Don't Judge Others
Passage: Matthew 7:1–7:6
We're gonna jump back into the Sermon on the Mount. It's been a while since I've been here. Last week I was in Turkey. I was here on Sunday; we'd just gotten back. I had an amazing mission trip with Bob and Jennifer Patton to Turkey to work among Iranian refugees. I'll share more on that in the weeks to come, but man, I'm just glad to be back.
You know, we use the phrase "Gospel-centered" a lot at Providence. What does that really mean? It means that the gospel is truly central to everything we do. And so what does it look like when we're gospel-centered, when the gospel truly infuses a people? And I think the Sermon on the Mount is essentially Jesus showing us that. Every week we've been saying that the Sermon on the Mount is basically Jesus detailing for us what life in the kingdom of God should look like.
So He's sharing, Here's what ought to happen if the gospel really impacts you. First of all, it affects your character. So He starts with the Beatitudes, right? It affects your influence. So He talks about being salt and light in the world. It affects your righteousness, in that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the scribes, who only have an outward righteousness. And then it affects our piety; we talked about the Lord's Prayer. It affects our ambition, that we are to pursue first the kingdom of God, and that we're to store up treasures for ourselves in Heaven. And that's what we've looked at the last couple of weeks at the end of Matthew 6.
And so now, in chapter 7, I believe Jesus is just carrying along that idea, and how the gospel affects the way we relate to others. The way we relate to our Christian brother or sister, or even to those on the outside. So I think He starts right off with a brother or sister who we see is in sin, and how we are to respond.
So let's read in Matthew chapter 7, verse 1-6. Jesus says,
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 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? 4 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? 5 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.
6 “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.
All right, so let's walk through this. First of all, I believe that what He's gonna tell us is that we are not to be a judge. That's my first point. Don't be a judge. That's verses 1 and 2. He says, “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."
Now let's be clear. First of all, what is NOT being forbidden here in the command, "Do not judge your brother"? First of all, it doesn't mean that we suspend our critical faculties -- that we're just to turn a blind eye to people's faults. It doesn't mean that we no longer discern between what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, what is true and what is error.
First of all, the Sermon on the Mount itself begs that we use our critical faculties, and we're able to critique. Otherwise how in the world are we going to strive after a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees if we don't have our critical faculties still at work? Obviously, He's going to go on later in Matthew 7 and say that we're to beware of false prophets. So, yes, we are to critique what people are doing and saying.
It also doesn't mean that we're never to confront a brother or sister in their sin. That's clear throughout scripture. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 makes it abundantly clear. Actually Paul uses the word "judge" when he tells the Corinthians that they're tolerating a man who's in this sexually immoral lifestyle in their church. And he's basically saying that they need to deal decisively and quickly, they've got to deal strongly with this man.
And basically he says, When I told you not to associate with sexually immoral people, he clarifies, I wasn't talking about those outside the church, but in fact those inside the church. And then he says this: "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. 'Purge the evil person from among you.'”
So you might say, Wait a minute, is Paul contradicting Jesus? He's just told us that we're to judge the one inside the church, and Jesus said, Do not judge your brother. So are these contradicting? I would say, if you really study 1 Corinthians 5, and what we see later here in Matthew 7, I think they are NOT contradicting one another. In fact, what's happening in 1 Corinthians 5, again, is that Paul is saying that you've got to deal decisively. Here's the heart behind it: Yes, you confront your brother in sin, but the heart behind it is that that brother would repent and be restored.
So He's not forbidding us from confronting one another in sin. But what IS He forbidding? I believe that what He's forbidding is that we are not to sit in judgement over our brother in a censorious way -- that is, in a disparaging, in a condemning way. We're not to pass judgment from a supposed place of superiority. In other words, what Jesus is forbidding here is taking the place of God. He's forbidding an attitude that claims competence and ability to render judgment over one's fellow brother or sister.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 14:4: "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls." So that verse reminds me that not only am I not God, to render judgment over my brother, but number 2, he's not MY servant. He belongs to God, and God is the one he's accountable to, and God's the one who can REALLY see into his heart and render judgment.
So what's being condemned here and forbidden here, again, isn't to confront your brother in love. You ARE to do that. It's the arrogance of passing judgment on someone. We can't take the place of God, because only God can truly see the hearts of people and discern their thoughts and motives.
And by the way, we can't even do that for ourselves. We can't even truly discern our own hearts' motives. In fact, Paul does that in 1 Corinthians 4:1 when he addresses the Corinthians when they're judging him over and against Apollos. He says, "This is the way we (Paul and Apollos) should be regarded: We should be regarded as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." And then he goes on to say (verses 3-5), "With me it's a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact (and here it is), I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself. But I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time (there it is), before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now disclosed in the heart."
So what Paul is saying is, Look, I can't even look into my own heart and truly know the motives and the thoughts behind my actions. And so he's saying, Look, it's clear: If we can't even read our own hearts and assess our own motives well, how in the world do we think that we can pass judgment on our brother or sister? How many times have we been guilty of passing judgment BEFORE the TIME (that's the key phrase)? You know what I mean? We pass judgment on people before really seeking to understand what's going on in their life; what truly is going on in their heart and in their situation, that's informing the way they're acting this way, or maybe not acting this way. We can't play the part of God. We truly don't know what's going on, and we pass judgment.
The story I always think of is when my good friend Jeff Johnson, a worship leader -- he and I and his band went on a multi-city tour where he was playing and I was speaking. We were on our way to another city. We stopped at a restaurant to eat lunch. Jimmy, the bassist, went to use the restroom and goes into the stall. He closes the door, and all of a sudden, he hears from the stall next door to him, the guy goes, "Hey, how're you doing?" And he's thinking, Uh, are you serious? This guy's gonna start a conversation with me, from the stall next door? And he says, "Uh, doing pretty good."
Then he hears the guy say, "So what have you been up to today?" And he's thinking, This guy's nuts. So he says, "Well, uh, just been driving with my band across the state, and we just stopped in for lunch."
And all of a sudden he hears the voice say, "Honey, I'm gonna have to call you back. I think this guy next to me thinks I'm talking to him."
So that's a clear illustration: Do not pass judgment, because you don't know what's really going on. You can't play the part of God.
And we do that, don't we? The greatest example for me in the Bible is Jonah. You've heard me talk about Jonah a lot. Remember in Jonah 4 when God does not destroy Nineveh because the Ninevites repented? Jonah was upset. It's interesting to me that the word used in the original language in Jonah 4, that Jonah called what GOD did, evil.
So Jonah not only sat in judgement over the Ninevites, but he actually sat in judgment over God. He said, God, you were evil to relent in destroying them. You were evil to NOT destroy them. So he renders judgment on God. This is what we do. This is the arrogance of taking the throne of God, taking the place of God.
That's why it says in verse 2, For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged. Now, again, let me be clear, this doesn't mean, Well, man, if I'm gonna be judged with the judgment I do, then I'm just not gonna judge anyone. I'm not gonna confront anyone, so that I won't be judged.
No, that's not the teaching there. The rationale is clear. He's saying, If you pose as a judge, you cannot plead ignorance of the law that you claim to be able to administer before God.
So the idea is the same as what James teaches in his epistle in James 3:1, when he says, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." This scares the snot of me, that verse. We're going to be held to a higher standard, those who teach. We can't claim ignorance of the law.
But again, the warning isn't against confronting; the warning is against standing in judgment over my fellow brother or sister.
So in summary, it's not a requirement to be blind; it's not a requirement to not confront. It's a plea to be generous in our thoughts and in our judgments toward our brother or sister. It's to renounce the presumptuous ambition to be God and quickly pass judgment.
When we were in Turkey, I know I shared with you that Farsheed was with us, who was released after 5 years in prison in Iran. He was at this conference. So in some ways, among the Persians, Farsheed kind of a rock star. Everyone knows his story; everyone's been praying for him, everyone wants to meet him. And there was a man there who came up to Farsheed. This man had been in prison for a year in Iran. And he just confessed to Farsheed, man, I've got bitterness. Because I was in solitary confinement, I was one year in prison, and no one knows about me. No one's been applauding me. Everyone's been applauding you and talking about you. He just confessed this to Farsheed.
Now here's what I'm thinking. In my flesh, if I'm Farsheed, I'm thinking, okay, bro, you wanna compare? FIVE years to one year. You really want to go the comparison route? Or maybe in my flesh I would have wanted to rebuke him and say, Bro, really, is that what it's all about, to get applause from people? Is this what it's about?
But Farsheed didn't do that. He put his arms around this guy and hugged him and started crying and said, Man, I'm so sorry for what you went through, and praise the Lord that you stood strong for Jesus. And he prayed for him.
And I was just blown away. That's the heart here. You don't pass judgment over people.
So, number one, He's saying, Don't be a Judge, and then number 2, very clearly here, He says, don't be a hypocrite. Not only are you not to take the place of God and pass judgment, but you're not to be a hypocrite. Look what He says:
Matthew 7:3-4 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? 4 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?
By the way, Meredith told me there was a Christian band called "Plank Eye." Is that true? That's the worst name ever.
So anyway, this whole speck and log illustration is obviously Jesus using hyperbole to make a strong point here. It's just like what He did in Matthew 5 when he said, If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out; if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Right?
And so what He's saying here is basically, look, it's ridiculous for you to want to take the speck out of your brother's eye when you have a huge honking log in your own eye. And this is the essence of hypocrisy. In Matthew 23 Jesus blasts the scribes and Pharisees and He calls them "hypocrites over" and over again. And listen to how He explains what they're doing. At the very beginning of Matthew 23 in verses 1-4, he says this about the scribes and Pharisees. He calls them hypocrites, "for they preach and do not practice." There it is. "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move with their own finger."
So that's the heart of hypocrisy, that you preach something to others, but you yourself aren't practicing it. So this is what Jesus is confronting. First, He confronted our hypocrisy in relation to God, that we practice our righteousness in order to be seen by others. Now, he's confronting our hypocrisy in relation to others. That we are pointing out people's minor faults when we have huge, serious offenses in our own lives that we're not dealing with.
And, friend, can be just be honest today? We do this all the time. We are experts at maximizing and exaggerating others people's faults, and minimizing our own. We do it all the time.
So this is why I think Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying. In Luke 18:9, it says, He told the parable to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. So He says, this Pharisee is praying, maximizing himself, saying, "God, thank you that I do all these things, that I tithe, that I fast, that I give to the poor, and thank you that I am not like this tax collector." And that's what he does, he maximizes his own virtue, his own righteousness, and then he maximizes this tax collector's sins.
And that's what we do often. And the truth is, we're quick to judge others, because we see our own offenses in them. And we're kind of vicariously judging them. Instead of repenting for our own sin, we're quick to judge. Think of the thief on the cross who was yelling at Jesus: If you're really the Son of God, why don't you take us off this cross?" And remember, the other thief goes, "What are you talking about? We deserve to be on this cross. He's done nothing and he's being crucified."
We're so quick to try to point the finger and not look at ourselves. So don't miss what is being drawn out here for us. In the first place, we are not to pass judgment on people, because our judgment itself is faulty, because we're not God and we can't discern the motives and the hearts of people.
But in the second sense, He's saying, "You can't sit in the seat of the judge, because not only is your judgment fallible, but you yourself are fallible." You yourself are a sinner. And this is why Jesus' illustration is meant to be ridiculous. Can you imagine somebody performing surgery on another person's eye, to take a speck out, when they have a huge stinking log in their own eye? It's meant to say, How ridiculous would that be? He's trying to say, You're not qualified for that surgery. It's like that commercial. Remember that commercial where the doctor's performing surgery, and he's like, "Are you a doctor?" and he says, "No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn." You're not qualified for this surgery.
What He's saying is that, You are not qualified to help this brother because you yourself have not repented, and you are in gross sin yourself. And you've gotta deal with it.
And so what we must do, friends, is we must apply as strict and critical a standard to ourselves as we are quick to apply to others. And we must do for ourselves, really what Jesus did for those teachers of the law who wanted to stone the woman who was caught in adultery. Remember, in one statement He turned them inwards into their own hearts. He said, "Let him who is without sin throw the first stone."
So I think that's what we need to do for ourselves, we need to ask God to do. We need to turn inward and look at our own heart, and again, judge ourselves with as strict a standard as we quick to judge others with. That's why in 1 Corinthians 11: 31, Paul says, "But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged." So, if you judge yourself that way, friend, two things happen. First of all, you are going to escape the judgment of God.
But second of all, you are going to be in a position to now, humbly and gently, help your brother who is straying. You can clearly see to take the speck out of his eye because you have first done surgery on your own eye, so to speak.
And so that leads me to my third point: Don't be a judge, don't be a hypocrite, but then thirdly and lastly, Be a Brother. Be a Sister. In other words, be a loving brother or sister to your fellow brother or sister. He says, "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." (verse 5)
So again, the fact that Jesus is forbidding us from being a judge or hypocrite does not release us from the responsibility to our brother and sister to lovingly correct them. But again, once we have first have had some self-criticism and self-correction in our own life before God, then we are now in position to humbly move to correct and criticize, in a good way, our brother or sister, to lead them to repentance.
But again, Jesus is clear that we're to confront. He's gonna go on in Matthew 18 to say, If your brother sins against you, verse 15, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. And if he listens to you, you have gained your brother. If you keep following Matthew 18, it shows the process of church discipline. Again, the heart is, that that brother would ultimately repent and be restored. It's a loving move. It's not a move of looking down and passing judgment in a disparaging way.
So the aim is love. The aim is not to build myself up over my brother or sister, to pass judgment on them. My desire is to humble myself in gratitude to God for the grace He has shown me, and to extend that grace to others as I speak, yes, the truth -- but in love.
So I think the key text that comes right alongside Matthew 7 that shows us the importance of this is Galatians 6. So if you would quickly turn to Galatians 6 as we come to a close, I want you to see this in Galatians 6:1-5. Now listen to what Paul writes here:
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
Let me explain this quickly. So when he starts off, "You who are spiritual," this isn't the elite class of Christians. It means you who are not walking according to your flesh, wanting to pass judgment on people quickly. "You who are spiritual" means you who are walking in the Holy Spirit. In other words, you are sensitive as the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your own sin. And then the Holy Spirit is guiding you in love toward your brother. THAT person is qualified now, here it is, to RESTORE in a spirit of gentleness.
So this is how you see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in someone's life. Again, they're not seeking to disparage someone, but to build them up, to move them towards repentance. And then he says, all the while, you're keeping watch on yourself. In other words, you constantly know that you are susceptible, that you're capable of the same sin. And then he says, Bear one another's burdens, and you fulfill the law of Christ. The law of Christ is to love your neighbor as yourself. So again, I say, the same criticism you're quick to put on others, you put on yourself, and the same generosity you want, you show to them. Move in grace.
And then, this is interesting. In verse 4 he says, "But let each one test his own work and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor." Let me explain that. Does this mean that I'm going to boast in myself? It seems confusing. But he's saying that if you're gonna measure yourself, don't take the works of others as your standard of measurement. In other words, don't get puffed up because your brother is failing in an area that you're not. He's saying, measure yourself by the law of Christ. Then if you have anything to boast of, it's not gonna be because of your brother's failure. That's what he means there.
And then in verse 5, which says Everyone's going to bear their own load, it seems to contradict verse 2, which says "Bear one another's burdens," What he's saying is that you are going to be accountable for what you have done. In other words, just because your brother has sinned more than you, doesn't lessen your load before God.
So Galatians 6 lines up beautifully with Matthew 7. The whole Galatians 6:1-5 is saying, Don't think of yourself so high and mighty. Go in a spirit of humility before God, knowing that you're susceptible to the same sin, and walking in the Spirit, you're able to gently restore your brother.
So this is the main idea, friends: Someone who has the gospel is not seeking to be judgmental. We understand that we're not God; we cannot discern the hearts and minds of people. We know that God showed us mercy, and we want to move in that like manner.
So one concluding thought here, back in Matthew 7. Verse 6 seems kind of strange, when it says "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearl before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and then turn to attack you." What's that all about?
I could say a whole lot about this, but very quickly what I think the heart of verse 6 is, because it does seem strange coming after verses 1 through 5. Verse 6 is basically saying, look, when you go to speak truth and love, there are going to be some who are going to repeatedly, over and over again, defiantly reject the truth and reject the gospel. And friends, there are certain (and I would say very rare) cases that you have to, in love, shake the dust off your feet, as Jesus teaches His disciples to do. Because the gospel, the truth that you have is so precious, and to see them continually reject it, and their hard heart, and I would say, knowing that there are so many others who need it and who WANT to hear it, and are hungry for it, in love, again, you are to shake the dust off your feet and move on. That's what verse 6 is saying.
Again, friend, I think our mode of operation should be to be long-suffering with people. In fact, if you want to do something to a fault, be long-suffering to a fault. Why? Because Jesus was long-suffering to us. But again, in certain rare cases, because maybe 95% of your time and energy is being sucked away to one situation, He's saying it makes sense, out of love, to move on. And that's what's being taught here.
And so, friends, all throughout this, you see that if you really have the gospel, this is the way that you are to deal with your brother or your sister who has fallen into sin. Not to be a judge and pass judgment over them, but seeking to understand, seeking to move in grace. Not to be a hypocrite, but first starting with yourself so that you can truly move and clearly see their sin. Then, ultimately, your desire is to see them turn and repent.
Here's how Chrysostom said it: "Correct him, but not as a foe, nor as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing medicine. Yes, and even more, as a loving brother anxious to rescue and to restore." Let's pray.
Jesus, we love You. Lord, we thank You for this text. God, I pray that we would turn our hearts to You. I pray if there are any here who do not truly know You, that they would see that what we're talking about, the Good News of Jesus, is that when we deserved punishment, and when we deserved the judgment of eternal punishment, that in love and grace You moved. Jesus, You lived a sinless life, and You died on the cross and You took the punishment that we deserved, so that we can be approved and accepted and loved and received by God, when we truly deserved punishment. And Jesus, thank You for that gospel. And if there are any here who do not know the truth of that gospel, would You draw their hearts to You.
And Lord, again, those of us who do, God, would you humble us? Would you give us a spirit of reverence and fear, knowing that we are sinners and are susceptible to the most unthinkable sins. So, Lord, let that be the way we move, to confront one another in grace and in love, to speak the truth in love. And God, reject in us any spirit of pride that seeks to puff ourselves up over a brother or sister. God, I pray that if there are any here who are literally thinking of maybe someone they need to go speak to in love, or maybe even ask for forgiveness, because of a judgmental attitude, may we not just hear this and walk out the door. May we even now commit to taking the steps we need to take to love our brother and sister well.
We love You and need You. In Christ's name we pray, Amen