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In my earlier post, “A Christian Can Morally Assess Another Christian,” I said I would explain why I believe Matthew 7:1 applies to the Pharisees.  Using the approach in the GraphōbleÔ Hybrid Bible Copying Journal, I copied verses 1-5.  I describe my relevant takeaways below.

First, Jesus describes the eyes of the accuser and the accused.  It seems fair to say that Jesus’ characterization appears to imply (or reference) spiritual eyesight or discernment. 

Second, the contrast between the Greek noun karphos (translated as “speck”) and the Greek noun dokos (translated as “log”) is immense.  In other words, the log essentially blocks the spiritual eyesight or discernment of the accuser, so he is spiritually blind.  In contrast, the speck is a slight impediment to the spiritual insight of the accused.  Such a difference justifies Jesus’ characterization of the accusers as a hypocrite,” which is a translation of the Greek noun hypokritēs.   Mounce’s Completion Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words defines hypokritēs at page 348, “From this general meaning
of an actor on a stage, hypokritēs was later applied to someone who acted in real life or who pretended to be something that he was not, especially in the moral aspects of life.”  It is incredible that a spiritually blind accuser would morally assess an accused with a slight impediment to his or her spiritual discernment. 

Third, later in Matthew, Jesus characterizes the Pharisees as hypocrites based on the great difference between who they pretend to be and who they are.   The Pharisees “tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”  See Matthew 23:23 (ESV).  The Pharisees “clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”  See Matthew 23:25 (ESV).   The Pharisees “are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”  See Matthew 23:27 (ESV).  

Given the literary context and the meaning of hypokritēs, It seems correct to interpret Jesus’ condemnation in Matthew 7:1-5 as referring to the Pharisees.  The Pharisees pretended to be someone with spiritual discernment when, in reality, they were spiritually blind.

As a final comment, it is interesting to see that Jesus provides a solution to an accuser’s hypocrisy.  Verse 5 reads (ESV) reads, “5 You hypocrite, first, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  The solution is for the accuser to remove the “log” from his eye to become spiritually discerning so he can help remove the “speck,” i.e., whatever impedes the spiritual
discernment of the accused. 

For application in the 21st Century, this means that it is acceptable for a Christian to assess the moral behavior of another Christian; provided, however, that the accuser possesses sufficient spiritual discernment to make the moral assessment.  My interpretation seems to be in line with a couple of commentators.  One commentator writes:

7:1–5. This is one of the most often misunderstood and misquoted passages in all the
Bible. It is important to understand that Jesus was not making a blanket prohibition against all judgment and discernment, but only against that which is done in self-centered pride. A good summary of his meaning is, “Do not judge others until you are prepared to be judged by the same standard. And then, when you exercise judgment toward others, do it with humility.”

Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew(Vol. 1, pp. 96–97). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Another commentator writes:

But v. 5 makes clear that vv. 3–4 do not absolve us of responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, once we have dealt with our own sins, we are then in a position gently and lovingly to confront and try to restore others who have erred (cf. Gal 6:1).

Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew(Vol. 22, pp. 127–128). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

I hope this post has been helpful.  Please send me any comments at steve@stevebelsheim.com or use the
comments feature of the blog.

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