Life Without Limbs

“We can’t, and we should not, compare sufferings. We come together as a family of God, hand in hand. And then together coming and standing upon the promises of God, knowing that no matter who you are, no matter what you’re going through, that God knows it, He is with you, He is going to pull you through.”  – Nick Vujicic.

Nick Vujicic was born with phocomelia, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of legs and arms. Faced with countless challenges and obstacles, God has given Nick the strength to overcome obstacles that most people would view as insurmountable.  Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present.

As a child, not only did he deal with the typical challenges of school, he also struggled with depression and loneliness and questioned why he was different from all the other kids around him. But Nick had a choice, he could be angry at God or be thankful for what God gave him.

One of his favorite passages in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Imagine for a moment being born without arms or legs with no fingers to experience touch, no legs to walk, run or dance. To never hug your wife, or hold your child. How difficult would it to be thankful, to view God’s plan as prospering you.

It was at age 19 that Nick started to fulfill his dream of being able to encourage others and bring them hope through motivational speaking and sharing his story. The shift in consciousness began with another Bible passage, when he read John 9. Jesus said that the reason the man was born blind was “so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  He believed that God had a plan for him and that was using him in ways that others could not be used. Nick says, ”If you believe God has forgotten you, he hasn’t. He didn’t forget me.”

Whatever your pain or struggle, God has a plan for you. Just ask Nick. 

Discussion Questions

  1. What would it be like to have no arms or legs? How would your life be different?
  2. How do you think Nick is able to stay so positive despite his physical disability?
  3. What can we do this week to embrace the plan God has for each of us?

Let Go And Let God

“ Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, …He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing, …the time for tearing and the time for mending, the time for silence and the time for talk. …I know that everything God does will last forever. You can’t add anything to it or take anything away from it. And one thing God does is to make us stand in awe of him. Whatever happens or can happen has already happened before. God makes the same thing happen again and again.”  -Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 GNT

In life we learn to trust people. I have learned that I can trust my wife, key mentors and friends, and the church staff to name a few. And I have learned that I can trust God and that He has a plan for my life that is far better than anything I can plan for myself.

God has proven over time that He and His faithfulness can be trusted, so I have no qualms about putting my confidence in God’s plans more than my own. God tells us that He already knows the plans He has for us, and these plans include giving us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). My plans usually don’t always work and sometimes they end in disaster. Fortunately, this is never the case with God, which is why I trust Him and I believe in Him. 

The Bible says that God, “…works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11) This means that every event that occurs does so after God’s plan. God is not arbitrary. “…He knows everything.” (1 John 3:20)  Therefore, everything that God permits to occur He permits for a reason whether it be good or bad (Acts 4:27-28). 

When we face trials we tend to think that God sat down one day and designed a life plan with too many bumps in the road – too much stress, too many problems and too few solutions.  Nothing could be further from the truth. God controls all things by His power, even the “bumps in the road” ahead for us.

When talking to people about God’s plan, I often suggest that they spend more time with the plan maker. When we spend time with Him, the plan naturally unfolds. The more we seek Him, the more we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of His life plan for us. Sometimes I fail because I put my plan ahead of God’s plan and sometimes I am misunderstood because I have chosen to follow God’s plan instead of someone else’s. Certainly, we can fail and have to start again. It is a matter of whether you trust the plan maker and the plan and whose plan you are going to follow.  The secret is letting go and letting God work His plan in us. 

Discussion Questions

  1. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. This passage instructs us to fully trust in God, not on our own understanding. How do we know if God is trustworthy? What are some specific ways we can trust in Him?
  2. Really trusting God requires us to be willing to do whatever God says in the Bible, even if we don’t agree with it. What are some areas that make trusting God difficult for you (for example, finances, forgiveness, loving enemies, etc.)? Why do think it’s hard to trust Him with everything?
  3. Take your hands off your life, drop your conditions and let go. What is one thing you can completely give to God now? 

Great Expectations

“This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.” – Psalms 91:2-7

Charles Dickens penned Great Expectations, one of the most famous novels of all time. In this book, Dickens says, “suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”

Everybody deals with expectations, whether your own or somebody else’s. Expectations can be positive or negative. When we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we also bring some expectations into that relationship. Those expectations can be heightened when reading a verse like Jeremiah 29:11: ““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” It is hard to read Psalm 91:2-7 (above) and not develop some expectations as well.

Our expectations are that if we believe and live correctly, we’ll have great marriages, healthy bank balances, well-balanced children, and freedom from major problems. Psalm 91 (above) says God will “shelter you with his wings” and that His promises are your “armor and protection.”  The simple truth is that our lives will be filled with difficulties and disappointments. God didn’t pretend otherwise. Neither should we. Our present trials, challenges, and hardships are also part of God’s plan for us.

Those 70 years the Israelites were stuck in Babylon had their purpose. Likewise, whatever circumstance or situation we find ourselves in today is not meaningless either. We serve a God who knows everything there is to know. He “knows all human plans” (Psalm 94:11) and He “knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). He knows us deeply and loves us more than we can ever know. God promises us He has things well in hand. He just wants us to know, “I have it all planned out” (Jeremiah 29:11, MSG).

God assures us that however dire things may appear at the moment, he doesn’t “plan to hurt  you” (ERV). Nor will he “abandon you” (MSG). His plan is good for you and for your good. Harm is the last thing he has in mind. 

Living without expectations is not easy. But it is worth the try. We can try to be surprised by every gift that God decides to give, knowing that He has already given me the most beautiful and exciting gift of all, a hope, a future and His love.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have expectations influenced your life in positive or negative ways? What are some things people expect from God?
  2. What kind of expectations should we have when it comes to our relationship with God today?
  3. What is the difference between an expectation and a promise? How do we differentiate between God’s promises and our expectations? 
  4. Christians will live at the intersection of hurt and hope. How do we live hopeful – believing that God is going to be faithful to His promises – in a world of so much hurt?

Is Jeremiah 29:11 A Promise To Me?

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” – 2 Peter 1:4. 

This week we are talking about a verse that most people have heard. Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Now this is a classic example of a verse that can be taken out of context, misinterpreted, and misapplied. 

One of the ways this verse is misapplied is the idea that this verse is all about me. It is easy to read Jeremiah 29:11 and say: “God has plans for me. God has plans to prosper me, not plans that cause heartache, financial problems and wayward children. No need to worry about the future because God has promised me that He has good plans for a good future and a hope.” 

Jeremiah 29:11 follows a description of a specific time in history. Just to quickly sum up the previous 10 verses, God basically tells the Israelites exiled in Babylon, “You better settle in and make a life for yourselves in Babylon. For many of you, this is where you are going to die because it is going to be 70 years till I bring you out of that land.” 

Imagine if you were in the exile’s shoes: Would you look at verse 11 in the same way? God is telling this generation of Israelites that it is going to be 70 years until God fulfills His promise to bring them back. If you were a baby when you heard Jeremiah 29:11, you would be over 70 before you actually see that promise fulfilled. 

God gives the exiles His promise in Jeremiah 29:12-14: “In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Now verse 11 makes sense. God is giving His people hope by promising that while they are in exile, He will still be with them, blessing them, and more than that hope. You see this hope a little clearer in verse 14 where God promises to bring all of His people out of exile, into one nation and there He will bless them. This is not a promise given to me as an individual that God has ‘plans of prosperity and not harm… to give you a future and a hope’, instead; this is a promise to the exiled Israelites.

There are Christians that are suffering and in that suffering, they turn and trust in God’s Word and Jeremiah 29:11. The Bible should be and is a source of inspiration and comfort. There are many promises in the Bible given directly to the individual.  Romans 8:28 for example: ”And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” If you love God, then God promises that He is going to work all things together for good. 

If you are going through a tough season of life, by all means cling to to Jeremiah 29:11, but cling to it for the right reason: not in the false hope that God will take away your suffering, but in the true, gospel confidence that He will give you hope in the midst of every trial.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Jeremiah 29: 1-1; to whom is God speaking? What is the situation?
  2. What purpose might the seventy-year period serve? Have you ever had a period in your life when God’s answer to your prayers did not fit your time table? How did you respond? What did you learn during that time?
  3. Focus on verse 13:  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV) What does it mean to seek the Lord with “all your heart?”
  4. What is the difference between seeking the “plans” God may have for us and simply seeking Him?
  5. Can you think of a time in your life when you made seeking your own “plans” your priority? Can you think of a time when God revealed his plans for you after you earnestly sought Him?

What’s Your Game Plan?

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” – Isaiah 29:11

If you compared your life to a football game, what would it look like? Would you be in the first or second half? Or, are you closer to the two minute warning? Have you been calling your own plays or are you relying on others to help you make the calls? What’s the score? Are you ahead or behind? Are you using your strengths to exploit the opponent’s weakness? What are you going to do differently with the time you have remaining? Do you have a game plan or are you calling audibles at the line of scrimmage?

As followers of Jesus Christ, we constantly are working to be in tune with God and listen for His “game plan” for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 seems to outline the game plan for Christ followers: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  We often read Jeremiah 29 like it is good news, plain and simple. But when we look at verse 11 in the context of the entire chapter of Jeremiah, we find that it is not that plain or simple. 

God was talking through the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites, who, after years of rebellion against God, were captives in Babylon. If you read the first 10 verses in Jeremiah, you will discover that God was preparing His people to be there for 70 years. Reading those first ten verses will change your perspective on verse 11. Those verses that lead up to the more famous verse do not promise that everything will turn up roses. That life will be perfect and that you will thrive. Other Biblical passages remind us that this is not the case. We can read in 2 Timothy 3:12 how everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted. We can turn to John 16:33, where we are encouraged to take heart, despite trouble, because Jesus already won.

Jeremiah 29:11 can be one of the most misused promises in the whole Bible. If taken out of context, the verse can make God sound like an ATM or a vending machine rather than our creator and savior. It’s noteworthy that God speaks in Jeremiah 29:13–14 and says, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”   Restoration is directly tied to being in a right relationship with God. And being in right a relationship results when “you look for me wholeheartedly.”

There are many ways to keep in check our subtle tendencies to twist God’s promises and plans. One way to reduce that possibility is to read the Bible with a greater sensitivity to context. But perhaps the most important way, however, is it to recommit ourselves to seeking God. Seeking God will not always result in fixes for life’s problems. It will cause us to realize we live within a much bigger story—one where God’s plan is far superior to the one we envision for our life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do we make plans? So we can know what is going to happen? So we can be prepared?  So life will be easier?
  2. How do you feel when everything goes as planned? Satisfied? In control? Like I accomplished something good?
  3. How do you feel when things don’t go as planned? Frustrated? Totally helpless? It doesn’t bother me too much?
  4. What role does God have in your plans? 

Cast In Stone

“As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” – John 8:3-11.

The story in John chapter 8 is one of my favorite stories. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”  The Pharisees believed they had trapped Jesus because Israel was under the rule of the Romans. The Jewish law required that a woman caught in adultery was to be stoned to death. (Leviticus 20:10)  But under Roman law a person could only be put to death by the judge. So if Jesus answered that the woman was to be stoned He would have been breaking the Roman law. But if He answered to let the woman go, then He would not have been upholding the Jewish law. 

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” When Jesus straightened up they were all gone. 

This story is an effective backdrop to judging others. When all those who were condemning her, Jesus told the woman to “Go and sin no more.”  People left Jesus and the woman because they all had done something wrong in their life. And while it is easy to judge someone else, it is more difficult to judge ourselves. Because when we judge others, we are comparing ourselves to them: Our behavior and actions, our reputation, our tucked away stuff. Like the Pharisees, we are trying to convince ourselves that we are better than others, and we actually think we deserve more. We are saying that we are all that and then some. But we are not all that, just as the people who were condemning the woman all those years ago found out.

God is the only one who can judge, because He is the only one who is perfect, He is the only one who can judge without any evil intentions or hidden agendas. God doesn’t love one person more than another. He doesn’t love me more than he loves you. And He doesn’t love us more than the person we have judged and written off.

So, just like Jesus told the religious people (you without sin throw the first stone), don’t judge people because they don’t have what you have. Or they look or act differently, or they do things that you don’t approve of. Rather, show them the love of God by not condemning them, but loving them as God loves you.

Discussion Questions

  1. When you catch people in their brokenness, do you look more like Jesus or the religious leaders?
  2. What if you were the person “caught with your hand in the cookie jar” – when your sin was exposed for others to see.  How would you feel?  How would you want other Christians to handle it?   
  3. Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” What does that verse mean in the area of judging others? 

I Am My Brother’s Keeper

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  Remember what it says:“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” – Hebrews 3: 12-15.  

Cain is not the most inspiring person in the Bible. His name lives on today for the wrong reasons. You know the story: Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. They both brought offerings to God. God looked with favor on Abel and his offering, which made Cain angry. So Cain lured his brother out into the field and killed him. But what makes this story so interesting is not the jealously and murder, it’s Cain’s self-justifying answer when God asks “Where is your brother Abel?” The answer is “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:1-9)

I don’t know what he was thinking when he decided to be snippy with God. My guess, and it is only as guess, is that he wasn’t thinking and that his motivation was to justify a self-focused life. Fast forward to 2016: There are plenty of days when just “keeping” my own life running is about all I feel I can handle. But even so, God has called us to be our brother’s, our neighbor’s, and even our enemy’s keeper. God invites us to love, stand up for, and kneel down in humility to serve others in our lives. And that call occasionally challenges us to step out of our comfort zones and confront a brother who is sinning and lost their way. 

We are commanded to hold each other accountable and make each other stronger. God has given us a brilliant plan for this that keeps all close by his side. Because we are fallen and sinful, we will have conflicts. God has given us a model for working out those conflicts, whether they are big or small. The Bible talks about confronting another believer in Matthew  18:15-20. 

Matthew 7 is where we find Jesus talking about removing the log from your eye before you point out the speck in someone else’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)  Note that the passage does not tell us not to take the log out of our brother’s eye, but to first deal with our own sin. This process restores both the confronter and the confronted to Christ. After reading and understanding those verses, one begins to realize that before we confront a bother or sister on their sin, we have a lot of work to do on ourselves.

Confrontation is not to be done as a reaction to being injured out of selfish anger, but as a proactive act of service to the one being confronted. We are not to elevate ourselves above others, but follow Christ’s example and consider one another more important than ourselves.

Remember, you are just one beggar telling another beggar where to find food for the week.

Discussion Questions

  1. Which hindrance to correcting a brother or sister is the most common excuse for not doing it? Can you think of others?
  2. Many think of “confronting” as being abrasive. Others think “gentleness” means not being strong. Where’s the biblical balance? 
  3. What are some biblical guidelines for knowing when to let something go and when to confront?
  4. If the sin of others doesn’t break your heart, it’s probably because your heart has never been broken over your own sin. Agree or disagree and why? 

Judging The Judges

“Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” –  James 4:11-12.

We have many opportunities to judge others. When we are asked to serve on a jury, we are expected to judge the guilt or innocence of the person who is on trial. Over the last year, we were asked to judge which presidential candidate will do the best job over the next four years. But our ability to judge extends far beyond legal or civic matters. We judge other people’s actions and behaviors as well. 

Jesus knew humans would struggle with judging. He issued a warning in Matthew: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 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 7:1-5).

This verse does not mean that we should never make judgments. We make judgments every day. We judge between right and wrong, dangerous choices from safe ones, to name two. Jesus is cautioning us to not to be a hypocrite. He is telling us to take the log out of our own eye so that we can help the other person. In other words, we shouldn’t be critical of someone when we have things in our own lives that need to be corrected. 

This is not the only verse in the Bible about judging others. Don’t judge anyone by your human limitations. Only God’s judgments are flawless (John 8:15-16). Don’t be quick to condemn someone else’s actions. God is patient, but He doesn’t overlook anyone’s disobedience, especially our own (Romans 2:1-5). Don’t attack each other. Try to be a good example so others won’t copy our bad behavior (Romans 14:13). Don’t speak evil about others. Are we qualified to perfectly judge someone else? (James 4:11-12).

It is clear that we are not to judge others, but it is equally clear that we cannot or should not ignore sin. Not ignoring sin sometimes requires us to judge others, but in a Biblical way. I know that initially sounds confusing. It is important to understand the difference between the judging mentioned in Matthew 7:2-5 and the righteous kind of judgment that comes with discernment. John 7:24 says, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”  This means that we should not judge on the basis of insufficient, superficial information. Outward appearance is usually deceptive and first impressions are often inaccurate. “Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later.  In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light.” (1 Timothy 5:24,25). The Bible forbids us from judging on the basis of appearance, personal opinions or unsubstantiated suspicions.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you size others up, do you tend to write them off (condemn them) or walk away (avoid their problems)? Why do you think you respond the way you do?
  2. Talk about a time when your first impression of a person was wrong. How did what you later learned about the person change your relationship with him or her?
  3. Have you been sized up recently but refused to listen and instead wrote the person off as being judgmental? If so, what is one thing you can do this week to listen to the feedback you’ve received and begin to make changes?

Judgment Without Being Judgmental

“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” – Roman 2:1-4.

We are all familiar with Jesus’ words, “do not judge.” We stand all the ready, with best of intentions, to judge the mistakes and wrongdoing of others. Something is satisfying about somebody paying for their misdeeds. We judge through opinions, jokes, rumors, name calling, and characterizations, to name a few. Some of these methods can seem like mere words, but we can’t fool ourselves, in many cases we are judging others. And when we are being judgmental we are not using good judgment or truly understanding what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.

Yes, we are to discern good from evil, but not when judgment turns to condemnation. Being judgmental is one of the biggest reasons people leave the church or refuse to attend church in the first place. Being judgmental creates a divide. Everybody makes mistakes and sometimes it can seem like Christians can’t overlook those mistakes. Judging people creates the sense that you are not welcome in church. Yet, this phrase “do not judge” is telling us to do the exact opposite. It is telling us to stop looking outward and look inward. We have no right to feel superior and righteous. We are all in need of reconciliation. And as such we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. That calls for good judgment, not being judgmental.

The actual message in the phrase do not judge, deals with one’s own sins before looking at anyone else’s, since good judgment requires a pure heart. Likewise, it is critical to understand that Jesus emphasizes repentance and right action and assumes that once these things are in place, good judgment can be made and is in fact necessary. 

In summary, in this passage, Jesus warns of the human tendency to judge based on our own faults and flaws. This warning should be considered before trying to judge another’s actions or intentions. Instead, the passage tells us that we should always examine ourselves first to see if the log we see is actually affixed to our own eye—and only if our eye is clean can we trust our judgment enough to begin the process of helping remove the offense from anyone else. This is an incredibly important point, both emphasizing the importance of good judgment and the steps necessary to acquire it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What in your mind is the difference between good judgment and being judgmental?
  2. Why do you think it’s so hard to let go of judgments we make about others?
  3. What can we do this week to replace judging others with good judgment?    

You Be The Judge Of That

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘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.” – Luke 6:37-32. 

There is a story of a bishop who was embarking on a transatlantic voyage. When on board, he discovered he was sharing the cabin with another passenger. After going to his cabin, the bishop went to the purser’s desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship’s safe. He explained that he normally didn’t take that type of precaution, but after meeting his cabin mate, he grew concerned that the other man appeared to be untrustworthy. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, ’It’s all right, bishop, I’ll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has been up here and left his for the same reason!’“

The verse about not judging lest you be judged, is probably the most misquoted and taken out of context verse in the Bible. I have talked about it and have heard it talked about on multiple occasions. Often it is used to stop a conversation. Somebody will say “Judge not, lest you be judged,” and the conversation generally stops because who wants to be labeled judgmental? This series is intended to help us to learn and understand the Bible. 

Let’s look at the big picture of Matthew 7:1-5. Those verses are not saying not to “judge” things, but it is saying not to do it hypocritically. There are many examples in the Bible where we are even called to judge things. Jesus even tells us how we are to judge things in John 7:24, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” We are to first “judge” ourselves. We are to examine ourselves to make sure that we aren’t doing the very thing that we are admonishing someone else to not do.

Jesus’ point here isn’t to say that we always have the same problem we see in others, just that we tend to see in others what we have in ourselves. In this passage, Jesus warns of the human tendency to judge based on our own faults and flaws. This warning is one that should be considered before any assumption about another’s behavior or intentions. Instead, the passage asserts that we should always examine ourselves first to see if the splinter we see is actually affixed to our own eye—and only if our eye is clean can we trust our judgment enough to begin the process of helping remove the offense from anyone else. This is an incredibly important point, both emphasizing the importance of good judgment and the steps necessary to acquire it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some ways that we have a tendency to judge others? What are some general perceptions of what it means to judge others?
  2. According to Jesus, why are we often unfit to be judges (Matthew 7:3-4)? Are we ever fit to be judges?
  3. Some have assumed that Jesus was forbidding all judgment. How would you respond to this suggestion? What kind of judgment does He have in mind?
  4. Jesus refers to our relationship to believers (brothers and sisters). What steps must we take to truly help a brother or sister?