But some people cook and some know how to cook. For instance, some people get the recipe and follow it perfectly, making doubly sure everything is just right because they read it about five times – and that is before starting to cook! But others may cook many types of food filled with various ingredients without any printed recipe at all. Just add a dash of this, try a bit of that, and eventually, the item is done and ready to eat.
But the key to cooking – with a recipe or not – is to know which ingredients to use and how much of each is appropriate. I am often amazed when I look at certain recipes to think how someone came up with the right combination and cooking time. How many times did they fail before getting it right? Or to paraphrase Ben Franklin, “I didn’t fail, I just found 100 ways not to make it.”
Why do I talk about cooking and measuring ingredients? The goal is not to make you hungry, but rather to consider how we think about judging others. Do we just respond in the moment – usually irrationally and therefore in a hostile manner, or do we take time to measure our response? Contrary to what many believe, the Bible says that we are to judge, but like any good cook, we better beware of what measure we use when judging other people.
Properly Measured Judgment Requires Humility (Matt. 7.1-2)
Let me begin this portion with a very pointed question: Whom have you judged this week? The judgment could have been in any number of ways. Perhaps gossip was involved. Perhaps you thought of someone in a manner that degraded them in some way – especially not knowing the full situation. Perhaps, you are thinking it now or will by the end of this blog post with the thought: “Boy, I wish so-and-so would read this post.” Perhaps you are reading it because God needs you to heed this message!
I know I have had some of these thoughts this week. I can think of one man in a nearby town whom I judged for his not stopping at a sign on Thursday. It wasn’t that I judged his action as wrong, it was that I thought of him as a jerk for doing it.
And that example is how we must understand the first two verses of Matthew 7. The Greek word for judge is “krino” which has two primary meanings. It can mean to analyze or evaluate. It can also mean to judge and condemn. As we will see today, Christians are supposed to evaluate the actions of others and we are supposed to help others correct those actions, when necessary. However, we are not to condemn the person committing those actions. The right to condemn is God’s alone.
The reason we judge is because we put ourselves in authority over another person. Now, I am not saying that some do not have authority in many situations. I am saying that in judging we either feel superior to another person or we judge another person so we can feel superior.
Thus, we must be humble. Humility is important because we are not superior to other humans. Everyone is created in the image of God, just like us. God is superior; we are equals, at least before God. And that is why Jesus says we must not judge in the condemning way. Instead, Jesus invites us to help others by evaluating their needs as we will see in the next section.
Properly Measured Judgment Avoids Hypocrisy (vv. 3-5)
The metaphor Jesus uses in these verses is hilarious. If a cartoonist were to draw this, it might get quite the laugh. But the meaning of the statement is anything, but funny. Imagine if you went into an eye surgeon for a procedure and his/her vision was impaired because of a beam protruding from the eye. The word Jesus uses for the “log” (or “plank” in some translations) is like a support beam for a house. Consider the last point, wouldn’t we want this eye specialist to have the humility to get an eye exam before doing a procedure on someone else?
That is what Jesus is saying here. We often criticize others when our shortcomings far exceed theirs. This fact is especially true when considering the shortcoming of others against us compared to our shortcomings against God. Again, the idea of humility is present. And if we are not humble, then we are hypocrites.
We are hypocrites because of our sin.
Let me be blunt by considering Jesus words in this context. Do you worry? Then, you have a log in your eye because the preceding verses are Jesus commands not to worry. So, if you are worrying, regardless of what other sins you have or have not committed, you have no room to judge others until you remove the worry from your life!
We are hypocrites because of our bias.
Do we judge everyone the same? Very few people might, but for most, the answer is “of course not.” For instance, If a relative steals $100 from you would you seek the same justice as if the $100 had been stolen by a stranger while you were walking in a store? Would your answer be the same if you had $500 in assets vs. $5 million in assets. If the answer is no, then this is a form of hypocrisy. As humans we are not perfectly consistent in our dealings with others, and thus we are hypocrites.
So, a proper measurement of judging prevents us from being hypocritical. But the key to understanding these verses is found in verse 5. This verse is critical to our understanding this short passage. Again, many will quote verse 1 and say we are not to judge. But notice what Jesus says. We are FIRST to fix our own problem, and THEN we are to help the other person. That is, once the log is out of our eye, we have an obligation to help get the speck out of the other person’s eye. But that is the key. Our purpose must be to help, not to tear someone down. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4, we are not to let any unwholesome speech come from our lips, but instead we should speak what is profitable for building up others.
Properly Measured Judgment Maintains Clarity (v. 6)
Verse 6 is one of the strangest teachings of Jesus. The idea behind the verse is difficult enough, but its placement in the text makes a perfect understanding of this principle nearly impossible. Now, many will give their opinion on what Jesus means, and I will share my belief on this verse in a minute, but the number of reasonable explanations are considerable. For instance, I read five different commentaries that I trust this week, and they each had a different take on this verse. Do the dogs and pigs represent actual animals? What is the holy that should not be given to dogs? So, why do I use the word clarity if the verse is unclear?
Well, the idea behind Jesus’ words here is obviously about being discerning. That is, we must determine good from bad. We must take time to understand the situation before us and be good stewards accordingly. Although I certainly acknowledge the possibility that the dogs are literal dogs and the pigs are literal pigs, I believe it is more likely that these are metaphors for people who will not receive the type of correction Jesus commends in the preceding verses. If His teaching here is rejected, then it is likely that the entire Gospel will be rejected (if the holy refers to the Gospel, this is indeed a likely interpretation). Some will not only reject this teaching, but will turn in anger on the person trying to help and persecute them maliciously (i.e. the pig attacking).
This interpretation does not mean we do not share the Gospel with others. To not share is to judge another as not worthy of hearing it which is adamantly opposed to this section on not condemning others as well as standing in contradiction to the Great Commission. However, if the message is rejected, we must use discernment and remove ourselves from the situation (like when the disciples were instructed to kick the dust off of their feet). It does not mean that the person might not be saved at a later time, but if we keep badgering them when they are not ready, they may turn themselves away from God forever.
Again, many different ways to interpret this verse have been suggested, but in the context, I believe it must relate to providing correction to those in need. However, that correction should only be offered after we have made ourselves right with God first.
How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect this teaching?
The opposite of condemnation is forgiveness, which is what we must seek. Do you remember the words Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6.12, 14-15? We are to ask God to forgive us as we also forgive others. To condemn others is to ask for God to condemn us. Jesus says this explicitly several times in this sermon (including Matthew 7.2), but how quickly we forget.
I got blunt a few minutes ago by asking if you worried. Well, let me expand that bluntness here. Consider how large or small your log might be compared with Jesus teaching beginning in Matthew 5.21. Do you struggle with:
- anger against other people? (5.21-26)
- lusting after other people? (5.27-30)
- breaking the covenant of marriage? (5.31-32)
- lying or making promises you do not keep? (5.33-38)
- seeking to retaliate when wronged? (5.38-42)
- loving others who are against you? (5.43-48)
- bringing attention to yourself with your giving to others? (6.1-4)
- bringing attention to yourself in your prayers or prayer requests? (6.5-8)
- praying by simply reciting words rather than considering their meaning? (6.7, 9-13)
- not remembering the holiness of God’s name and character? (6.9)
- seeking your will over Gods? (6.10)
- being selfish in praying the Lord’s blessings rather than praying for the community? (6.11)
- not forgiving others? (6.12, 14-15)
- putting yourself in situations you know would displease God? (6.13)
- making more of your sacrifices than is truly warranted? (6.16-18)
- focusing on earthly matters instead of heavenly ones? (6.10, 19-24)
- worrying about life’s relatively minor aspects rather than seeking God’s kingdom first? (6.25-34)
If any of these are true, then in humility you need to seek the mercy of God? And that is the point Jesus makes here. No one, except Himself, could truthfully claim not to be at fault with at least one item in that list. And if you are like me, it is not just one item. I am guilty of many. So, in humility, to avoid hypocrisy, and to see with clarity, I must come before God and confess my sins before I have the right to pull the speck out of another person’s eye. I am to be critical of myself before I am critical toward others. But make no mistake, per Matthew 7.5 (and other passages like Galatians 6.1-2) we are to help one another with their problems too.
At the beginning of this message, I mentioned cooking and the way different cooks might handle various ingredients. In the Next Steps portion (below) I will give you are recipe for properly measuring your judging. It is a recipe I gave you before – back in the summer of 2014 during a series on what it means to be the church. I have re-evaluated the recipe against my present understanding of this Scripture and others and find no reason to change it.
The key for us to remember is that Matthew 7.1 – “Judge not, that you be not judged” – is not a verse in isolation. Neither is the full passage we reviewed today. These verses immediately follow Christ’s command to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. While the promise of “these things” being added relates to the text preceding the command, we cannot doubt that Matthew 7.2 and the measure of judgment we use relates to how well we are truly seeking God and His righteousness, not our own self-righteous desires. We must seek to be right with God before we seek to correct others. All of this is included in my recipe, but before I give you the recipe, let me reveal our JOURNEY letter today.
So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is: R – REVERE.
Condemning others is God’s right alone, we must remember our place and revere Him. We are to love others, which does mean we must correct them at times, but it also requires us to forgive them and show them mercy just as we seek to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Based upon today’s message, how can we raise the bar and live on earth as it is in heaven?
NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LOVE.
To judge with a proper measure depends upon our ability to love. Therefore, as Jesus later commanded, we must love. But in continuing to love, we must confront sin and injustice. In the summer of 2014, I gave you the following recipe for judging others based upon this text.
1. Have I come before God to make sure my vision is clear?
2. If I confront another person, am I seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness or my own?
3. Do I believe this person is a Christian?
a. Yes. Ask God how to approach the situation.
b. No. Ask God for His grace to be revealed in you so you are not seen as merely judgmental.
4. What does the Word of God say about the matter?
Following these guidelines does not guarantee that a confrontation of sinful behavior will go well, but it does mean you will be responding from a perspective of helping instead of one that is condemning.