By Mrs. E. G. White
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye, and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye.”
The lesson contained in these words is of solemn import, and it is to be carefully considered. The law of the divine government is that each one has the power of being the arbiter of his own destiny. What we do to others shall be done unto us again. Therefore we should be careful how we treat one another. We ever reap as we have sown, receiving back to ourselves what we have done to God and to our fellow-beings. In this life we are on probation, placed under test and trial to form characters for the future, immortal life. Through the provision of the grace of Christ, fallen man, debased and corrupted, may be transformed into the divine likeness. The lesson that Christ gave in the words we have quoted, was to counteract the influence of the former, erroneous teachings of the Jews. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” In these words Christ presented before them a lesson that was to be brought into daily life to brighten their hopes, and to encourage their confidence in the Lord. The question is asked, What does God require of us? As transgressors of the law, justice condemns us as hopelessly ruined; but through the mercy of Christ, through repentance of sin, man, the enemy of God, may be forgiven and transformed into the divine image. And since it has cost an infinite price to redeem us, how can we presume to condemn others? Jesus says, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” In these words, Jesus has represented one who is filled with self-righteousness. He is swift to detect any seeming defect in others, but in comparison to his own errors and faults, the defect he presumed to criticise is represented as a mote compared with a beam. To such a one Jesus says, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”
In the days of Christ just such plain reproofs were given, and in this age we need the same straightforward reproof. When Christ came into the world, it was filled with criticism and condemnation of others, and Jesus revealed the sure result of such a course. The same results are manifest today. Those who have the greatest need to examine themselves whether they be in the faith, are most forward to pronounce sentence of evil against their brethren. Those who are accusers of the brethren are recipients of God's mercy and compassion, are every moment dependent upon his care and benevolence, and yet they are unmerciful to others, making it manifest that they have not allowed the truth to purify, refine, and sanctify them. Our characters are not to be weighed by smooth words and fair speeches manufactured for set times and occasions; but by the spirit and trend of the whole life. The unkind man, the critic, the one who is full of self-conceit, deceives his own soul, though claiming to be a clear discerner of the defects of others. He who has a disposition to find fault, to be suspicious, to surmise, think and speak evil, has so cultivated this attribute of the evil one that the good qualities of his brethren and sisters in the church do not arrest his attention. If he thinks he has discovered a flaw in the character, a mistake in the life, he is very officious to aim at the mote, when the very trait of character which he has overlooked in himself, which is developed in doing this unchristlike work, is, in comparison to what he criticises, when weighed in the golden balances of heaven as a beam in proportion to a mote.
Ungenerous, unchristian expressions of judgment, of criticism, of condemnation of others, if not repented of, will sink the soul in ruin. The piety of the man who thus condemns others, is measured by the hidden motives, the secret plans and plottings of evil against those with whom he is at enmity. The value of his conduct, the real influence of his life, is summed up as wanting by the Lord of heaven, who reads the secrets of every soul. That spoken in the ear, in the closet, will be proclaimed upon the housetop. No man can fully know the measure of the good or evil of his course of action, because the Lord holds in his own hands the consequences of our deeds. The Lord permits circumstances to arise that will bring into notice the good qualities of one who is suspected of wrong. The Lord will permit persons to pass through strait places, where the surroundings will work to develop the traits of character that are condemned by Christ. The evil work that evil workers intended to do will not bring about the results they had designed; for the Lord will manage the matter so that good will be brought out of evil. But no credit or reward will be given to him who purposed to do harm to the purchase of the blood of Christ, even though good resulted from his plottings of evil. The Lord set counter-agencies to work to preserve his people from being deceived and injured.
Unless the truth sanctifies the soul, hereditary and cultivated traits of character will develop, and we shall be seeking for spots and blemishes in others; but our measuring and judgment will correspond to our own prejudices, to our human likes and dislikes. In dealing with brethren that reveal a hard, critical, accusing spirit, we should manifest the Spirit of Christ, that they may behold and become changed. Without a connection with God, self and self-uplifting will appear. Day by day, hour by hour, we must weave heavenly principles into our life, praying God that he will bestow his Holy Spirit upon us; for it is the Holy Spirit alone that can purify the affections, and uproot the tares that naturally grow in the heart. The love of God must abide in the soul, or man will fail to mete out to his fellowman that which God has meted out to him through his great love for his fallen creatures. Without the heavenly endowment of the Spirit of truth, we shall not be able to do that for which we shall not be ashamed. When we are brought to account by the Lord, we shall receive the very same measure we have meted to others, and eat the fruit of our own doings. Many work with intense activity to bring to light disagreeable matters concerning others, when, if the same criticism were brought upon their words and conduct, their faults in contrast with their brother's would be as a beam in proportion to a mote.
There is a great variety of ways of deceiving self; and one of the most ruinous ways to cripple our usefulness is to cultivate evil speaking and criticism of others. Those who have done this must humble their hearts before God, and instead of denouncing others, must proclaim against themselves.
The apostle says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” We fail to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling when we judge and condemn others; we manifest before the universe a spirit that will decide our destiny, and place us among the transgressors of God's law. We show our kinship with Satan, who was an accuser of the brethren. Through his deceptive power, he ever seeks to make error appear as truth, and you follow his example in magnifying the faults of your brethren, and by imagining that you see evil where none exists.
The Lord has graciously given man a time of probation in which to perfect a character for eternal life; but those who are selfish, those who exalt self by seeking to abase another, making the most of every mote and defect in his character, prove that there is a beam in their own eye which unfits them for an entrance into the abode of life. The principles of divine goodness must dwell in the heart, in order that pure, generous, kindly thoughts and actions shall be manifested in the life. Everything like secret working, like deception, like anxiety to discover a mote in our brother's eye, like officious effort to remove the mote when a beam is in our own eye, is abhorrent to God. Until the accuser discovers the evil of his own heart, and feels sincere repentance for his sin, and makes confession of his wrong, he can have no clear vision to pull the mote out of his brother's eye. It is easy to deceive ourselves, but we cannot deceive God, to whose ears smooth words and fair speeches, which are only pretensions to piety, are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Unless the principles of heaven are in-wrought in the heart, all outward profession is pretension and deception. God measures every man's piety by the character of his motives. In the prayer of Christ for his disciples he utters these words: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one [not biting and devouring one another]; as thou, Father, art in me, and I thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
In these words the relation sustained toward God and toward one another is clearly defined. We are to be as one, and this sacred unity must be contemplated and cherished in the church of God, each one seeking to bring about the fulfillment of the prayer of Christ. We should banish all thoughts of evil against our brethren. If we imagine we see wrong in our brother, let us not judge him; let us not go to work secretly to make the mote appear as large as possible before others, depreciating our brother by secret whisperings when he knows nothing of our suspicious and evil thoughts. How cruel it is to judge, condemn, and pass sentence upon your brother when he has not the slightest suspicion that you are not his friend. It was in this secret manner that Satan carried on his work in heaven, and now through human agencies who submit to his control, he carries on the same hypocritical course of action.
If you think your brother or sister has made a mistake, go privately to the offender, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted,” and in tenderness and sincerity talk with the one that you suspect. Christians are to carry out the instructions of Christ: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” If you disregard the words of Christ, and walk in sparks of your own kindling, you will fail to work righteousness, and will come under the bewitching power of Satan. Let us reverently inquire, What does the Lord require of me in my relation to my brother? The plain words of instruction, the rules given to govern our conduct in the teachings of Christ, will confront us in the judgment, however much we may disregard them here.
Every day we are passing up our accounts to heaven. The spirit, the words, the actions of our daily life, are freighted with terrible significance; for they make it manifest whether we are preparing to be members of the family of God or members of the host of evil, who will be destroyed with Satan the root, and his followers the branches. By the secret influences of his Holy Spirit, again and again the Lord comes to us and presents to us the things which pertain to our eternal welfare; we must act according to the dictates of the heavenly voice if we would be fitted for the life that measures with the life of God. We must respond to the love of God by reflecting his love to the world.