It is often the case that those who are the harshest judges of others are themselves burdened with the greatest defects. The heterodox usually behave this way. If they discover only the smallest defect in the doctrine or life of the faithful, they will make it out to be so terrible that every Christian heart is horrified by it. If the unbelieving, godless world sees only the smallest splinter in Christians, it accuses them of being the worst villains. These accusers, however, fail to fail to discern the great planks in their own eyes. They wantonly falsify and twist, making God out to be a liar in His Word, and destroying the most Holy Sacraments of Jesus Christ.
We should not be surprised that the children of the world and the heterodox are such proud hypocrites. If God passes judgement on them in Scripture, how much more will they dare to judge their neighbors!
Christians themselves are hardly free of such weaknesses. Their righteousness and holiness are not theirs, but Christ’s. They too, must cry “If You, O Lord should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3), and “Enter not into judgement with Your servant, because no one living is righteous before You.” (Psalm 143:2) They must daily pray “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” They are righteous before God, only because they believe in Christ. Without faith, their sins would damn them just as readily as the sins of others condemn them. A Christian may progress only so far in Sanctification during his life; he must still appear daily as a poor sinner and beggar before God.
If a Christian does not do this, he begins to admire himself for his improvement in life and then loses the poverty of the Spirit. He tends to judge others severely while saying in his heart “God I thank you that I am not like other men.” (Luke 18:11) He ceases to be a Christian at all, and instead becomes a hypocritical, proud Pharisee. This spiritual pride causes many so-called Christians to return outwardly to the world they once renounced.
Christians must continue to recognize that they are sinners and this must move them to be merciful toward their neighbors. If they see sins in others they do not have, they must remember that they may have sins that are just as reprehensible before God, sins that are perhaps more punishable than those of their neighbors. Their neighbors may sin lightheartedly, but they themselves may sin by unfriendliness and a gloomy character. Their neighbors may not know how to keep their earthly goods, but they themselves may have too great of an attachment to their possessions. Their neighbors may not seem to be sufficiently industrious, but they themselves may sin by overexertion in their temporal vocations. Their neighbors may seem too forward in professing the truth before their enemies, but they themselves may sin by timidity and subtle denial. Their neighbors may be too often openly angry, but they themselves may harbor secret resentment envy. Their neighbors may pride themselves too much on fashionable clothes, money, or property, but they themselves may consider too high their gifts of the Spirit, their understanding, and good works. In Short, Christians may find things that are blameworthy in their neighbors, but if they truly know themselves, that would make them feel ashamed.
Should not all of this move us to be humble, lenient and merciful toward our erring, sinning and thirsty neighbors? Certainly! Whoever judges a speck in another’s eye, developed before God, a plank in his own. His sins that God would have otherwise gladly forgive, become magnified and more damnable by his behavior, and he forfeits God’s grace and his sould. salvation.