Why the unexamined life is dangerous

Inspection_magnifyingglassJesus’ goal in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) was to show what’s lurking inside of us so that He can transform us from the inside out.

The problem is, we normally don’t like anyone looking under our hood, so to speak. We prefer to look under everyone else’s hood. We would rather have a Bible study than have the Bible study us.

I’m not talking about self-examination in the typical navel-gazing way. I’m talking about having a thorough Jesus-inspection. I’m also not talking about confessing all our sins per se. (We have no way of knowing them all anyway!) I’m talking about letting Him heal the deepest and darkest parts of us. Those places where we don’t let anyone in. Those places that make us do the things we don’t like about ourselves. And since He already lives in the middle of our mess anyway, He’s the most qualified to take on such a task!

The reason this is critically important is because if we don’t allow Jesus to penetrate the deepest part of us, we will do great damage to those around us…oftentimes, while thinking we’re doing God a service.

The unexamined life is a major culprit in all relational breakdowns—family, friendships, marriages, church splits, and even driving people away from Jesus.

The unexamined life projects its own issues on to everyone else, seeing others in the image of their own self-reflected selves.

This is never more clear than in how we usually want grace for ourselves when we hurt someone, or do something wrong, but will not give the same grace to others. In fact, it doesn’t even cross our minds. Our blindness to this double-standard continues to amaze me about the human condition.

This human condition leads us to a brilliant teaching of Jesus; one that we don’t really believe…or, at least take seriously.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt.7:1-5 NIV)

I’ve already covered other points about this passage in the following posts:

Receiving grace requires giving grace ourselves…it goes both ways (vs.1). I talked about that in more detail in my post, “Grace goes both ways.”

We will receive exactly the same grace we give (vs.2). I wrote about this in “The truth about grace and truth”.

Why was Jesus telling us these things? So we can tell people, “Hey, don’t judge me!” when they try to speak to us about the baggage in our lives? Hardly. He was telling us that unless we allow Him to examine us, down to the innermost core of who we are, we’re not safe examining anyone else. We won’t have the same heart for them that Jesus has. We will only hurt them and drive them away from Love.

Here are just a few examples what judging looks like in our everyday lives:

Whenever we gossip, tear someone down who hurt us (or who just disagrees with us). To this, Jesus is saying, “It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth…why are you really sharing that?”

Being divisive, causing trouble in order to win allies. Someone hurt us, so we get allies with our friends so they will hate this person too!

Being critical of someone who has a weakness where we have a strength. If we’re thinking, “I would’ve never done it that way“…or saying, “I’ve never have a problem with _____, so they should just get over it!” In other words, because they’re not you, they must be wrong.

Saying someone isn’t saved because of a behavioral weakness (condemnation). We are judging people’s hearts here, which we’re totally unqualified to do. It also smacks of works-righteousness and salvation by good behavior, which is the preferred poisonous mixture of legalists.

This list is not exhaustive, but the common denominator is creating separation caused by our orphan-hearted fear. We must defend ourselves, project ourselves, and be reaffirmed by criticizing and demonizing others. This is just a small piece of the “plank” that Jesus wants to remove from the way we see others.

Jesus is working on making us like children, who are accepting, who allow their hearts to be open to others and are able to love unconditionally. Like the four-year old who said this about love, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

The reason Jesus tells us not to judge is because other people’s names are still not safe in our mouth. Our love still has conditions. We’re still projecting our own issues on to them and calling it discernment, or just being concerned. This is not a holy endeavor!

This is not a matter of us trusting God; it’s about Him being able to trust us. And walking in grace is not about excusing sinful behavior; it’s about entering into this cooperative process with the Living Word that empowers spiritual self-discovery.

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb.4:12 NASB)

When we’ve been faithfully healed of our own issues and tenderized to the point where we finally see people and treat them like Jesus—having a heart of compassion and humility to restore them and willing to carry their burdens—then we will finally be safe enough to help them with their issues, which fulfills Christ’s law of love.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal.6:1-2 NIV)

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 42 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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15 Responses to Why the unexamined life is dangerous

  1. Dan LaChance says:


    I hope you are having a great day. It is beautiful in Cincinnati today. I was reading your book last night about grace. And you made a comment about how God gives grace to everyone in equal amounts. (I may be misquoting you; so please feel free to clarify.) When you make the point in this post that we will receive the same amount of grace that we give, am I correct in assuming that you are referring the grace we can expect to receive from “others”? (not God)

    Thanks so much.


    • Mel Wild says:

      Hi Dan. Thank you for a great question, and thank you for reading my book! 🙂

      What I’m talking about is actually both in our relationship with God and with others, but not in the way many might think. We’re not talking about conditional grace on God’s side of things. God does make ALL of His grace is made available to us, all the time. As Jesus’ story about the workers in the field in Matt.20:1-16 teaches us, the last worker got paid the same as the first worker. So, on God’s side of the relationship, grace is given in equal amounts. The “measure” of grace we walk in is on our side of the relationship.

      Peter and James said that God “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” This is an anthropocentric statement. In other words, it’s not talking about God withholding grace, it’s talking about how WE experience God in our relationship to Him. He never changes on His side. What we receive experientially is determined by the condition of our heart. This is how we “grow in grace.” We’re growing in actualizing the grace we already fully possess in Christ. And to the degree we resist this cooperative process with God because of our own pride and fear, will be the degree this free flow of grace will be blocked (on our side). Therefore, because of this grace blockage, we will treat others accordingly. This is what I meant in this post. Our heart determines the fruitfulness of God’s grace working in our lives.

      I hope that answers your question. Blessings.

      • Little Monk says:

        Hi, Mel!

        (This may be the first time I’m commenting on one of your posts, and I hope I’m not “butting in” to this discussion, but…) I really like this question, and the answer you give. You and I have very parallel views on grace, on God’s giving nature, and so on (as you’ve no doubt noticed).

        When I saw this question and answer, I was prompted with the phrase… “It’s like dancing in the rain!”

        Imagine wondrous rain coming down outside by the bucketful… all over the place…

        Now, there’s two ways to approach that. We can dress up in our best oilskins and wetgear, put up our umbrellas, and try to dash from point to point… only getting a “little bit wet” around the ankles and such. Or we can put up our umbrella, look down, hunker over in a semi-fetal position and go out in it.

        OR…. we can head out boldly to “dance in the rain” letting ourselves get thoroughly wet, splashing through puddles like little kids… and let ourselves me thorougly soaked.

        I find grace, forgiveness, blessing, love, trust, hope, faith… all these different words of manifold expressions of grace… to be that way. The “water barrier” goes both ways. We can’t “express to another” what we will not first receive and be soaked with in the first place. And we cannot absorb what we “insulate” from either.

        If we put up an “impermeable barrier” to forgiveness of others, to trust of others, to loving and compassion towards others… then WE have put that “barrier” there around OURSELVES spiritually… and the incredible magnitude of God’s provision of that for and into US, is impeded to that extent and we cannot ourselves experience it as our own.

        Fortunately!… We, being human, finite and (thank goodness) not very “competent spiritually”, put up barriers that are not very efficient or effective, and God’s tremendous grace makes it through to SOME extent anyway, no matter what. But still, humans can certainly insulate well enough to know bitterness, despair, depression, fear, anxiety, and all the rest of the panoply of the existential void when we try hard enough.

        Personally, I’ve always loved “dancing in” the showers of blessing… It’s really rather fun. And, splashing in the puddles with other laughing friends is pretty fun, too!

        Grace — LM

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks for your insights, and “butting” in is definitely encouraged here! 🙂

          I like your analogy of how we experience rain. We can either insulate or protect ourselves, or let ourselves get drenched. I especially liked what you said here…”The “water barrier” goes both ways. We can’t “express to another” what we will not first receive and be soaked with in the first place. And we cannot absorb what we “insulate” from either.”

          This is so true! We need to let ourselves get messy and wet when Jesus is raining on us. It’s a healing rain. After all, that’s what a child would do. They would definitely splash in these puddles of blessing! Blessings.

  2. “You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Wow. Out of the mouths of babes. How often do we feel our names safe in the mouths of others? This statement for me is a testament to the depth of faith I feel in the Father, for I know with absolute certainty my name is safe in His mouth.

  3. Dan LaChance says:

    Dear Mel,

    Thanks for the explanation. (And thanks to the Little Monk as well) I think I am finally getting it. God is perfect, loving all of us, no matter what we have done or not done, full on, all the time, and pouring his grace into us to strengthen us. I have always prayed for God to fill me with his grace. Now, I know the “more correct” prayer is to help me to “receive” his grace (his love, and every good gift he has for me).

    How could the “church” misguide so many of us for so many centuries???

    I am so thankful I found the truth about love and grace. I always knew God was great. But Wow! He’s incredible!

    • Mel Wild says:

      I think you’re getting it! God’s love and grace is like the sunshine. It’s always full strength, the same every day. We just need to get ourselves in orbit and above to clouds to fully experience His “rays!” 🙂

      Unfortunately, you’re also right about how we’ve been misguided, Many have been abused and driven away by our orphan woundedness projected on to God over the centuries. But keep in mind that Christ is progressively bringing His Church into the unity of faith and to His knowledge as sons and daughters (Eph.4:11-16), so we’re right on God’s timetable! He knows what He’s doing and we’re actually starting to believe it! We are truly living in exciting times of awakening and reformation. We’re finding out that God is a whole lot better and His grace is a LOT more amazing than we ever imagined! If it sounds too good to be true, it must be God! Blessings to you on your journey, brother.

  4. Very true. We need to allow God to reveal and remove our ‘planks’. It is only when our hearts are clear can we have an uninhibited deep hearted relationship with God. It is in this deep hearted intimate place with God that we see His heart for ourselves and others. He changes our perspective on others, ourselves and life in general. I believe that He will only let you see into someone else’s heart if you are someone who is safe or worthy of it. A worthiness that only comes via the cleansing love of Jesus.

  5. Your post, and the comment by Little Monk made me think of Christ Tomlin’s song “Waterfall.”

    Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
    Running wild and free
    You hear my heart when I call, when I call
    Deep calls, too deep
    Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
    Raining down on me

    Waterfall, waterfall

    It’s coming like a flood
    I’m dancing in the rain
    Everything I’ve done
    Is covered in rivers of grace

    Such a great metaphor for grace and the relational necessity of walking in it, as so well outlined in your post. Thanks, Mel.

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