You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Here Paul talks about those who pass judgment on others. The apostle makes two points about these people. First, he says that these people know the difference between right and wrong; otherwise they would not presume to be judging. Paul’s second point about these people is that they are guilty because they are doing the same things themselves. The judges are as guilty as the ones they have in the dock.
Whenever moral people, those who pride themselves on a degree of righteousness and a standard of ethics, read a statement like this, they are taken by surprise. “What do you mean? How could this be?” I will use myself as an example, simply because I am such an excellent example of what the rest of us are like. I see three ways by which I try to elude the fact that I am guilty of the things that I accuse others of doing:
First, I am congenitally blind toward many of my own faults. I do not see that I am doing the same things that others are doing, and yet other people can see that I am. We all have these blind spots. One of the greatest lies of our age is the idea that we can know ourselves. We often argue, “Don’t you think I know myself?” The answer is, “No, you do not know yourself. You are blind to much of your own life.” There can be areas that are very hurtful and sinful that you are not aware of.
I caught myself the other day saying to someone, “Relax! Take it easy!” It was only afterward that I heard my own voice and realized that I was not relaxed, and I was not taking it easy myself. Have you ever lectured your children on the sin of procrastination? Then did you barely get your income tax report in on time, or not get it in at all? How blind we are! We are congenitally blind toward many of our own faults. We are indeed guilty of doing the very things we accuse others of doing.
A second way we try to elude the fact that we are guilty of the very things we accuse others of doing is by conveniently forgetting what we have done that is wrong. We may have been aware of our sin at the time, but somehow we just assume that God is going to forget it. We do not have to acknowledge it in any way — he will just forget it. As the sin fades from our memory, we think it fades from his, as well. Consider our thought life. In the Sermon on the Mount we learn that if we hold a feeling of animosity and hatred against someone, then we are guilty of murder, just as though we had taken a knife and plunged it into that person’s breast. We think these things will go unnoticed, but God sees them in our heart. He sees all the actions that we conveniently have forgotten. We, who condemn these things in others, find ourselves guilty of the same things. Isn’t it remarkable that when others mistreat us we always think it is most serious and requires immediate correction. But when we mistreat others, we say to them. “You’re making so much out of a little thing!”
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The third way we try to elude the fact that we are guilty of the very things we accuse others of doing is by cleverly renaming things. Other people lie and cheat; we simply stretch the truth a little. Others betray; we simply are protecting our rights. Others steal; we borrow. Others have prejudices; we have convictions. Others murder and kill; we exploit and ruin. Others rape; we pollute. We cry, “Those people ought to be stoned!” Jesus says, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone,” (John 8:7). Yes, we are all guilty of the same things we accuse others of doing.
Father, thank you that you are the God of truth. You do not deceive, you do not delude; you tell the blunt, stark, naked truth, that I might know exactly what I am, and what I can do about it. Save me, Lord, from the folly of trying to protect and rationalize and justify these areas of evil in my life. Grant me the grace to confess and be forgiven.
What three personal considerations do we need to take seriously before judging the sins of others? Are we open and honest to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of the Word regarding our personal sins of heart and mind?