Description / Transcription
Our Father in heaven, as we come to the reading and preaching of Your Holy Word, we ask that You would give us eyes to see Your truth, ears to hear Your voice, hearts to believe Your Word, feet to walk in Your ways. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We come this evening the Matthew chapter 7, Matthew chapter 7. The first book in the New Testament. Here in these three chapters Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. It’s all justly famous and this is one of the most famous parts. Matthew chapter 7, verses 1 through 6.
““Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 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? 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. 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.””
Judge not lest ye be judged. This is one of the most needed and one of the most abused verses in all the Bible. For some in our culture this is maybe the first and only verse they’re interested in learning. Many of us have probably quoted it to others before. Maybe some of you have had it quoted to you. For many people, their Bible consists of three verses: Matthew 7:1, judge not lest ye be judged; John 8:7, let him who is without sin cast the first stone; and 1 John 4:16, God is love. That’s all the Bible has and that is the entire way of looking at the world.
So we’ve encountered that this verse can be misused, and yet it would be a mistake to come to this passage and pretend as if we don’t need to hear this verse. So I have a very simple outline for us tonight. Two broad points about this command, “judge not.”
First, we’re going to look at what it does not mean, and then we’re going to look at what it does mean. That’s about as simple an outline as you can get. And along the way, especially in the second half, we’ll see how this applies to us.
So let’s first understand what this does not mean, because it is so often misappropriated. What does Matthew 7:1 not mean?
Well, number one, it does not mean that we suspend the rule of law. You see elsewhere in scripture, Romans 13, the government bears the sword, the government must make adjudications, or even in the Church, we see in 1 Corinthians 5 that you cast out the evil person from among you, or later in Matthew 18 Jesus will talk about coming with one and another and then telling it to the church and treating someone as a tax collector, church discipline. So we entrust to those appointed authorities the ability to judge. Because God is a judge, He has entrusted certain persons and certain authority structures in the state and in the church to do that judgment, so this does not mean we suspend the rule of law. We get that.
Number two. It does not mean that we turn off our brains. This is a lazy person’s way to shut down conversation, or to not deal with ethical demands – “Well, judge not lest ye be judged.” Turn off my brain now. No, 1 John 4:1 we’re told, “Do not believe every spirit test.” The spirits. There’s no way we can honestly read the Bible, if we’re really interested in what the Bible says and not just finding a verse to hang our own assumptions upon, no way that we can honestly conclude that we should accept everything, all the time, affirm everyone and every behavior, no matter what.
Jesus was angry with the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2 for tolerating that woman Jezebel, for her sexual immoralities, her idolatries. He did not fault them because they lacked tolerance but because they were over-tolerant.
Third. It does not mean, this command, that we suspend all moral distinctions. John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances but judge by right judgment.” We know that Jesus is not telling us to who unconditional affirmation in all circumstances. We know He’s not forbidding evaluation or discernment or even harsh criticism. Just think about the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is full of very strong moral judgments.
He’s going to talk in chapter 7 about those who build their house on the rock or on the sand. He’s going to talk about those who on that last day, He’ll say, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” Everything we’ve seen in chapters 5 and 6 is one, relenting, moral demand after another.
And even here in this passage He calls people hypocrisy. Elsewhere in this Gospel He calls Herod “that fox,” He calls the scribes and Pharisees “white-washed tombs.” So He’s not above using very strong language.
In verse 15 of this chapter He will say, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” So that requires us to have some measure of evaluation and discernment.
Most importantly, look at verse 6, which almost seems out of place if we just take verse 1 and don’t understand the context of what Jesus is saying: “Hey, judge not, you people. Stop judging. And, oh, by the way, don’t give to dogs what is holy, and there’s people out there that are pigs.”
It’s not as if Jesus is saying that we have to refrain from all evaluation. He expects us, actually, to have the spiritual discernment to know who the dogs and the pigs are. His point there is verse 6 is that there are some people that have no interest in hearing the truth and they are not about to eat the good gospel meal, no matter how much savory salt you put on it or how sweet you can make it. They are only dogs who are going to trample what is holy and pigs who are going to trample upon that which are pearls.
It’s as if Jesus is saying, “I don’t want you to be sensorius,” there’s a good word to add to your vocabulary, “I don’t want you to be sensorius, but neither do I want you to be simpletons.”
So we’re exhorted earlier in the sermon to love our enemies, to walk with them the extra mile, and don’t judge. Verse 6, Jesus says, “But I don’t want you to be undiscerning rubes anyone can just come and take advantage of you. No, there are dogs and there are pigs.”
I was, incidentally, I was, most of my sermon titles are not very good but I did sort of like this one, “Specks and logs and pigs and dogs.” So, the Dr. Seuss of sermon titles.
Here in verse 6, remember, now many of you like your dogs. Okay. You may even like pigs, but dogs here in the ancient world are not sweet little pets, pigs are not cute farm animals. Dogs are scavengers, wild animals, dirty, nasty. Pigs are even worse. They’re the quintessentially unclean animal. 2 Peter 2:22 – “What the true proverb says has happened to them, the dog returns to its vomit and the sow after washing herself returns to wallow in the mire.” There Peter has to choose what are the filthy animals, and he chooses dogs and pigs.
The pearl here is that sacred Gospel. Jesus will tell a parable along those lines. Now He’s not saying, “Well, you have to sort of discern is this person worthy to hear the Gospel.” That would get us into all sorts of trouble. Or to think, “Well, this person seems sort of unlikely… Okay, I’m off the hook. I never have to share Jesus with them.” That would be a mistake.
But He is telling us something important in verse 6 – We cheapen the Gospel by repeatedly allowing dogs to bite at it and pigs to trample over it. You could do a whole other sermon just from Jesus’ teachings about how Christians need to be well-versed in animal husbandry. That is, you must be able to discern sheep from wolves and pigs and dogs. Part of being a mature Christian is you can spot the right animals. That doesn’t mean we only share the Gospel when people are eager to hear it. We’re all prone to rebel, we all could be hard of heart. But it’s talking about those who have rejected it, perhaps so vehemently, so frequently, so disparagingly, to make it evident as Titus 3:11 says, they’re warped, they’re self-condemned.
When you trample over the Gospel, you are more animal than human. That’s the hard word that Jesus is saying. When you can take this precious food, when you can take this pearl of greatest price, this greatest treasure in all the world, and trample it again and again and again, you’re like a dog and a pig.
So He says, “Don’t be a wimp in sharing the Gospel, but I do want you to be wise. Do not give mockers another opportunity to mock.”
That’s true. You keep praying, you keep hoping, but there are people, maybe there are people even in your own life, they’ve heard the truth, they know the truth, and sadly at this point in their life they hate the truth. Jesus will tell His disciples that sometimes you go into a town and when they don’t want anything to do with you, you shake the dust off your feet and you move on. Well, this is the equivalent of that. Do not give dogs what is holy. Do not throw your pearls before swine. So Jesus is certainly not telling us to refrain from making any moral or spiritual evaluations.
What then does this command mean? We don’t want to spend most of our time just setting aside and giving so much nuance and qualification that we don’t allow verse 1 to really land on us.
So, second big point, and here we’ll spend more of our time – What does this command mean?
First of all, it means we should measure others the way we want to be measured. You can see that very plainly in verse 2, “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
How do you want to be measured? You want a stick that’s too short or too long or inconsistent or unfair or false scales? You want the same sort of standard. If you have to run a mile and you’re lined up with other people, you don’t want some of them to get away with running three laps when you have to run four. You want the same standard.
I can’t remember if I told this story before, but I did one year of swimming when I was in junior high school, and I wasn’t very good. I could swim, that’s what I, I didn’t drown, I’m here, but I wasn’t very good and all these other swimmers were, you know, had been swimming for their whole life and year-round and, you know, born with flippers and all this, but I had a lot of friends and so they convinced me to go out for swimming. My very first meet, I didn’t think I was very good, but somehow I got to the wall and I looked up at my lane and they had an electronic scoreboard and I saw that I got second place. I said, “Wow. I guess I have maybe a gift or something. I didn’t realize how this happened. I’d never really done this before. All these people have been doing this their whole life and I just go out and the first time I got second place.”
Well, I realized later what had happened is the first place person, now this was junior high, I think the longest you can do is like 200 yards, and I’d already had somebody lap me completely that that person had finished and they were thinking that well, surely, this person, the next person to touch, must be second place, and so they gave me second place. To make that even worse, I did swim the whole 200 yards, so it means the last 50 yards they considered were so slow this guy must be cooling down and so he’s already finished. So I got my one and only points for the team by having an inconsistent measure. I swam 150 yards instead of 200, and it turns out you can really do quite well if that’s the standard.
I think I’m better at swimming now, but sometimes I look when I go to the pool and all these really earnest young people who are so good at swimming and they’ll have these little cards that give the sort of national standards for boys and A standards and all these different standards, and it turns out I am a nationally ranked 9-year-old boy. I am very, very good. I’m just a late bloomer.
How do you want people to size you up? It’s the same way that you should then treat other people. Isn’t this, I know that anytime you talk about race in this country it’s unbelievably painful and complicated and there’s more to it than this, but there’s certainly not less to it than this.
Isn’t it true, whatever the color of your skin, whatever your ethnicity, your background, isn’t it true of all of us as human beings, you don’t want people to assume the worst about you because of the color of your skin? Well, that’s what black people are like, or we all know what white people are like.
You don’t want to be sized up because of how you dress, where you live, who your parents were, or if you ever knew your parents. You don’t want people to think they have you figured out before they’ve even gotten to know you. You don’t want people to rush to judgment before they’ve heard from all sides. Isn’t that what every single one of us want?
I know that individualism gets a bad name, and there’s a bad kind of expressive individualism Carl Trueman talks about, but there’s a good kind of individualism which is one of the hallmarks of Western civilization, namely that you should be gotten to be known and understood as an individual and not sized up just based on some collective identity. It’s one of the hallmarks of our legal system, and almost all Western legal systems, you are innocent until proven guilty.
There’s an old Latin phrase – ei incumbit probation, qui dicit, non qui negat. Here’s what it means: Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies. We translate it more simply – Innocent until proven guilty.
My oldest son is now 18 and now he can feel like a real adult because he just got in the mail for the first time a summons to jury duty. I’ve been summoned three times. I’ve never had to serve on a jury but I’ve gone and they do the thing and if you’ve done this, they, you know, weed everybody out. I remember one person raised his hand and said, “I’m a very judgmental person and I don’t think I could be fair.” Like, nah, that doesn’t work. You can’t just self-select out.
When I’ve done it, one of the things that the defense attorney in particular will say, just to try to help people understand, say, “Now what do I have to do to prove to you that,” you know, he’s not there at the moment, but that “my client is innocent?” And the answer that he’s going at is nothing. According to our legal system, I don’t have to do anything in order for my client to be acquitted. The proof is not upon the defense to prove that this person is innocent, it is upon the prosecution to prove that this person is guilty.
This principle goes back at least to the sixth century, probably can be traced back several centuries earlier than that, and it’s not entirely owing to Christian views, but it is in part to Christian ideas of justice.
Think about the ninth commandment – shall not bear false witness. You shall not lie. We know that. Don’t lie. But there’s much more to it than that. The Heidelberg Catechism, for example, lists at least nine things we should do in obedience to the ninth commandment. It says, “God’s will in the ninth commandment is that I never give false testimony against anyone. I twist no one’s words. I do not gossip or slander. I do not join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause, rather in court and everywhere else I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind. These are devices the devil himself uses and they would call down on me God’s intense anger. I should love the truth. I should speak the truth candidly. I should openly acknowledge the truth and I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.”
How are you doing with that? The internet doesn’t make that easy. We’ve all seen how the internet piles on shame – trial by Twitter. “I do not join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause.” That’s what the Catechism says is enjoined upon us as Christians, and everyone, to be obedient to the ninth commandment. “I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.” Isn’t that the measure you would want used?
You can count it at some point in today’s world anybody and everybody is going to be caught up in one of these internet kerfuffles. Or something in the workplace. Anyone. It doesn’t have to be just the internet. Somebody’s going to accuse of something. And you may even have several somebodies accuse you, and don’t you in that moment, you want people, would you give a fair hearing?
Ask yourself the question, “How do I want people to judge me?” Isn’t this true of every single one of us? I want people to hear me out. I want people to get to know me and not lock me into a preconceived narrative or set of experiences. I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt. I want people not to be quick to believe the worst of about me. I want people to deal with facts, not gossip or speculation. I want people to be open to changing their minds. I want people to speak respectfully of me. I want people to consider that they may have missed something, and maybe even they have some fault.
Isn’t that the way you want people to measure you? That’s true for all of us. Jesus simply says, “If that’s the measure you want, is it the measure you’re using?”
This command to judge not means we measure others the way we would want to be measured.
Second. It means we examine ourselves first. I have three points here. Here’s the second. What does it mean? It means we examine ourselves first. This is the point of the famous analogy about specks and logs. It’s not that you can’t ever correct. We see this all over the Bible. Correct those who are spiritual, correct them gently. Teachers, especially, have to correct with all gentleness. So, yes, we hold each other accountable, we correct.
But He’s simply saying, and it’s meant to be humorous. You have this log, boom, boom, you’re knocking everybody over as you turn around. Hey, you’ve got a little piece of dust in your eye. Let me come look at that. [sound effect] It’s humorous. You can’t even get close to them. You’re whacking them around with this giant saber outside of your face trying to get a little, itty-bitty speck. No, why don’t you get that thing out and then maybe you can get close enough and then maybe, you know what? Your own vision will be clear enough to help them get the little speck.
I’ve mentioned before this famous essay by C.S. Lewis called The Problem with X. He says we’ve all been in conversations where we gather together and say, “You know what the problem with X” and you’re talking about a friend, an enemy, a boss, a coworker, and again there are certain, there’s certainly occasions where we need to have candid conversations to try to help one another. It’s not that we can’t ever say anything about someone else, but C.S. Lewis is certainly right. We’ve all had those sort of conversations, “Ah, the problem” and we really have a good time all agreeing on the problem with X, and Lewis’ point is you do know that in someone else’s conversation, you’re X. It’s true. I’m sure there are people, there’s maybe even a support group somewhere, the Problem with Kevin support group. Lots of people. If they’re not here, they’re out there, believe me. You are somebody’s biggest problem. I’m somebody’s biggest problem. At least in their own mind.
A judgmental spirit often begins as a defense mechanism. It’s not to say that the people who have a problem with you are right in always having a problem with you. It is simply to do what Jesus said and that is to start by examining ourself. What too often happens is we feel challenged, we feel convicted, and know what’s a good way to stop feeling convicted or challenged? Go rummage around in someone else’s sins, or their perceived sins. That practice can become a habit and it can become a way of life.
Calvin says there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people’s faults. It’s the fastest way to make a friend, agree on someone else’s faults. What happens is we exaggerate the faults of others and we tend to minimize our own. Disparaging others is a cheap way of attaining moral superiority.
Now again, notice what Jesus is saying. He’s going to say there are dogs and there are pigs. He even says take the log out of your own eye then take the speck out of your brother’s eye. He is not giving a sort of blanket moral equivalence. Criticism can be warranted, sometimes criticism is even necessary, but here’s the point – it must be accompanied with serious self-criticism.
Ask yourself these questions. When it comes to people in the church, are you more likely to see their faults, or your faults? Are you more tired of your sins, or your husband’s sins? You have parents, you might be sitting with them tonight. They’re not perfect, that’s true. Are you? Or your kids. Some of them are here tonight. They can be hard to live with. You know what? So can you. So can I.
Think about the most difficult relationship, whatever that might be, don’t nudge them right now. Have you considered your own logs? What if you went to that person without for a moment excusing the real sins they’ve committed, without for a moment pretending that they haven’t done something wrong if they have, but what if you went to that person and you told them you were to the best of your ability trying to get out any logs from your own eyes before you talked to them about any of the specks in theirs?
John Stott puts it this way – “The sensorius critic is a fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failings. He puts the worst possible construct on their motives, pours cold water on their schemes, and is ungenerous toward their mistakes.”
That’s a powerful sentence. Does it describe any of you with your husband or your wife? With your children? With your parents? You put the worst possible construct on their motives. You’re always sure that they mean the worst? You pour cold water on all their schemes? And you are ungenerous toward their mistakes. We must examine ourselves first.
And then a third and final point – What does this mean, judge not lest ye be judged?
It means we use the measure we want to use on us, it means we examine ourselves first, and it means, third, remember who you are. Remember who you are.
We are not judges. Again, here’s Stott – “The command to judge not is not a requirement to be blind, but a plea to be generous. Jesus does not tell us to cease to be men by suspending our critical powers, which help to distinguish us from animals, but to renounce the presumptuous ambition to be God by setting ourselves up as judge.”
Again, Stott puts it so memorably. This isn’t a passage telling us, well, be like animals, they don’t really discern between right and wrong. It’s not saying you can’t be men, it’s saying you are not in the place of God to make final judgments upon people.
When we get later in chapter 7 it will be the Lord Jesus Himself who is the judge, who says, “Away from me, I never knew you.” We are not judges.
Think of the checklist for the judgmental: Self-righteous, hypocritical, hypercritical/always complaining, prejudiced, that is you make decisions without thought or investigation, ignorant, merciless, fault-finding. Does that describe any of us? Never sympathetic toward human failing. Always exacting. Always sizing people up. Always digging around in their mess.
I don’t know where it is where you live, but for us trash day is Monday, and it’s one of the chores that I’ve taken upon myself. There’s something very tidy and orderly upon it, and think often of Pilgrim’s Progress and Pilgrim has this great burden that he throws off there at the foot of the cross, and it always seems like that when the good trash men come on Monday and there it is. You just wheeled off, out, all of your garbage, stinky, smelly garbage, and someone just comes and says, “I’ll take that all for you.” What a Gospel picture those garbage men are.
Well, garbage is smelly. It has rotten food. Has in our household dirty diapers. There’s something about your own garbage is bad enough, other people’s garbage it’s like that. I don’t want to get too gross here, but it is like that. Moms, do you experience this? The dads do. When you change diapers, it’s bad enough changing your own kid’s diaper. You get to somebody else’s diaper, it’s just somehow it always smells worse.
Your own trash is bad enough. What would you think if someone was walking up and down your street on trash day, just sort of peering open, lifting up the lid, just [sound effect] getting the sniffer down in there, and just pawing around like a raccoon. You’d say, “That’s not right. That’s weird. That’s messed up. That’s not what people do. You’re an animal.”
When we’re judgmental, we’re scavengers. What’s going on in your life? Let me lift open the lid and try to see all the smelly garbage in your heart. Oh, I love to get in your rubbish.
That’s not what the Christian does, digging around in other people’s refuse, never allowing them to change, never giving them the benefit of the doubt. I think I’ve said before, better to get to heaven and find out that you were a little bit naïve about other people than that you were a lot bit cynical. That is to say, better to have given some people the benefit of the doubt and someday in heaven you realize, “Wow, I didn’t even, wow, and they were saying that behind my back,” than it is to have to find out, “Why was I so cynical of everyone all the time?”
We are not judges. We are the judged. That’s who we are. We will stand before God. That’s the picture. The measure you use will be measured to you. The judgment you pronounce will be judge. So understanding this passage correctly means understanding our identity. We are not the judges, we are the judged. You will stand before God. I will stand before God.
So the question, very powerfully, very simply, becomes this: Would you be happy for God to judge you by the same measure and in the same way you judge others? Be the sort of person no one can ever get it right with you. You always have a fault to find. You always have another criticism. You never allow them to change. You can never let bygones be bygones. You can never leave it in the past. Is that how you want God to judge you?
If we abuse Matthew 7:1 in a liberalizing direction, well, then we’re brainless. But if ignore Matthew 7:1, we’ll become heartless. Let us not be too soft nor too hard as Christians. We are not judges, we are the judged. Then you see the other part of our identity? Or how can you say, verse 4, to your brother. We’re not judges, we’re the judged. More than that, here He’s speaking to disciples, He’s speaking to Christians, we would say. He says more than that, do you know who you are? You’re family. Not pigs and dogs here, but brothers and sisters.
Jesus understands what families are like. Aren’t families the greatest source of joy. I mean, under the rubric of the Gospel, family is the greatest source of purpose and joy and all of that and, if we’re honest, it can be the greatest source of pain and heartache. What’s true of the natural family can be true of the family of God. Jesus understands that. That’s why He says you’re talking to your brother. This whole business with specks and logs, not just sinners somewhere out there. These are your own family members. Jesus understands there’ll be conflict in the family. There will be specks to be removed. There will be logs, too. And you’re going to be tempted to get snippy with each other, but He says, “Can I show you a better way? Can I show you a better way?”
Now, of course, this is just one small section in a larger sermon, and this sermon is just one section of discourse in a larger Gospel, and so we don’t have fully the answer here in these six verses of what that better way is, but we know from the rest of the Good News what it looks like. In essence, what Jesus wants to ask us is this: Are you willing to love as I have loved?
See, when we are profoundly judgmental people, it demonstrates that we have not really understood what it means to be justified people. When we are always sizing up other people’s sins, it shows that we have not understood how God has forgiven all of our sins. Can you love the way that you have been loved? God loved us while we were still sinners. He died for us when we were far from Him, when we were estranged from Him. He died for us not because we were lovely but in order to make us lovely. If anyone had good reason to judge us, He had every reason to judge us, and yet the judge Himself came down to earth as a man and died for the criminals that we might go free. Can you love as Jesus has loved you? Or do you want to give to others the very judgment that you would do well to fear should God judge you in the same way?
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, You have loved us with an everlasting love. You have not treated us as we deserve. You sent Your Son the Lord Jesus who had no logs in His eye, no specks even, and yet with gentleness He corrected us, and more than correcting, He died for us. So give us first of all to know Your great love for us, to understand the lavish Gospel Good News that is ours in Christ, and then relishing this love may we love others as You have first loved us. In Jesus we pray. Amen.