-10); the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were called out by Jesus for showy outward religion and hypocrisy (Matthew 6:1-18). It would be really easy for each of these groups to judge one another, and especially easy for those who had their religious lives together to judge those who were hurting and on the margins. Jesus desires for his followers to judge rightly which means making their judgments after they’ve done work in their own souls, and to do so with grace and compassion instead of condemning spirits.
Jesus tells his followers to “stop judging” and to “start judging” which may seem like a paradox of conflicting commands, however his emphasis here is that there is a wrong way and a right way to judge. Matthew 7:1 tells us to “judge not that you not be judged” because when you judge what goes around will come around (Matthew 7:2). Our tendency is to judge those who are different than us, based on outward observations and without knowing their history, experiences, beliefs or heart. This type of judgment often comes from a spirit of pride and comparison. That is the nature of what the Pharisees did, they used religious practices to exalt themselves and Jesus makes this connection for us by the use of his term “hypocrite” in Matthew 7:5, a term he has, so far, only applied to these proud Pharisees. The danger of this type of judgement is that it is condemning, meaning we make a value assessment and use it to exclude people from the possibility of being part of God’s kingdom because of certain aspects of their life that we can see outwardly. In our modern world we make these assessments based on the way someone voted, how they dress, their past experiences and current sin struggles they have. We know from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that we often try to judge those who do not follow Christ for their actions, however, our posture to the world should be one that calls people to repent, believe in Christ and brought into a family. If we are to judge anyone, we should start with “the household of God” (1 Corinthians 5:12). Followers of Jesus are called to obey the commands of Christ and strive for holiness, we cannot apply these principles to the unbelieving world. But even then, our judgements should always strive to help and push others towards holiness instead of excluding or condemning. When we judge wrongly we do so in a way to elevate ourselves over and against someone else to prove our worth and value; at least that is what the Pharisees did. Jesus tells us that by doing this we are going to be judged by the same standard and measure we judge others with (Matthew 7:2).
How do we judge rightly? We should desire our judgments to be made with a heart to help and restore people. The solution exists in understanding how we see. Jesus talks about how we can be quick to see the small faults of others (the speck) and ignore our own faults and failures (the log). This can lead us to be critical with folks who may even struggle with similar sins that we do since we are blind to our own sin. It also means that we notice the things they do wrong and instead of wanting to help them fight sin and pursue Christ we condemn them. Jesus tells us that if we want to live genuinely as one of his followers then our reaction to the sin of others would be different. We’d first look at our own eyes to see if we have blinders on. The image Jesus uses is really humorous to think about (Matthew 7:3-5). You can imagine someone with a big hunk of wood hanging off their face wanting to help someone else with a speck of sawdust in their eye. It would be like a doctor doing a surgery blindfolded. Or it would be like you telling someone they are a slob because they have food in their teeth while you have it all over your face. These blindspots prohibit us from seeing clearly and we do more harm than good unless we can see clearly. The admonition of Jesus would be to stop and do some “soul work”. This kind of introspection where we ask the Lord to reveal areas of sin, we repent and then pursue humility instead of pride. That kind of person, the one who knows their faults and has ben humbled, is able to judge in a way that is characterized by mercy and restoration. This matches Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 6:1-2.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (ESV)
Our goal should be to restore with a spirit of gentleness, keeping watch on ourselves and with a willingness to bear the burdens of one another. This fulfills the Law of Christ, which points to Jesus command for us to “love one another” and to love your neighbor as yourself (John 13:34-35, Luke 10:27). When we’ve battled sin in our own lives we’re more inclined to have a spirit of gentleness in our judgments with the hope of restoration in mind.
Jesus closes out this section with a caution for us. We can have the right attitude, the right observation and a goal to restore and yet it may still be wise to not try to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:6 gives us this image of pigs trampling something or a dog turning to bite and attack. This passage is debated, but it seems to be indicating in the context that not everyone will receive your help whether that is sharing the gospel, right judgements or trying to pursue reconciliation. It will take wisdom and prayer to know when to pursue and when to stop, however this caution should not prevent us from trying to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, if you want to make right judgments start with first removing the log from your eye which means addressing the sin in your life, reflecting on the mercy you’ve received and checking your attitude in evaluating others. When we do this kind of work on our eyes we are able to see clearly and pursue restoration with gentleness and Christlikeness.
Jesus desires his followers make right and helpful judgements. Our tendency is to judge someone without knowing their history or heart motives. Jesus forbids this kind of condemnation and instead shows us a way to judge that is helpful and restorative that begins with knowing how much we’ve received mercy and grace before we try to take “the speck out of our brother’s eye”.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Matthew 7:1-6
Describe a time when you made a judgment that ended up being unhelpful or wrong. What lend to that assessment? Describe a time when you were judged wrongly, what led to that happening?
What kind of judging is Jesus condemning and what kind of judging is helpful?
Describe what it is like to take the log out of your own eye? Read Galatians 6:1-2. What enables us to be truly helpful in dealing gently with our brothers and sisters who are caught in sin?
What actions steps does this passage call you to take this week?