“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. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
(Matthew 7:1-6 NIV)
Let’s quickly review our journey so far… Living in the new righteousness:
– Matthew chapter 5: in relationship to God
– Matthew chapter 6: in relationship to ourselves
– Matthew chapter 7: in relationship to others
As we begin chapter 7, Jesus provides concluding remarks in His Sermon on the Mount.
His first topic? Judging others.
The Jewish mindset in Jesus’ day was all about externals – how you looked, how you acted, how you interacted with others. Judging of others was an intrinsic part to this self-righteous way of life. The Jewish rulers believed that you made yourself look better by comparing yourself to others.
Jesus shatters that illusion of self-righteousness by presenting a level of righteousness that even the Jewish rulers could not understand or measure up to – a standard that only God could fulfill.
When Jesus talked about judging others here, He was not speaking about doing away with courts of law, or settlement of disputes between people. He was talking about criticizing others, about having a critical spirit toward other people.
In verses 1 and 2, Jesus lays down the new standard of righteousness for living in community: God will use your own standard of criticism of others to criticize you. For the Pharisees and other religious rulers of Jesus’ day, this was a sobering statement.
In this statement, Jesus quickly re-establishes God as judge and jury for all mankind. By doing this, Jesus rolled back the terms of judgment that the religious rulers had established to make themselves look good, and established God and His Law as the basis of evaluation of all mankind.
Jesus instructs His disciples (and us) to always look at our own lives and judge ourselves first before judging others. Jesus draws an analogy from His carpentry trade, illustrating the absurdity of trying to remove a speck of sawdust from someone else’s eye when we have an entire plank in ours. Jesus calls them (and us) hypocrites for doing so, instructing us to always do self-examination before judging others.
Let me be careful here and say that Jesus is not all “feel-good, love only, no judgment, anything goes”. There is a time and a place for judgment of others, but most be done to help others walk more closely with the Lord, not for our own self-righteousness.
The apostle Paul captures this heart and spirit of judging others correctly when he writes to young Timothy the pastor:
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV)
Jesus provided the example of great care and compassion for others as He taught and encouraged others, correcting (judging) them when they strayed from God’s Laws and principles. Solomon had captured this same spirit hundreds of years before, when he wrote, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6 NIV)
Jesus treated the privilege of speaking into His disciples’ and others lives as a sacred trust – as a teacher, trust was paramount to His work. And Jesus finished this section by reminding His disciples of that sacred trust, and not to speak to those who do not see its immense worth and value. Jesus says doing so is like giving a gourmet meal to junkyard dogs, or a string of pearls to pigs – they do not recognize its worth, and will not only devour what you give them, but will then turn on you and attack you.
May we all be careful when we speak into others’ lives. Let us speak the truth, and do so in love, as we would wish others to do with us.