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). Jesus captures this non-negotiable truth in Matthew 22:37-40 (my paraphrase: as a whole person, 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.
Yet, man is a sinner even a saved one. As a result, people sin against others and are sinned against. Therefore, relationships are affected. Misery and strife, within and without, are often the order of the day. Issues, often trivial ones, expose the fragility of some relationships. Yet relationships are not the problem. Relational problems are people problems – one or all parties.
God expects believers to love one another, which marks a person a disciple of Christ and characterizes God’s church (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-12). Matthew 7:1-6 gives insight into the proper manner of judging. It gives direction as to how to develop and grow God-honoring relationships.
In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus teaches 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 will neglect doing a spiritual self-inventory. Effectively, you will avoid judging self. Functionally, you are more interested in attacking the person and his sin (your speck) rather than focusing on yourself 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 – both require being covered by his blood at the cross.
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 Christ-likeness 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 Galatians 5:13-15; James 4:1).
It is easy for you to take your eyes off self (improper self-reference) and God (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 be God-dishonoring, there will be “angst in the soul” of both the hypocrite (the hypocritical judger) and fellow brother, and 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 any believer 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) against the other person as you are about being sinned against. As you address your sin you will be growing in Christ-likeness and you will be in a better position 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 “love looks like” is a willingness and eagerness to forgive (Mark 11:24-26).
1. Relationships are to be God-honoring. Are there any of your relationships that are not?
2. Search for your log: what did you do or not do that made it easy for the other to sin?
3. If there are sins, repent of the biblical principle violated and the excuses for the sin including slowness in repenting.
4. Seek to clear the bar that separates you from another believer, and leave the results to God.
Blessings as you do,