Perhaps no text of Scripture is more widely abused than our text this morning. It is one that I would wager that every person in America can quote, and in King James at that. Say it with me, “Judge not, that ye be not judged…”
Matthew 7:1-6 NLT
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. 6 “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
Almost every time that I hear someone quote this passage it is coming from someone who has just been told something is sinful. In fact, it seems to be the popular response to the concept of sin. Another popular response is to say, “Only God can judge me.” Well, you are correct and I can guarantee you that He will, either at the Bema Seat of Christ or the Great White Throne.
Now, we have spent the past 4 months going through the Sermon on the Mount and there has been one overarching theme thus far, self-righteous religion vs saving faith. That being the case, we probably need to ask the question, “what kind of judging was Jesus talking about?” Well let’s look at an example. Turn, in your Bibles, to a very familiar parable that Jesus told, Luke chapter 18. We see the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Luke 18 and let’s pick it up at verse 9,
9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Just look at the Pharisee’s words. They drip with self-righteousness. They drip with self-righteousness. I repeated it for emphasis. I can relate to the Pharisee, maybe you can too. It is easy to live a basically moral life and think of yourself as better than others. It is this kind of hypocritical judgment that the world responds to and throws this judgment back in the faces of Christians and it is this hypocritical kind of judgment that Christ is warning against.
Some background thoughts from John MacArthur, “Unrighteous and unmerciful judgment is forbidden first of all because it manifests a wrong view of God. With the phrase lest you be judged, Jesus reminds the scribes and Pharisees that they are not the final court. To judge another person’s motives or to curse to condemnation is to play God. “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). During the millennial kingdom Christ will share some of that judgment with us (Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 6:2; etc.), but until that time we blaspheme God whenever we take upon ourselves the role of judge. “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” Paul asks. “To his own master he stands or falls” (Rom. 14:4). Paul was little concerned about how other people judged him, and was not even concerned about how he judged himself. “I am conscious of nothing against myself,” he says, “yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:3-4).
Except as they may be continually teaching false doctrine or following standards that are clearly unscriptural, we are never to judge a person’s ministry, teaching, or life—and certainly not his motives—by a self-styled standard. “Do not speak against one another,” James warns us. “He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12). Such evil judgment is blasphemous, because it sets a man up as God—and there is only one true Judge.
Whenever we assign people to condemnation without mercy because they do not do something the way we think it ought to be done or because we believe their motives are wrong, we pass judgment that only God is qualified to make.
I want to digress for a moments and to take that few minutes to dig into Greek a little bit. The word that is translated at judge is krino. This is verb which means to judge/determine/esteem/call into question. It has two derivatives that merit some remarks, diakrino and anakrino.
Diakrino means to separate, make a distinction, doubt, discriminate, to prefer and anakrino means to investigate/evaluate/make a determination.
When used in the NT diakrino is used in reference to doubt (Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23), in reference to a dispute (Acts 11:12) and in judging and showing partiality (James 2:4).
Anakrino, however, is what I want to focus on this morning.
In Luke 23:14, anakrino is used to describe Pilate’s examination of Jesus.
Anakrino comes up in Acts chapter 4 and specifically Acts 4:9 when the Apostles appear before the Sanhedrin
In 1 Corinthians 4:3-5, Paul sets the standard for us. He appeals to the Lord’s judgment rather than man’s
Here are some more references for your personal study. Acts 12:19 Acts 17:11 Acts 24:8 Acts 28:18 1 Corinthians 2:14 1 Corinthians 2:15 1 Corinthians 9:3 1 Corinthians 10:25 1 Corinthians 10:27 1 Corinthians 14:24
Let’s turn back to this mornings text…
So many Christians use Matthew 7:1 as a proof text to suggest that we should never pass any judgment of any kind and I can understand how they would come to that conclusion. In our culture, we seem to have an 11th commandment, “Thou shalt be nice and never make anyone feel bad.” The trouble is that concept is not biblical.
As I alluded to earlier, the kind of judgment that Jesus is talking about is self-righteous criticism, and especially hypocritical judgmentalism. Did you ever hear this sentence, “I don’t go to church because it’s full of hypocrites?” You hear that sentence becasue the church is just as guilty of misunderstanding and incorrectly applying this passage of Scripture as the world.
So what exactly is Jesus talking about here? I don’t like to give lists but I am going to do so today. I want to suggest three lessons from this passage…
- Know the right kind of judgment to make. The first judgment you need to make is whether or not a person is a fellow believer or if they are someone who needs the Gospel. Jesus gave us at least two examples of how to arrive at this conclusion. Later in Matthew 7, He tells us we will know fellow believers by their fruit (verse 16). Notice that no mention is made of how much fruit, just that it is there. Why? Every fellow disciple you meet will have different levels of maturity and thus, they will have different amounts of fruit. Because of that, we have John 13:35, “By this will all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one for another.” This is the first-fruit of our conversion. We love fellow believers just as we love Christ and His word.
- Don’t be a hypocrite.Verses 3-5 of our text, 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eyewhen you have a log in your own?4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Let me put that in a little more modern context…Don’t lecture someone about stealing while cheating on your taxes or taking home office supplies. Don’t lecture someone about healthy living while gorging on fried chicken and cupcakes. Don’t bash the homosexual while using pornography. Don’t oppose capital punishment while being pro-choice on abortion.
Nothing is a bigger turn off to the world than when we lecture someone hypocritically. I am not saying that you should never rebuke a sinner; what I am saying is that you should be sure that there is tangible evidence of your own progression in conforming to Christ before you do. Let me phrase that another way: We are called to make disciples and part of that process is mentorship. When you talk to another about their sin, it is imperative that you know what the Bible says about the particular sin that you are discussing.
Discipleship is all about relationships and you cannot hide whether or not you are truly interested in another person’s spiritual well being or not. When you talk about sin with others, and you should do so regularly, it is important to come from a position of a relationship with the person. That does not mean that you should not share your faith with a stranger but you need to quickly develop a relationship with them.
- The self-righteous will turn on you so don’t be surprised when they do. Verse 6, “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
I face more opposition from inside what is allegedly the Church than I do from the world. I preach against sin, and I am called harsh and judgmental. I preach against the Word of Faith movement and I am called narrow minded and a legalist. I preach Cessationism because it is biblical and I am told that I deny the Spirit’s power. Ironically enough, I do those things, not to deny His power but because of it. Because His love for His people flows through me, as a minister, I preach the Bible. If I really love you, how could I do otherwise?
Do I really believe that the self-righteous will turn on you? Well, just look at what they did to Jesus. He was not one of them. He was full of the Holy Spirit, of the Scripture and so was full of power and they turned it into a murderous rage. Do you really think it will go any better for you? Think again; the servant is not greater than his Master (Matthew 10:24, John 13:16, John 15:20). At my secular job, most of my colleagues do not use my name, if they even know it. To them, I am “that preacher person,” which they meant as a pejorative but I try to turn it into a badge of honor.
At the very least, you are going to be slandered for your faith. That ought to sound familiar to you; we have heard it before. Matthew 5:11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.”
So what does it all mean?
Our text is not prohibiting making any kind of decisions; it isn’t even prohibiting discerning. The point Jesus is making is that when you deal with another person, we are not to make rash judgments and we are not to make judgments that only God is qualified to make. Make a decision about whether or not you need to share the Gospel with them; even make a decision on your relationship with them but always be sure that your judgments are Gospel centered and geared toward the spiritual well being and growth of the person you find yourself judging.