June 2nd, 2019
Disciples of Jesus should avoid having a judgmental spirit toward others by remembering their own need for grace.
Judging & Judgment (7:1-2)
We must begin by defining our terms and setting the context here. Why is the common cultural interpretation (don’t judge or evaluate or criticize anyone at any time) incorrect?
“Our Lord’s injunction to ‘judge not’ cannot be understood as a command to suspend our critical faculties in relation to other people, to turn a blind eye to their faults (pretending not to notice them), to eschew all criticism, and to refuse to discern between truth and error, goodness and evil” ~ John Stott
Two things helps us arrive at this conclusion:
Context: Jesus assumes throughout the Sermon on the Mount that his disciples are making evaluations and judgments (cf. 7:6, 15)
“This passage certainly does not command the sons of God, the disciples of Jesus, to be amorphous, undiscerning blobs who never under any circumstance whatsoever hold any opinions about right and wrong” ~ D.A. Carson
2. Definition of “judge” (krino): it can mean “to discern, evaluate, decide, consider” or more narrowly “to condemn” or to “be judgmental”
Jesus is warning his disciples against having a critical & judgmental spirit toward others, from a position of self-righteousness. He is essentially saying: don’t judge harshly, unfairly, or improperly.
This has less to do with the action of making judgments and far more about the posture and attitude by which we do so. Consider the difference between:
“Evaluating” vs. “Condemning”
“Making Judgments” vs. “Being Judgmental”
A critical and judgmental spirit is the lesser “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (cf. 5:20). It’s a posture of superiority and hypocrisy. But the danger is that all of us have a draw toward this “lesser righteousness”
How to know if we are falling into this warning:
We delight in judging others
We are quick to find faults and fixate on them
We do all of this to feel better about ourselves
When we take this posture toward others, we are playing God but without the credentials to be God. Jesus drives home this point with a sober warning in 7:2. “If we enjoy occupying the bench, we must not be surprised to find ourselves in the dock.” ~ John Stott
This is the same warning that Paul gives in Romans 2:1-4: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
Specks & Logs (7:3-5)
Jesus gives a vivid and humorous analogy to help us understand what he means. Jesus is communicating a few things in this picture:
Those who routinely take up the posture of condemnation and being judgmental toward others are far more aware of other’s sins than their own
This posture toward others makes us blind to our own sin, which is a much bigger deal than we could imagine (logs vs. specks)
This person is acting as a “hypocrite” because they are acting just like the scribes and the Pharisees; they are judging others while lacking wholeness themselves.
Jesus is inviting us to a new posture and a new way of relating to others. He is teaching us how to inhabit the Kingdom of Heaven. In this Kingdom, our own sin and our own need for grace should always be a greater concern (“log”) than what we perceive in others (“speck”).
Importantly, the speck in your brother’s eye is still an intruder! It should still be removed. But it is only appropriate to do so with precision, carefulness, and gentleness. When we view our own sin before the Lord as a greater deal than our brother or sister’s, now we are in a place to help others toward restoration.
Galatians 6:1: 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
Application: Who is our eye focused on? Are we overly concerned with what is going on in other’s lives? Or do we have a healthy awareness of our own need for daily grace?
Pearls & Pigs (7:6)
Jesus shifts the conversation away from a “brother” to one who is now outside of the family of God. “Dogs” are not domesticated pets, but wild animals and scavengers; “pigs” were considered unclean animals in Judaism (cf. 2 Peter 2:22).
The “pearl” elsewhere in the gospel of Matthew is clearly connected with the good news of the gospel and the Kingdom of God (cf. 13:45-46). In Judaism, it represented valuable and excellent teaching.
Dogs and pigs are most concerned about what they are going to eat; dogs don’t recognize “holy” meat as different than “unholy” meat; pigs can’t eat pearls, so it is useless to them. Instead of appreciating and treasuring the value of the pearl, it tramples on it and comes after you instead.
This suggests that we should move on from someone is persistently hostile, vindictive, hateful, and contentious over issues related to Jesus and the gospel (cf. Matt. 10:14, Paul in the book of Acts)
This connects to the prior teaching because it is an issue of rightly evaluating others. It also serves as a warning in the opposite direction: though we are not to be judgemental and condemning of others, we also shouldn’t act foolish and undiscerning in our relationships.
Applications of 7:6:
1) We should expect unbelievers to act like unbelievers
2) Our responsibility is to throw out the pearl, but it is God’s responsibility to changes hearts
3) There are times where we might need to move on from a hostile response to the gospel
The issue for most of us is not whether the pearl of the gospel is being “trampled.” Instead, we ought to ask the question: are we even offering the pearl to others at all? Just as remembering our own need for grace helps us have a right posture before others, it also serves as the motivator to love others by sharing with them the universe-shattering good news of the gospel.