Do Not Judge – Matthew 7:1-6

In this lesson we’ll tackle the issue of being judgmental towards others.

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs,  or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces. (HCSB)

The first thing to note about verses 1-5 is that they are one of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages in the entire Bible. Jesus is not making a blanket prohibition against any form of judgment or discernment against another believer. Jesus is saying that these should never be done in a spirit of self-centered pride and without first examining yourself for sinful behavior.

Verses 1-2

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you. 

Jesus doesn’t state precisely what is being judged. However, we should interpret this in light of a general application of judging someone else. The Greek verb for judge, krino, has several different understandings depending on the context within which it is used.

  • Ordinary discernment of evaluation. Luke 7:43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.”
  • Judicial litigation. Matthew 5:40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.
  • Bestow a reward. Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • Pronouncement of guilt. John 7:51 Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?
  • Absolute determination of one’s fate. Matthew 5:22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.

Jesus is warning His followers of practicing the last two on the list. We are not to set ourselves over others and make a determination of their guilt before God.

This warning is also the opposite of the blessing Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:7 The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy. It is also the fifth petition in the Disciple’s Prayer. Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

True followers of Christ will not exhibit a pattern of judging others, and displaying a pattern of judgment against others is an indicator that the person not a true member of the Kingdom of Heaven. When disciples develop a condemning and critical attitude as a pattern in their lives, it shows they have forced love out of their relationships with others.

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about failures that make us apathetic in our Christian service. Those failures are the love of money and worrying. Both of these will make our witness ineffective as our focus is not on God or serving Him. However, a certain kind of zeal can also ruin our witness. That is a zeal for judging others, and it will turn the practitioner into a sharp and unjust critic of their Christian brothers and sisters.

Verses 3-5

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Here Jesus is engaging in hyperbole to communicate His point. Let’s make a couple of observations before we discuss these verses further.

  • Jesus is addressing His followers when He uses the term “brother.” Although this shouldn’t stop us from addressing issues with unbelievers, we must remember that they have a completely different set of values as non-Christians.
  • Jesus is not forbidding us from addressing issues in the lives of others. However, Jesus is saying that there is a process to ensure we do it correctly.
  • This is a jab at the self-righteousness exhibited by the Pharisees.

As I wrote in the introduction, Jesus is not telling us we can’t correct our brothers and sisters when they stray from the path. But it has to be done in the proper spirit, the spirit of love and correction, so it doesn’t happen again, not in a spirit of condemnation. Jesus did this with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11b “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” There are two important points to remember in this short statement.

  • Jesus is not condoning her behavior. Too often, believers focus on the first part, not being condemned. It’s wonderful that as a follower of Christ, we are forgiven when we fall and confess our sins.
  • The more important part of the verse is at the end in the form of a command, “do not sin anymore.”

When we confront a brother or sister who is sinning, the goal should always be restoration and not condemnation. Let’s consider some passages that illustrate the wrong and right ways to address sinful behavior.

  • Romans 14:10 But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. The word “criticize” here is a condemning judgment.
  • Romans 2:1 Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. Here the word “judge” is a condemning judgment reserved for God and carried out by a hypocritical person.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:3 Therefore don’t judge anything prematurely, before the Lord comes, who will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts. And then praise will come to each one from God. The word “judge” is used here in a judicial sense, as in a court of law. Another point is that we will likely never know the full details of the situation. To judge without full knowledge is foolish judgment. Only God can search our hearts and know the full truth.
  • Matthew 18:15 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. When a brother or sister is found in sin, there is a process to follow. Although rarely addressed in the modern church, there is a process for church discipline that Jesus laid out for us.
  • Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Restoration is to be done in the spirit of love.

There are three principles we should remember as to why we should never judge another person.

  • We won’t know all of the facts or the entire person; we can’t search their hearts.
  • It is impossible for fallen and sinful people, even the most devoted follower of Christ, to be completely impartial in our judgment.
  • None of us is good enough to judge another person. There is only one judge. James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

A succinct summary of verses 1-5 is, “Do not judge others until you are prepared to be judged by the same standard. And then, when you exercise judgment towards, do it with humility.”

Verse 6

Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

At first glance, this verse seems misplaced. However, there is a connection between this verse and the preceding verses. In the first five verses, Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgment of others. In verse 6, Jesus is warning against naïve acceptance. Matthew 10:16 Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.

As Christians, we need to strike a difficult balance between the characteristics of a serpent and a dove. We will continuously need to make evaluations in our lives, and a balance must be struck. The serpent was the picture of wisdom, shrewdness, mental keenness, and the dove represented simple innocence.

  • Genesis 3:1a Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made.
  • Psalms 58:5 That does not listen to the sound of the charmers who skillfully weave spells.
  • Hosea 7:11a So Ephraim has become like a silly, senseless dove;

Without innocence, the keenness of the snake is crafty, a devious menace; without keenness, the innocence of the dove is naive, helpless gullibility.

We need to interpret this verse in two ways.

  • The early church was attacked from the outside (persecution) as well as the inside (heresy). Persecution is easy to understand. However, the potential for heresy came about because Christianity was in its infancy, and there were those who tried to fuse pagan beliefs into Christianity. The modern church is facing these same issues today.
    • Persecution against the church and individual Christians is on the rise.
    • There are false theological positions being promoted openly.
      • Those who believe Genesis chapters 1-11 are fictional. This opens up pandora’s box. If you don’t believe in the first 11 chapters, how can you honestly believe in the rest?
      • The overemphasis on grace and the underemphasis on obedience, judgment, and hell.
      • Biblical fact that God created two sexes, man and woman, to be joined as one in marriage. The Bible speaks explicitly against homosexual behavior. The only conclusion is that same sex-marriage is a false teaching and a perversion of Scripture.
  • It was used by the Jews to undermine the simplicity of the Gospel. They believed that God’s gifts and grace were solely for the Jews. They argued that anyone converting to Christianity needed to be circumcised and submit to Old Testament Law.

The thing that is holy and the pearls in this verse are the Gospel message. The dogs and pigs are likely unbelievers and active enemies of the Gospel. Jesus is not telling His followers not to share the Gospel, but He is saying that after prolonged rejection, reproach, and harassment, it is best to move on and share with others. This is precisely the methodology that Paul applied on his mission trips.

  • Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles!
  • Acts 18:6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook his robe and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads!  I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
  • Acts 19:9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them and met separately with the disciples, conducting discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

How do we apply this passage?

  • When you judge others, because it will happen, examine the spirit in which you do it. Do you take a loving, humble, and restorative approach, or are you condescending, vindictive, and condemning?
  • Do you make sure your life is in order, and you are not hypocritical? If you’re not willing to walk the walk, you shouldn’t talk the talk.
  • Don’t shy away from the opportunities to correct and restore a fallen brother or sister. Just because we need to be careful in how we do doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
  • Don’t be naïve in dealing with a lost world. It’s a delicate balancing act, and there is wiggle room in how each of us would interpret and react to any given situation. At the same time, there is biblical support for withdrawing from those who are either unresponsive to the Gospel or are openly hostile to it.

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