Matthew 7:1-6: Relationships Matter: Part I
The Log and the Speck Principle
Introduction: The two-part series: Matthew 7:1-6: Relationships Matter addresses this truth that by explaining the log and speck principle. Jesus gave this principle as part of His teaching ministry. It is crucial for a proper understanding of the truth that relationships matter.
God is Trinitarian and He created man a relational, social, dependent, being. These simple but profound facts mean that relationships matter. Jesus in Matthew 7:1-6 taught that relationships matter. Moreover, very person is in relationship to God and to others. Relationships matter!
Man also has the capacity to love himself. In other blog series entitled Love and Forgiveness I discuss the triad of love of God, others, and self. Relationships matter! Jesus captured these non-negotiable truths in Matthew 22:37-40 in answer to the question: which is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus answered by saying the first and greatest commandment, is to love God with all of you and everything you have (my paraphrase); And the second is like it – love your neighbor as you already love yourself (my paraphrase).
Man was designed to live with others and to relate to them in a God-honoring way. This fact was foundational for Jesus as taught in Matthew 7:1-6 that relationships matter. There was no sin in the Garden and salvation was not an issue. Further, from eternity past, God is love (1 John 4:8). There was no sin in eternity past or in heaven. Yet, love is present. Paul writes that love is eternal and is the greatest of the triad: faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love is the greatest commandment summarizes the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:8-10). The Triune God emphasizes the fact that relationships matter.
Post-fall, self got in the way. Concern for self and self-absorption became mankind’s patterned lifestyle. Man was new normal and mantra was pleasing self, for self by self, to get. Man is a sinner even if he is saved. Some may quibble and say the Bible does not call the believer a sinner. That is unfortunate because God saves sinners. They remain sinners but their sinfulness changes. Their patterned sinfulness takes on new characteristics. The believer resembles less and less Satan and more like Christ.
The book of 1 John is one book that continually holds out the reality of sin in the believer (1 John 1:7-9; 2:1-2). Yet John opposes a patterned, unchanging lifestyle manifested by the same sin. Such is how believers should interpret 1 John 2:3-6. John explained in the following verses that the old and new are still linked but are becoming more and more disconnected. Full glorification has not come in this life. The believer still sins. However, becoming more like Christ – “walk” as Christ did – is the modus operandi for the believer (2:6). Walk implies a patterned lifestyle of thoughts, desires, and actions that are more and more Christlike.
The believer’s sinfulness gives way to godliness but not instantaneously (3:1-3, 9-10). As a result of remaining sinfulness and habituation in it, people sin against others and people are sinned against. These activities are relational and relationships are affected. Misery and strife, within a person and with others, are too common even among believers (James 4:1-3). Issues and self take center stage rather than enjoying and honoring God. Winning or self-protection becomes the most important issues. The issues may be trivial but they are not considered as such at the time.
The issues are actually God’s providence and they often expose the fragility of relationships both with others and with God. They are not cause but the context of a horizontal response (man to man) and a vertical response (man to God). Yet relationships are not the problem. Relational problems are people problems – one or all parties. People are the problem.
In order to have victory and fulfill John 13:34-35, gathering and interpreting facts and responding to them and the person involved are part of the dynamics of personal and corporate relationships. Each must be addressed God’s way if victory is to occur and God is to be honored. 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 (1 John 3:11-15; John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-12). Matthew 7:1-6 gives insight into an aspect of relationships. 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 relationships matter. In that passage Jesus emphasized the ease and seemingly “natural” orientation to wrongly focus on another’s sin. Because of a wrong focus and as a consequence of the wrong focus, the person functions as the judge. Consequently he will neglect doing and even heeding his own spiritual self-inventory. Effectively, He attempts to replace God. He avoids judging himself and repenting and or confessing. Functionally, the person is more interested in attacking the person and his sin rather than focusing on himself and his own sin and sinfulness. In that way, he competes with the Holy Spirit.
Every person has a speck. It is the other person’s sin because it is the other person’s. Every person has a log. It is the person’s own sin. It is a log because it is his sin. It is easy to focus on the other person especially if the sin against you is great or considered great by you. These truths flow from the fact that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:1-6: relationships matter -to God and to others.
1. What is your interpretation of Matthew 7:1-6?
2. What is your view of judging and its purpose?
3. How do you interpret Matthew 18:15-18 and Galatians 6:1-5 in light of Matthew 7:1-6?
Relationships Matter: Part II
The Log and the Speck
Matthew 7 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught the disciples and the crowds listened in. The Israelite community was headed by spiritual leaders who were self-righteous and judgmental (Matthew 5, 23; Luke 18:8-14). Poor in spirit did not characterize them as it did Christ (Matthew 5:3 and chapter 23; Philippians 2:3-5, 6-9). The first six verses of Matthew 7 teach that each person has a log and a speck. The person’s log is his own sin and sinfulness. The person’s sin and sinfulness is his and it is his log. His log so often prevents him from seeing clearly his own sin (which is his log) and the sin of another which is his speak. Notice the pronoun his in both statements. Please notice that every person has a log (his own sin) and a speck (the other’s person’s sin). In Mathew 7:1-6 Jesus got personal – relationships matter! So you and I need to get personal: your log is your sin because it is yours. Your log may include your response to being sinned against! Your speck is his sin because it is his. Every person has a log and speck.
Jesus makes the all-important point that there is no such thing as big and little sins or little and big sinners. Log and speck don’t refer to the “size” if the sin but its ownership. Basically, own you own sin and be careful how you define sin. Make sure you judge yourself as you do the other person – same standard and same intensity. Repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation require Christ’s shed blood and the work of the Holy Spirit irrespective of the degree or sin and sinfulness. It is vitally important to remember that sinfulness was ushered in by God’s judgment of Adam’s sin. Sinful humanity is around and sinfulness is in every person including the believer.
Wrongly focusing on the other person’s sin (then judging person’s speck) will functionally hinder that person from addressing his own sin – his log. As a result, no meaningful growth in Christlikeness will occur in either person. 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 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Galatians 5:13-15; Philippians 2:3-5; James 4:1-3).
It is not easy for a person to take his eyes off self when he has an improper self-reference and an improper God-reference. It is also easy to fail to look up to God because of a wrong view of God, self, and others. When the person’s emphasis (his “eyes”) is on the sins of the other person, there is an improper other-reference, personal-reference, and an improper vertical reference. The two references are linked. As a result, relationships will dishonor God; there will be turmoil in the soul each person because one or both are functioning as a hypocrite 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. A person’s own sin is his log for which he is responsible. One sin required a just God to demand full payment. Even if it was possible for a person other than Christ to have personal sinless-ness (it is not!), Adam’ one sin put every person in a state of condemnation. Every person is guilty before God and this guilt and condemnation must be addressed because God is just and righteous. Jesus demonstrated the Triune’s God justice and mercy at the cross. Jesus paid it at the cross and the Holy Spirit of truth applies the benefits of Christ’s work to every believer and the Church. Believers then are to solve problems God’s way and enjoy the fruit.
Many sins have a horizontal reference – against another. Sin separates – individuals from God and others. A person’s log is his sin and must be dealt with before God and before the person addresses the other person’s sin against him or presumed sin. Remember every person has a log (his own sin) and speck (the other person’s sin).
Jesus is not teaching that believers should ignore another person’s sin. Nor is he assuming that every dislike that a person experiences is necessarily the result of being sinned against. It may not be as in. Proper data gathering is crucial.
Jesus is putting things in proper perspective. Jesus exhorts believers to be as aggressive about their own sin (s) as they are about being sinned against or assuming that they were sinned against. There is growth when each person addresses his own sin and sinfulness. This sets the stage for greater growth in Christlikeness. The person(s) will be in a better position to receive truth and to minister truth to each other.
In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus emphasizes that relationships matter. He calls His people to judge but to begin with self (the log) always keeping a vertical reference. Once you have applied practical principles to yourself and the situation, and have concluded that you should move to the other person, always remember that the one who has been forgiven much loves much and forgives (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50). Relationships matter! If you value God’s mercy and love of you, you will confront your sin and the other’s sin in that order for the right reason, with the proper motivation, and by using the proper standard. 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).
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 another to sin?
3. If there are sins you have committed, repent of the biblical principle violated, the pattern if appropriate, 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.