7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:1-6)
This morning we get to talk about a very common phrase and one that is very often misunderstood or misused. I am talking about the phrase, “Judge not.”
Jesus as He often does, makes a statement like this one and then He explains and illustrates what He means by it. And so it is up to us to read it carefully, and consider, not what we think or want it to mean, but what does Jesus mean in His descriptions.
We can get into trouble if we are not careful in a particular passage and if we don’t consider the context as the Bible as a whole when we read it.
For example. If we pick up the Bible and we open to Matthew 7:1 and we read, “Judge not” or “Do not Judge” and having read that we close the Bible. And that is all we ever read in it, ever. If we do that then we are left to determine its meaning and its application without another hint of what it might mean. But if we are familiar with the Bible and we are familiar with what comes before this phrase and what follows this phrase then we have some context from which to understand it’s meaning. And so we don’t want to be guilty of understanding this without some consideration of the context of the Bible.
Here is part of the challenge with this phrase. The word Judge here is used in a variety of ways and can have varied meanings. But we can’t just pick the meaning we want and apply it to this word, we have to, again, consider it’ context in the passage and in the Bible. It is not as easy as simply picking up a dictionary and choosing a meaning.
Now, I want to talk about what Judge means here in particular but first I want to just point out that this passage gives us a picture of craziness. The illustration that Jesus gives is meant to give us a picture of something that is ludicrous if taken literally but is really meaningful and even helpful for us if we understand the meaning behind it. What I am referring to is from verses 3-5 where we read of the speck and the log in the eye.
The speck is from a Greek word that means sawdust a speck of sawdust. Most of us have probably experienced this, you get a tiny something, maybe a speck of sawdust in your eye. It feels big but it really is a fine piece of wood. But then Jesus talks about a log in the eye. This log would be like a beam a huge beam that would hold a roof in place. Here we have these steel beams but just imagine a piece of wood that big….that is a log in this passage. So imagine something like that, that huge in your eye! In this illustration, Jesus is saying, Don’t be like the person who runs up to someone saying, you poor Christian, you have a speck of sawdust in your eye but he cannot see what everyone else sees which is this obvious huge log protruding from his own eye! It is obvious but he cannot see it.. He only sees comparative minor issue in another person. That is what Jesus gets to in this passage.
I have been in that position. I mean the one with the log, the huge beam in my eye. Not so long ago someone came to me more than once to tell me of a sinful attitude that they had witnessed in me. When I first heard this I was sure that it was the other person, the one who told me that had the problem. I dismissed the messenger as being wrong and judgmental. Some time later we went back to the original conversation, I still believed they were wrong, I was sure of it. In fact, I, in my mind, I found fault with the person who had approached me. It was easy for me to brush off those accusations and to believe, I mean really believe that I was in the right. In fact, I was so bent on thinking I was right that I did not, not for a long time really sit down and contemplate whether or not that person was right. My eyes were clear, I saw things for how they really were and the other person had a major problem. Eventually, by God’s grace, I began to see the problem. The plank began to come to light. I had been blinded by my sinful attitude and would not see it. You see I was content playing this game of blaming another person for being wrong about my attitude but one day I realized I was wrong and they were right.
We need to listen when others at great risk, come to us and point out what they see. We need to listen. If we are quick to brush off criticism we may be missing out one real, lasting and needed change.
We need to listen and we need to work on issues of our own before we reach out to help another person with his or her issues. Knowing this helps us with understanding what the word judge means and what it does not mean.
So back to this important word to judge. The most common way that this phrase is used is to hear it used in a way of saying, “You are not, or no one is qualified to comment on whether another person's actions are right or wrong.” Like, you have no right to tell me if what I am doing is right or if it is wrong. We hear this all the time. Can this verse mean that? No! It cannot mean that.
It can’t because in other places in the Bible we are told to discern whether or not an action is right or wrong and we are given guidelines to determine what is right and what is wrong. The whole spec and log in the eye is testimony to the necessity of talking with another person about sin. Jesus said, You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
But there are other places that give similar instructions to us. That is that we are to discern right and wrong even when it is related to another person. For instance -
24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
Jesus indicates here that there is a proper judgment among people. Here Jesus is encouraging right judgement. So there is a right judgment. So there is a proper judgment.
Or how about later in Matthew 7:15-20 where Jesus says,
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)
That whole passages supports the idea of judging rightly, judging by ones fruit. You will recognize them by their fruit. This recognition is a type, a proper type of judging.
There is also Matthew 18:15
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)
To obey this command we need to determine or judge that our brother has actually sinned.
We also know that Jesus Himself made judgements:
Matthew 23:25 and 28
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matthew 23:25)
28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:28)
Jesus strongly judged others and so did the apostles.
1 John 4:1
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (John 4:1)
Here John is encouraging a judgment of spirits, because of false prophets who had come.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. (Galatians 2:11)
Even here Paul had made a judgment. He judged error that had been taught
Each of these passages that indicate we are in the right to judge according to God’s standards are just scratching the surface of all that are in the Bible. These are passages that call on us to not only be discerning but also in some cases love each other enough to speak truth where we see error. We need this from each other, that is input from each other in a spirit of love for constructive criticism. And each of us needs the humility to receive it well.
So judge not as we see in our passage does not, can not mean all types of judgements so apparently then it prohibits certain kinds of judgments, but not all kinds of judgments.
This prohibition not to judge grammatically is calling the hearers to stop an action already in progress. The phrase indicates that the listeners were already sinfully judging others and so He is urging them to explore the motivations behind their hypocritical judgements. He is saying, stop your hypocritical judging. Hypocrisy has been a theme in Jesus teaching and He continues it here.
The problem at least in part was there and our tendency to only think of other people's sin, always point out other people's sin, be quick to point out others peoples sinful tendencies while ignoring our own. This is judgmentalism. It is being a constant critic of others while ignoring our own faults.
To illustrate, have you ever been to a marriage conference and all you can think of is, I hope my spouse is hearing this! Or sat through sermon and your only thought is that I hope my kids are listening!
Our problem is that it is so easy to see other people's sin especially if those sins affect us negatively. It is so easy!
In fact we can get so caught up in this that we even fail to judge rightly. It is not that we are just quick to judge others according to God’s word but we even judge just according to our own personal standards of preference!
Our judgments become just that, our judgements. They are based on what we like or what we don’t like. Like every one should fall in line with what I prefer or I will be condemning of them, I’ll ignore them, I’ll write them off as unworthy to be my companion. Do you see what happens here? It gets ugly really fast.
When we begin to make judgments that are not based on God’s word and done in the way He prescribes there are very negative consequences. When we fail to follow God’s design and confront others lovingly and with gentleness because we love God and we love them then things get bad quickly. When we go to others with a plank in our own eye and make changing people a goal just so that we can benefit then we have entered a state of judgmentalism.
Martyn Lloyd Jones makes several observations about selfish, self centered judgmentalism that I want to share with you.
A spirit of judgmentalism puts prejudice over principle. If we judge rightly we judge according to biblical principles. What this means is that if we allow our own prejudices what we like what we don’t like to become how we evaluate other people. This is selfish and it is wrong. This is making our own minds superior to God’s ways.
Another thing we may do that is judgmental is to be quick to express our opinion before we have all the facts. We have not right to pronounce any judgment without being aware of the facts and without going to the trouble of being familiar with them. We should search for facts, ask questions, take time to do so or otherwise we will be like the pharisees who were quick to pounce on someone without knowledge.
And then we may be quick to simply condemn another person and what I mean by that is we may just say, well they will never change, he is hopeless, he will never be anything other than what he is today, and just walk away like pronouncing some kind of final judgement. There is no place for us to do this, we don’t know the mind of God, it is not our place to do this. It is arrogant and wrong. God’s hand has reached you, if you belong to Him and if He can reach you He can reach others.
We have seen this last week an extreme example of a person who chose to lash out to others in a judgmental way and extreme example through murder. If we take being judgmental to an extreme this is what we see. A person who is bent on blaming others for his problems and his unhappiness with the world. A person who finds it easier to lash out rather than examine himself, a person who is not selfless but is selfish. I am talking of course about the tragedy in NZ at two mosques where a man killed many there. A horrific scene of evil and destruction. This and thing like this should cause us to cringe and keep us as believers from always casting blame and finding fault with other and imagining that they, whoever they are, are the problem.
Now let’s quickly look at verse 6.
The previous verses instruct us on how to correct other while verse 6 seems to say when not to.
I think the simple meaning of this, let me read verse 6…
6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
The simple meaning is that all truth in the Bible is not meant for unbelievers. In fact, the main truth for the unbeliever is that he is a sinner and Christ is the savior. There is no need to christianize non believers. The unbeliever needs Christ.
The message for a non-Christian is repent and come to Christ. It is easy, at times, for us to look at the lost around us and complain that they are not acting very Christian! That is kind of crazy. Of course they don’t act very Chrsitain, they aren’t Christians.
If we spend our time trying to convince the lost that they should do things like, love your neighbor as yourself, or give to the poor, or put others ahead of yourself, or love your enemy or be faithful in marriage, or don’t be drunk with wine or any other command in the Bible then what might happen is what Jesus describes here as being trampled under foot! That makes them mad, hostile. That is giving, what is holy, what is given to us by God to the unholy lost world when what they need to hear is Christ has come, repent and believe.
Trying to moralize the word is a futile effort. Evangelizing the world is what we are called to do. I think the tie to this from Jesus teaching on not judging is to point out the useless endeavor of judging the world expecting that they, non Believes, should adhere to Christian principles. That will not happen, it's not supposed to.