Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount in the early days of His ministry. It was revolutionary. For starters, He told ordinary people that they were valued and blessed in the eyes of God (Matt. 5:3-12) and that they were salt (Matt. 5:13) and light (Matt. 5:14-16)-two highly prized commodities.
He spoke of the importance of God’s law (Matt. 5:17-19) yet warned of trying to impress others with their own good behavior (Matt. 5:20). Jesus further pointed out that morality is determined by what a person thinks, not just by their actions (Matt. 5:21-28), although actions must be guarded, as well (Matt. 5:29-30). As one reads through the entire sermon, it can be seen that He covered the whole gamut of human existence and relationships (see Matt. 5:1-7:27).
Read Matthew 7:1-5. In what ways is the reality of the great controversy revealed in these texts? That is, how is the interplay between good and evil manifested here?
“‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ Do not think yourself better than other men, and set yourself up as their judge. Since you cannot discern motive, you are incapable of judging another. In criticizing him, you are passing sentence upon yourself; for you show that you are a participant with Satan, the accuser of the brethren. The Lord says, ‘Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.’ This is our work.”-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 314.
When Jesus told His audience not to judge, He made two important points. The first is that the reason we judge others is because we do the very same thing we are condemning (Matt. 7:1-2). We take the attention off ourselves and ensure that everyone around us is looking at the person we condemn rather than at us.
The other point Jesus makes is that often the problem we see in our brother or sister is only a fraction of the size of our own problem-a problem that we may not even be aware of. It is so easy for us to see a piece of sawdust in their eye, but we are unable to see the great wooden beam in our own.
What’s the difference between judging a person and judging the rightness or wrongness of their actions, and why is that a very important distinction to make?