A Tendency to Accuse Others & Excuse Yourself

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Why do you worry about a speck of sawdust in your friend’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. —Matthew 7:3-5 NIV / NLT

The Passion Translation reads like this:

Why would you focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and yet fail to notice the glaring flaws of your own? —Matthew 7:3 TPT

Jesus basically says, “You are pretty amazing… your tendency is to ACCUSE others and EXCUSE yourselves.”

And in Matthew 7:3, Jesus asked a powerful question, “Why? Why? Why? Why do I focus on the flaws in someone else’s life and don’t notice the glaring flaws in my own life?”

What is it in me that needs to find something wrong or inferior in you in order to make me feel good about me?

Why am I so critical?

Why do I tend to size people up and write people off, walk away and refuse to listen? 

What causes me to form all of these negative opinions about the people in my life and not see all the crap that exists in me?

Have you ever asked yourself why we’re so wired and prone to judge one another?

I think there are at least two reasons:

1.     We’re JEALOUS.

Some of us are infected with what I call a “POVERTY MINDSET.” If we see someone else who is having more fun, experiencing more success, enjoying life more, earning more money, posting better pics of their family or vacations on Instagram, then we immediately criticize, judge and condemn them.

In our minds, something good happening to them reduces the slices in the pie that are available to me. That’s a poverty mindset. And people with a poverty mindset, will unconsciously and sometimes even consciously judge other people. “If I can’t have it, neither should you. In fact, you’ve got to be doing something wrong, illegal, unspiritual or immoral to enjoy life that much.”

That’s a poverty mindset. It infects a lot Christians and non-Christians.

The mindset we need to cultivate is an “ABUNDANT MINDSET.” An abundance mindset chooses to want the best for you and to believe the best about you because it believes the best about God.

The first reason we tend to judge is because we’re JEALOUS, the second reason is because…

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2.     We’re SELF-RIGHTEOUS.

This one stings! But this was the virus that infected the first century religious community. It still affects people today!

Religion tends to lend itself to self-righteousness. Because religion is about what you’ve got to do to be made right with God. Religion always leads to pride and self-righteousness.

Self-righteous people dumb down the holiness of God and elevate their own holiness. They compare the strongest areas in their lives with the weakest areas in the lives of the people they judge.

Self-righteous people see all the flaws, mistakes, shortcoming, idiosyncrasies and sins in the lives of other people; but seldom see any of their own flaws, mistakes, shortcomings and sins. And, if they see them, they trivialize them. “Well, I know I have problems, but compared to them, I’m a saint…”

Self-righteous people are very rarely self-aware.  But self-awareness coupled with God-awareness brings you into an acute awareness of how desperate we all are for the GRACE OF GOD.

An important question to ask every time you’re tempted to judge: How much GRACE and LOVE has GOD extended to ME?

1 Peter 4:8 says it like this:

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. —1 Peter 4:8 NLT

LOVE is EXTRAVAGANT in reaching out to others, but LOVE also keeps the circle SMALL when it comes to the habits, hurts and hang-ups of other people.

LOVE takes the posture of the ultimate LOVER!

When God saw his two kids overwhelmed with sin, guilt and shame in the Garden of Eden, in His holiness He announced the penalty for their sin. But in His LOVE He also made a way to cover and clothe their sin and shame!! That’s always the posture of love!

Can you imagine what would happen if we began to live this? Instead of 9 out of 10 people saying that the church is too judgmental, maybe 9 out of 10 people would say, “I’ll tell you the problem with that group of people! They’re the most recklessly loving, amazingly graceful and incredibly merciful group of people I’ve ever met. They didn’t treat as I deserved. They overwhelmed me with love!”

They would see us as people living out the reckless love Jesus demonstrated on the cross!

On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the judgement we deserved, so that we no longer have to live in fear of judgement but can live in the freedom of His kingdom of love, grace and peace!

Matthew 7 doesn’t mean that we won’t ever address issues in the lives of our family and friends. It means that when we do we will always begin with a heart filled with love and grace.

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LOVE keeps me from sizing you up, writing you off and refusing to listen. LOVE means that I’ll start by addressing the issues in my life; and, when necessary, in humility, and with an attitude of LOVE and GRACE, I’ll share with you. But my purpose will never be to hurt you. It will always be to help you.

Does that mean we’re not supposed to exercise discernment or wisdom?

Jesus anticipates our question and answers it in Verse 6:

Who would hang earrings on a dog’s ear or throw pearls in front of wild pigs? They’ll only trample them under their feet and then turn around and tear you to pieces! —Matthew 7:6 TPT

Matthew 7:6 is about using discernment and wisdom. Jesus wants us to be discerning and wise. He’s not asking us to go “kamikaze” in our relationships or life. He’s not asking us to purposefully put ourselves in the path of people who will hurt, wound or run over us.

But He’s also saying, “Whatever you do, don’t become the kind of person who inflicts hurt, wounds, relational pain and heartbreak in the lives of others by leveling self-righteous criticism and judgments against them. I want you to err on the side of grace.”

But how should I respond if I don’t know what to do? What should I do if there’s someone in my life I truly love, but I find them doing things that could potentially hurt them and the people in their life?

Jesus answers it Matthew 7:7-11:

Ask, and the gift is yours. Seek, and you’ll discover. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. For every persistent one will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he longs for. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door. Do you know of any parent who would give his hungry child, who asked for food, a plate of rocks instead?  Or when asked for a piece of fish, what parent would offer his child a snake instead? If you, imperfect as you are, know how to lovingly take care of your children and give them what’s best, how much more ready is your heavenly Father to give wonderful gifts to those who ask him? —Matthew 7:7-11 TPT

Jesus basically says, “Before you share your insights with that person, make certain you bathe that conversation in prayer. Ask. Seek. Knock. Pray. Your Father loves giving insight and He’ll give insight to you.”

This statement from Tim Keller has been huge with me the last several months: “Every single emotion you have should be processed in prayer.”

Whenever we talk with God about the problems or challenges going on in our relational world, one of a few things may happen.

1.     God may change our heart.

2.     God may change the heart of the individual without us even having to talk to them about the issue.

That’s why, before you share your insights, talk to God. Ask for wisdom. Seek guidance. Knock for understanding. God loves giving insight and wisdom.

What should be the attitude or posture that guides my life?

Jesus wraps up this entire section on criticism and judging other people with a verse we commonly refer to as the GOLDEN RULE. It’s one of the most powerful passages in the Bible. I love the way it reads in The Message Translation.

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. —Matthew 7:12 MSG

In Matthew 7:1-12 Jesus isn’t challenging his followers to adopt a “mind your own business mindset.”

Here’s what I believe Jesus is saying…

Getting Rid of “Logs” and Living in Love:

1.         REJECT SUPERIORITY (Matthew 7:1-2). 

Reject self-righteousness. Become self-aware. The ground is level at the foot of the cross!

There was a time in your life when you were desperate for the grace of God. Before you attempt to deal with the shortcomings and sin in someone else’s life, make certain you’re aware of and overwhelmed by the extravagant grace and reckless love of God that reached out for you!

2.         CULTIVATE HUMILITY (Matthew 7:3-5).

Judgment is never a by-product of humility. It’s always a by-product of pride and arrogance. Always. Judgement says, “I’m better than you… I know more than you… I’m superior to you.” But Jesus said, “Before you attempt to remove a speck of sawdust in your friend’s eye, make sure you’ve removed the honking log in your own eye!” That requires humility.

3.         DISCERN WISELY (Matthew 7:6)

The fact is, your friend has a speck in their eye. Jesus doesn’t argue that. But have you removed the log in your own eye?

After you remove it, God may want you to help your friend with the speck in their eye; but be discerning. Diving into these kinds of issues without prayer, may be like putting an earring on a dog or throwing a set of pearls into a pig pen.

Discernment admits there might be a problem, but lovingly and humbly says, “I want to help…”

4.         PRAY CONTINUALLY (Matthew 7:7-11). 

Pray continually. Prayer often changes us as much as it changes the people in our lives. It’s difficult to pray for someone you are judging and it’s difficult to judge someone you are praying for.

E.M. Bounds once wrote, “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still. He will never talk well and with real success to men for God who has not learned well how to talk to God for men.”

5.         LIVE GRACEFULLY AND LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY (Matthew 7:12).

The presence of judgment almost always guarantees the absence of love.

Why? Because that’s the way God always responds to you! Always!  

So, the next time you’re tempted to criticize and judge, choose to respond with GRACE, PRAYER and LOVE.