Moral Guidance (Matthew 7)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1-5)

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Jesus calls us to realism about ourselves that will keep us from picking at or judging someone else:

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Matt. 7:1-5)

This may seem to pose a problem in the workplace. Successful work often depends on making assessments of other people’s character and work. Bosses must assess their subordinates, and in some organizations, vice versa. We must often decide whom to trust, whom to choose as partners, whom to employ, which organization to join. But verse 5, with the word hypocrite and the admonition, “First take the log out of your own eye,” shows that Jesus is speaking against false or unnecessary judgment, not against honest assessment. The problem is that we are constantly making judgments unaware. The mental pictures we make of others in our workplaces are composed more of our biased perceptions than from reality. Partly, this is because we see in others whatever serves to make us feel better about ourselves. Partly, it is to justify our own actions when we do not act as servants to others. Partly, it is because we lack the time or inclination to collect true information, which is much harder to do than storing up random impressions.

It may be impossible to overcome this false judgmentalism on our own. This is why consistent, fact-based assessment systems are so important in workplaces. A good performance appraisal system requires managers to gather real evidence of performance, to discuss differing perceptions with employees, and to recognize common biases. On a personal level, between those who are not one another’s bosses, we can accomplish some of the same impartiality by asking ourselves “What role do I have in that” when we notice ourselves forming a judgment against someone else. “What evidence leads me to that conclusion? How does this judgment benefit me? What would that person say in response to this judgment?” Perhaps the surest way to remove the log in our own eye is to take our judgment directly to the other person and ask them to respond to our perception. (See the section on conflict resolution in Matthew 18:15-17 below.)

The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12)

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Jean Bartell Barber on the Golden Rule at Bartell Drugs (Click to watch)

Jean-Bartell Barber - Bartell Drugs from Centered on Vimeo.

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). This brings us back to true righteousness, the mending and sustaining of right relationships on the job as well as elsewhere. If we have time for only one question before making a decision taking action, the best one may be, “Is this how I would want it to be done to me?”