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.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus moved from personal temptations to interpersonal temptations. He warned against inappropriate judging and commends appropriate evaluation. The warning not to judge doesn’t mean that we don’t use discernment, but it does mean that we stay out of matters that belong to God alone. In what areas of your life are you hypocritical? In what specific areas of your life right now do you need greater discernment?
1. A Two-Way Street
2. How Not to Be a Hypocrite
3. Dealing with Dogs and Hogs
The theological thrust of this passage centers around how the gospel shapes the way Christians interact with other Christians in regard to sin. Specifically, how should Christians confront other Christians about sin in their lives? This is an area of sanctification that Christians often neglect because of the potential for conflict.
The gospel of Jesus Christ provides two important services to Christians as they consider sin in the lives of their brother and in their own lives. First, when Christians consider the extent of grace that is found in the gospel, then they will call upon fellow Christians who are in sin to return to the author and finisher of their faith so that they may be conformed to the image of Christ. It is an act of love. Second, the gospel reminds Christians of their own desperate need of forgiveness and wretchedness before the Father, which will cause them to first examine their own hearts and then confront sin in their brother with a heavy dose of humility and grace.
One of the stark contrasts between Christians and non-Christians is the fact that Christians have a remedy for their guilty consciences and the fear of death. Christians can face their own sin with hope, non-Christians cannot. Gospel-saturated dealing with sin by Christians is a potent testimony to an unbelieving world and is an effective tool in the hand of the one true and living God to open the hearts of unbelievers to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What are the essential elements of camping? What are the things that you must have for a good campsite? There are all sorts of things that we might take along to make camping a better, more enjoyable experience. A tent could be helpful. Food is usually a good idea. Fishing poles might come in handy. But, there is one thing that is absolutely indispensable: a campfire. The cardinal sin of camping is to let the fire burn out. Furthermore, whoever is up first in the morning has one job, get the fire going strong. It isn’t usually necessary to start the morning fire back from scratch. There are almost always embers raked up in the wood ashes still smoldering. All it takes is a little bit of stirring and a bit more fuel to get the fire roaring again.
The early morning campfire provides a helpful illustration of the Christian’s battle against sin. We must remember that although a Christian is no longer a slave to sin, he continues to remain under the influence of sin. The Christian must still fight against the old nature, old desires, and old habits of disobedience. Like the early morning remnants of a campfire, a Christian still has the embers of sin raked up in the ashes of the old nature. Christians must be diligent to make sure that they keep these embers smothered and that they have no access to a fresh stirring and fuel to give them life.
In our passage today, we will consider one of the ways a Christian’s old wicked ways can flame up into the sin of hypocrisy. The overarching theme of Jesus’s teaching in this passage is the war between pride and humility in the heart of a Christian.
Hypocrisy is claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which your own behavior doesn’t match. In other words, it means that you don’t practice what you preach. Another word for hypocrisy is pretense.
In this passage, Jesus condemned judging that isn’t first self-applied. He was advocating for living that matches believing. In Christ, we have a new identity and that identity should lead to new living. Christians are people who have been transformed on the inside and are now reforming the outside. The medicine of the gospel begins its work on the human heart and always works its way out to behavior. The old, raked-up sin nature, however, bursts into flame if we aren’t careful. One common scenario in which this is particularly tricky is when Christians use judgment and discernment in regard to the sin of their fellow Christian. In this passage, Jesus exhorted his disciples to first be grieved for their own sin before pointing out the sin of others (Matt 5:3). Christians are to judge others only from a position of humility, repentance, and mercy.
1. A Two-Way Street (Matthew 7:1–4)
This teaching of Jesus rests between a warning against idolatry and an assurance of God’s sovereign working through prayer on behalf of his children. One thing is clear, the points that Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount are central to the Christian life. These are not ancillary issues that we may encounter from time to time. Jesus addressed the battles that Christians begin to fight the moment their eyes open in the morning.
According to Jesus, what happens when we apply a standard of judgment to someone else?
Jesus warned that “you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.” Many people read verse 7:1 and automatically conclude that Christians should never evaluate the life of another Christian. This, of course, is not what Jesus is teaching here. If all we had to go off of was Matthew 7:1, then one may reasonably conclude that any sort of judgment is off-limits, but the overarching teaching of Scripture expresses something different than that interpretation (including in Matt 7:2–6). So, we need to put aside the notion that Christians ought not to pass judgment on one another. Christians are, in fact, to be subject to one another (Eph 5:21), bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), speak truth to one another (Eph 4:25), encourage one another (1 Thess 5:11), and teach one another (Col 3:16). All of those activities require judgment and discernment. The New Testament is unambiguous about the fact that Christians are to judge and use discernment. (1 Cor 5:12; John 7:24; Phil 1:9)
If this isn’t a prohibition on judgment, then what is it?
The term “judgment” carries some very negative connotations in our culture today. As a result, the Word itself has become almost exclusively associated with pious, holier-than-thou, hypocritical condemnation. This is because much judgment is passed in this way. However, discerning judgment in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s actually a good, helpful, and necessary part of the Christian life. The problem comes when judgment is misused and abused, when it is passed from a position of superiority and condemnation.
This passage isn’t a prohibition on passing judgment, rather it is a prohibition on condemning judgment. James described this kind of judgment in this way: “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (James 4:11). Paul phrased it this way: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom 14:4).
Why should we avoid passing condemning judgment on our brothers and sisters?
Christians should not judge unto condemnation for three reasons. First, judging unto condemnation is God’s prerogative, not any man’s. No person has the ability to know the heart of another, thus they cannot rightly and confidently condemn them. Secondly, if another person is a brother or sister in Christ because they are depending upon the finished work of Christ on the cross as their hope of salvation, then they won’t be finally condemned. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and for someone to judge them unto condemnation then the judge is bearing false witness. Finally, Christians dare not judge a brother or sister unto condemnation because they themselves cannot stand under their own criteria. The Bible is clear that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and that none are righteous, not even one (Rom 3).
Application Question: When you evaluate the life of another Christian, do you do so with the finished work of Christ on the cross in mind? When you see the sin of another Christian do you desire for the Lord to work in their lives to bring them to repentance or do you have feelings of superiority and disdain toward them?
2. How Not to Be a Hypocrite (Matthew 7:5)
Christians must judge, evaluate, and discern all the time. This includes judging and evaluating the lives of other believers. If Christians didn’t do this, then they wouldn’t know how to love one another, encourage one another, and teach one another. However, this judgment and evaluation must be done with gospel-centered discernment.
What does it mean to judge with gospel-centered discernment?
It means that Christians should take stock of their own situation in order to gain a proper perspective on the sin of another. This is why Jesus told his followers to first “take the log out of your own eye” (v. 5). All Christians are in the same boat. None pass the background check. Every single one was guilty, condemned, spiritually dead, and under the wrath of God. How could any Christian think highly of himself when he has in mind that a shameful, brutal slaughter of the sinless Son of God was necessary that he might be saved? A self-righteous reputation crumbles to pieces when exposed by the blaring truth that proceeds from Golgotha’s hill. Those who judge with gospel-centered discernment do so with humility, repentance, and mercy.
Can you think of a parable Jesus told concerning showing mercy toward sinners?
The parable of the unmerciful servant is a shocking contrast of merciful discernment and condemning judgment (Matt 18:21–35). We don’t need to recount the entire story here, but let it suffice to summarize the spiritual lesson that we learn from it. We might say it this way: those who have been shown mercy ought to show mercy. Or we may relate it this way: it is good and fitting for those who have been shown great mercy to show great mercy to others. Of course, the opposite took place in the parable, and that is what is so shocking about it. It should be equally as shocking when a born-again believer condemningly judges his brother.
Christians have been shown great mercy by God the Father. Ephesians 2:4–5 sums it up like this, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Why should the mercy that God has shown us draw out our souls to show mercy to others? Richard Sibbes wrote, “We have this for a fountain of truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” This truth causes our hearts to leap with joy, but it doesn’t end there: Godward affection always leads to godly living. If we have truly experienced the mercy of God, then we will, however imperfectly, show mercy to others.
Application Question: How does the gospel change the way you view the sin of others? Do you think you would be more inclined to be merciful and humble with a brother’s sin if you are keenly aware of your own need for forgiveness? Why?
3. Dealing with Dogs and Hogs (Matthew 7:6)
In verses 1–5 Jesus prohibited Christians from judging other Christians unto condemnation as though they were God themselves and without sin. Further, he taught that Christians should evaluate and judge the sin of others with a humble, gospel-centered posture that is characterized by humility and mercy. When Christians have that perspective, then they can give good counsel and helpful reproof to their brother. Gospel-soaked confrontation of sin is a valuable thing within Christian fellowship. A Christian who has taken stock of his own situation and lovingly and humbly confronts sin in the life of a fellow believer is a wise reprover and is like a tree of life (Prov 25:12; 3:18).
What does Jesus prohibit in verse 6?
Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs.” The metaphor here is clear: it is a great waste of a precious thing to give it to someone who shows no appreciation for it, or, worse yet, despises it.
The point of this saying is that Christians who have the precious gift of humble confrontation of sin to offer, ought not to give it to those who show contempt for it. Jesus called on Christians to show discernment and rightly judge the character of another. If a person is unwilling to receive with thanksgiving something as valuable and precious as the humble, gospel-centered counsel, then it should be kept for a more appropriate audience.
Jesus provided here for Christians a rule to any who would seek to obey verse 5. A Christian’s commitment to speak the truth about sin to another must be guided by discernment and discretion. Christians should not go about giving counsel, rebuke, or comfort to one who is stiff-necked and scornful and will not benefit. These kinds of people will only be exasperated and enraged by that good gift. If you throw a pearl to a pig, he will resent it just as if you had thrown a common stone at him.
It is a misrepresentation of Jesus’s teaching to say that Christians should not judge. That isn’t true. Christians must judge, but they must do so rightly. Christians should not sit in the seat of judgment over other Christians as though they were God and without sin. Rather they should humbly discern, evaluate, and judge through the lens of the gospel and confront sin with humility and mercy.
- Are you more likely to see the sin of others or your own sin?
- How can you guard against judging unto condemnation and make sure that you practice gospel-soaked discernment?
- Do you know anyone who treats good counsel like a pig does a pearl? Do you treat good counsel that way?
Prayer of Response
Begin the time of prayer by acknowledging the fact that the one true and living God and that he is the Judge of heaven and earth. Recognize that it is appointed for people to die and then face the judgment. Give thanks that you will not face the judgment without a Mediator, an Advocate. Give joyful praise because Jesus, your Intercessor, has made the way for you to be right with God. Now, ask God to teach you to judge rightly, not as though you were God, but with humility and mercy knowing that you also are in desperate need of correction, forgiveness and mercy.
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed.