Matthew 7: The log and the Speck in the Context of Relationships
God created man a relational being – vertically (to God) and horizontally (to others). Man also has the capacity to love himself. In another blog I discuss this triad. Jesus captured these non-negotiable truths in Matthew 22:37-40 (my paraphrase: as a whole person, thoughts, desires, and actions, the first commandment is to love God with everything you have, and the second is like it – love your neighbor). Man was intended to live with others and relate to them in a God-honoring way. Post-fall, concern for self and self-absorption became mankind’s patterned lifestyle.
Man is a sinner even if he is saved. As a result, people sin against others and people are sinned against. Therefore, relationships are affected. Misery and strife, within and without, are often the order of the day. Issues, when considered from a biblical perspective are trivial but not at the time. These issues by God’s providence often expose the fragility of some relationships both horizontally and vertically. Yet relationships are not the problem. Relational problems are people problems – one or all parties. Gathering and interpreting facts and responding to them and the person are part of the dynamics of personal relationships.
God expects and has equipped believers to love one another. Love of the brethren marks a person as a disciple of Christ and is to characterize God’s church (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-12). Matthew 7:1-6 gives insight into an aspect of relationship building. It focuses on the proper manner of judging. It gives direction as to how to develop and grow God-honoring relationships.
In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus taught that it is easy, even “natural,” to wrongly focus on another’s sin. Because of a wrong focus and as a consequence of the wrong focus, you, the “judge,” will neglect doing a spiritual self-inventory. Effectively, you will avoid judging yourself. Functionally, you are more interested in attacking the person and his sin (your speck) rather than focusing on you and your own sin and sinfulness (your log). This is easy to do especially if the sin against you is great or considered great by you.
These verses teach that each person has a log and a speck. Your sin is your log which prevents you from seeing clearly his sin (your speck) as well as your sin (your log). Your speck is his sin because it is his. Jesus makes the all-important point that there is no such thing as big and little sins or little and big sinners. Forgiveness and reconciliation for sin and personal sinfulness require Christ’s shed blood.
Wrongly focusing on the other person’s sin (your speck) will functionally hinder you from addressing your log. As a result, no meaningful growth in Christlikeness will occur in you or in him. Individuals and relationships will not mature. Church life will be stalemated and strife will be the order of the day. It is not a pretty picture (see Gal. 5:13-15; James 4:1-3).
It is easy for you to take your eyes off self because of your improper self-reference. It is easy to fail to look up to God because of an improper vertical-reference. When you do your emphasis (“eyes”) is on the sins of the other person (improper other- reference). As a result, relationships will dishonor God; there will be angst in the soul because you are functioning as a hypocrite (the hypocritical judger) rather than a fellow brother-sinner. Moreover, the cause of Christ will be harmed (John 13:34 -35).
Every sin has a vertical reference – it is a sin against God. Your sin (your log) required a just God to demand full payment. Jesus paid it at the cross. Many sins have a horizontal reference – against another. Sin separates – you from God and others. Your log is your sin and must be dealt with before God and before you address the other person’s sin against you – your speck. Jesus is not teaching that believers should ignore another person’s sin. He is putting things in proper perspective. Jesus exhorts you to be as aggressive about your own sin (s) as you are about being sinned against. As you address your sin you will be growing in Christlikeness and you will be in a better position to receive truth and to minister truth to the other person.
In these verses Jesus calls his people to judge but to begin with self (the log). As you move to the other person, always remember that the one who has been forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 18:21-35). Love begins vertically but is expressed horizontally – to spouse, family, and enemy. The minimum that what “love looks like” is a willingness and eagerness to forgive (Mark 11:24-26).
- Relationships are to be God-honoring. Are there any of your relationships that are not?
- Search for your log: what did you do or not do that made it easy for the other to sin?
- If there are sins you committed, repent of the biblical principle violated, the pattern if appropriate, and the excuses for the sin including slowness in repenting.
- Seek to clear the bar that separates you from another believer and leave the results to God.