Matthew Lesson #042
July 13, 2014
Matthew 7:1 NASB "Do not judge so that you will not be judged."
The focal point of this passage is on condemning others. It is unfortunate that the first verse has been translated "Do not judge", because the word "judge" has a wide variety of connotations. What is being emphasized here is not the connotation of evaluating or critical thinking, the idea of self-righteous condemnation of others.
Matthew 7:2 NASB "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you."
The point that he is making is, when you exercise a self-righteous condemnation of others there will be a judgment in kind, a divine discipline that is brought to bear on us in relation to our own judgmental attitude.
Then in vv. 3-5 the issue is that we should not be so self-absorbed that we don't identify the problems in our own lives before we try to help others. Note that there is nothing said that we shouldn't help others or that we shouldn't at times point out the flaws or failures in others. But it should be after we have dealt with issues in our own lives, because we have to develop humility. In Galatians 6:1 we are told: "… you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness". He is to correct a brother who is in spiritual failure, not out of self-righteousness, not outside of a context of a relationship. There are too many people who are busybodies who just want to run around and straighten people out. But this is in the context of relationship—within the context of marriage, of friendships, and families.
One of the things that has been very popular in western civilization over the last hundred years, especially the last fifty years, is psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and talk therapy, all of which is designed to help people who have problems. And as I went through a number of years after seminary investigating, studying, looking to see if anything was of value in counseling, counseling techniques, and all of this, the one thing that kept impressing itself on me is that a psychotherapist is a paid friend. We live in a culture where people don't have intimate friendships anymore. Everybody is in a hurry; nobody has someone who they can really confide in, somebody they can talk with about things they are facing. And so things build up and build up until people have various crises in their own lives, and then they have to go pay somebody to be a friend who will listen to them and then tell them how to work their way out of their problems.
Within the body of Christ there is a built-in framework for that if we have built that framework of relationship. It is not outside of that. I don't want people to get he wrong idea that we are to go around and help other people with their problems. We are, but within that context of relationships that have already been there. It is not somebody you just casually know from church, or somebody just run into every now and then; but as you have developed and built relationships with people over time. Then we have established a foundation of trust, of confidence, of privacy, and a foundation where w e truly respect one another and are willing to help one another. Then we go into all of those passages we have studied in the past related to the mandates for one another in the Christian life. We are to pray for one another, encourage one another, admonish one another, and help strengthen one another. It is in that context of having built friendships within the body of Christ wherein that can take place. Otherwise what happens is we simply become self-righteous busybodies who run around trying to straighten everybody else out without really understanding what those dynamics are, and this is where you en up with a superficial form of religion as there was with Pharisaism.
Matthew 7:3 NASB "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?"
The idea of a speck is a piece of straw, a piece of dust, in contrast to the other person who has a large problem (illustrated by the plank metaphor), a plank in his own eye.
Matthew 7:5 NASB "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."
Notice He doesn't say you don't help them with their problem. He says first you have to have the humility and the dependence upon God and the spiritual growth to deal with your own problems and challenges, and then once we have done that we have the framework for helping others.
A great example that I have seen in this congregation is that we have a number of ladies who over the last ten years—a number of widows, and some who were widowed prior to that—who are a great support group for one another. When one has gone through the loss of a husband she has an understanding of what a person experiences going through that grief process. So when this happens to another lady whose husband dies then there is a mature understanding where they can help them as they work through the challenges they are facing as they are facing grief.
The problem is when we get sucked into judgmentalism and self-righteousness because of our sin nature. It is so important to understand the dynamics of our own sin nature. We are motivated by a lust pattern that is really a seed of arrogance in our sin nature. We are just so self-absorbed. We have areas in our life where we are very moral. It is called an area of strength where we perform good works, we are not tempted in those particular areas, and so we don't quite understand what it is like when other people succumb to sin in those areas. And that is when we really get tempted to judge others. We see somebody else across the congregation succumb to some sin, some temptation, and as a result we get up on our arrogant high horse and judge and condemn them. That is what Jesus is countering in this passage, and that is a sin. We all commit personal sins. We all have areas where we are very prone to commit personal sins and we have other areas where we are not.
There are sins in three categories: mental attitude sins, sins of the tongue, and overt sins. Mental attitude sins are sins such as anger, jealousy, envy—any of those can be the motivation for judging other people and condemning them. So when we judge somebody and are being condemnatory of them that is a sin of the tongue, but it is instigated by a mental attitude sin. Those sons can trend into two different directions. The trend in one direction is identified as moral degeneracy. It is indicated by asceticism and legalism. This is the track on the Pharisaical side. They were moral degenerates. They were so self-righteous they though they were superior to anyone else, and this led to these sins of being judges of others.
On the other hand there are those who have a trend toward licentiousness or lasciviousness or antinomianism. They now and say I have no hope of ever really being moral. People like that generally are not that judgmental because they know that they have so many weaknesses in their life. People who have a trend in that direction also can have a little easier time understanding grace, being grace oriented and being humble.
Behind this we have the dynamic of the arrogance skills. We are all self-absorbed; that is how we come out of the womb. We are focused on just me; it's all about me. It is like the speech that our president (Obama) gave two or three days ago in Texas. In a fifteen-minute speech he mentioned 'I' or 'my' 199 times. That is self-absorption; that is narcissism. We get so focused on ourselves that we indulge our every whim. When we are self-indulgent we are oblivious to other people and other people's problems and situations. The more indulgent we are the more we seek to justify and rationalize our actions. We become blinded to our won flaws and failures, at which time we set ourselves up as judges of everyone else. It is everyone else's fault, it is everybody else's problem, not mine at all, at which point we have come into self-deception. At that point we can no longer see reality for what it is. We can no longer understand what is right and what is wrong or what the distinctions are because we are living in a fantasy world of our own making. We have made ourselves God—the fifth arrogance stage. And when we are judging others in this sort of self-absorbed way of condemnation we are putting ourselves in the place of God. That is the issue here. We are assuming we know people's inner thoughts, their motivations, we understand everything about their life, and so we can stand in judgment of them; but we have no basis for doing that.
So Jesus begins by saying, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged." He uses the word KRINO, which basically means to judge, to condemn or to punish. Further, it means to evaluate, to discriminate or distinguish between two things, and that is a very different idea when we talk about evaluation or discrimination in a positive sense than being harshly critical of people and condemning them. It also has the idea of consideration or making a decision, giving preference of one thing or another, or approving something. It can even carry the idea of punishment. So it has a broad range of meaning. We really have to look at the primary meaning in this passage and not have the word carry the weight of all of these different meanings.
One of the things Jesus is emphasizing here is that this kind of judgmental attitude comes from self-righteousness which excludes humility and any expression of grace. If we are going to be grace oriented in our spiritual life in order to grow, if we are going to have humility, then we cannot be self-absorbed; we cannot be operating on arrogance. This is demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 7:24 NASB "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
There He is talking about it being okay to make evaluations but it has to be done according to God's standards. We are not being harshly critical of people in the sense of making an evaluation, but it is not to be on the basis of superficial appearance, which is what the Pharisees were doing.
John 8:15 NASB "You [the Pharisees] judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone."
This is judging according to a superficial standard, v. 24; they judged according to a non-biblical standard in John 8:15, and then Jesus said: "I judge no one". When Jesus came at the first advent He did not come to judge, but the classic example we have of Pharisaical self-righteousness is found in Luke 18:11-14. There we read of a Pharisee who comes to pray in the temple, and this is how he prays:
Luke 18:11 NASB "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'  But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
The tax collectors of that time were even scummier than some of the IRS officials you may think of today, especially if you are up on current events. In the ancient world the managers of the Roman Empire would hire tax collectors. The tax collector was given an amount of money that they were to connect by a certain time to return to Rome. Anything they collected over that they got to keep. So they didn't have computer records to mysteriously disappear! They were viewed as being somewhat traitors by the Jewish population. They were not viewed with any value, they were on a par with the lowest levels of the social-economic strata and the lowest levels of the moral strata.
So this Pharisee comes into the temple and is self-righteously offended by the mere presence of this tax collector, and he thanks God that he is not like other men. His emphasis is totally on this external, superficial, legalistic observance without any impact on his mental attitude, on his character, on his orientation to grace. In contrast we see the tax collector who stood afar off and would not even raise his eyes to heaven.
This is why I think that typically the licentious antinomian individual understands that he is not worthy of anything from God and is totally aware of his failures and flaws. He recognizes that his only hope is to be thrown upon the mercy of God's character, in total contrast with the Pharisee.
When we apply this to the situation in Matthew chapter seven and we see Jesus say, "Judge not so that you will not be judged", it is because that flows out of the mentality of arrogance and is the opposite of humility.
John 3:17 NASB "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."
So the focal point of Jesus' ministry was not to condemn people, even though His condemnation would be just and righteous. It wasn't the focal point of the first advent. In the same way that is not the role of the believer today, to go about judging and condemning others, but to bring them to an understanding of grace and an understanding of the gospel.
The first point we looked at was that self-righteousness excludes humility and any comprehension of grace.
Secondly, we see that Jesus is condemning only these actions of being negatively judgmental or hypercritical, of condemning other people. He is not talking about critical thinking skills. He is not condemning the use of judges in courtrooms, which is how Leonid Tolstoi took this. He is simply talking about this negative hypercritical mentality. But even as we look at the context of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is teaching His disciples to exercise critical thinking skills and to evaluate people around them.
For example, Matthew 7:15 NASB "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." In order to beware of false prophets you have to evaluate what they are saying and think about their conduct as well as their teaching, in order to come to a conclusion about them. But that doesn't mean you are being harshly critical of them or saying anything to anyone about them, although there may be a framework for doing so. Jesus expects His followers to think correctly and precisely about doctrine.
Matthew 18:15-18 talks about personal circumstances where if someone, another believer, has done something to offend you then you go and tell him his faults. You explain to him what the circumstance is that has caused a problem between you, and you seek to bring that to resolution. That is not being harshly critical or judgmental.
Romans 16:17, 18 NASB "Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them." That calls for discrimination, evaluation in a good sense. It calls for doctrinal discernment in making decisions and applying them to avoid those who are teaching false doctrine. "For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting." All of this is a part of the Christian life and is expected to be part of the Christian life.
In Matthew 7:3-5 Jesus goes on to give an example.
"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye", and by doing this He is simply emphasizing that when we look at the other person we see a problem that is not our problem, we wouldn't have such a problem and we are making a huge thing out of it, and really it is something rather small compared to our own flaws and failures. So this sort of harsh condemnation takes a look at another person and focuses on their sin, blows them out of proportion, and focuses on them from a position of arrogance and judgmentalism. We know enough to understand their motives and their flaws and so we are going to pronounce the kind of judgment that only God could pronounce. So Jesus says, "When you look at the speck in your brother's eye and do not consider the plank (something large) that is in your own eye". It is a contrast between something that is small and relatively insignificant compared to a character flaw or failure that is quite large and significant.
"… Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?"
What arrogance to think that you can come along and straighten someone else out, especially when you haven't walked by the Spirit and in humility so that you have dealt with the problems in your own life. This isn't just talking about confession of sin; this is talking about actually continuing in the sin as if it is not a sin or not a flaw at all. You are totally blind to this and you haven't dealt with it in terms of sanctification, in terms of growth, in terms of progress.
Matthew 7:5 NASB "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."
We need to be focused on our own spiritual growth and spiritual advance and we need to tend to the problems in our own life rather than focusing on other people's problems, and as we learn to grow and mature spiritually, then when the proper time and context and circumstances arise then we maybe can be of some benefit in encouraging others in areas where they are struggling.
As we look at this we see that there are several areas of discipline that are brought out by Jesus. First of all, He says don't judge. So if we are judging we are violating that command and are committing a verbal sin of gossip or judging or maligning someone. The second area is that we have a mental attitude sin that has motivated that: a sin of pride, a sin of anger, a sin of resentment, of hatred, and so that is the second sin for which God will discipline us. Then what Jesus goes on to say that in the way we judge, we establish a standard, and we will be judged. The classic illustration of this really comes out of 2 Samuel chapter twelve, the situation where David has committed adultery. Bathsheba became pregnant and David tried to cover the whole thing up. He tried to get her husband Uriah to come back and take a couple of nights off in the hope that he will have a conjugal visit with his wife and then her pregnancy would be attributed to him and not to David. But this didn't work out because Uriah had too much integrity. He never did enter into intimate relations with Bathsheba so David knew that his sin of adultery was a capital crime under the Mosaic Law and he would be exposed. So he compounded the sin even further and caused Uriah's death. All of this cover-up meant that God was going to bring judgment and discipline upon David.
The way that God brought that to David was via His prophet Nathan. In a subtle way Nathan told David a parable to David. David was incensed when he heard it and said, "That man should be punished fourfold". David had announced his own punishment. Then Nathan said it referred to him.
That is an announcement of what we have here. God is going to bring a judgment in time. By your own standard and measure it will be measured to you.
David went through a period where there were four different tragic events in his life, each of which was related to adultery or sexual sin or murder. His daughter Tamar was raped by his half-brother. Absolom the full brother of Tamar came and killed his half-brother. Absolom leads a rebellion against David and takes David's wives as his own, having relations with each of them to assert that he is now the king. So he has stole David's wives in the same way that David stole Uriah's wife. Then at the end of the episode Absolom is killed in his rebellion. So David received divine discipline based upon his own measure.
Verse 6 continues the topic. It is not just inserted.
Matthew 7:6 NASB "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
In the ancient world digs were not the wonderful beloved pets that they are in our culture. Dogs were scavengers and were wild. They roamed the streets and were vicious and diseased, so people had nothing good to say about dogs. Dogs became an epithet for Gentiles. So Jesus is saying not to give food that is sanctified to the dogs. Don't cast your pearls, something of value, before swine. Swine were unclean animals according to the Mosaic Law and were considered by the Jews to be the epitome of uncleanness. What Jesus is pointing out here is that there may come an opportunity to point out a speck in our brother's eye, but they may not be receptive. They may be arrogant and not humble. They may not be receptive to the Word of God at all, in which case we will just be creating more problems and more conflict by pointing out a problem that needs to be fixed, and they are not responsive to the fact that they are at fault. So Jesus warns here to be very careful as to how you handle this situation because they may not be responsive at all and you would just be wasting your time. You would be taking valuable counsel to someone who would not value it. So we need to exercise great humility and discretion in how we handle any situation where we seek to point out a flaw or a problem in anyone else and seek to resolve the circumstance or situation.
What must undergird this is grace orientation. If we don't have grace orientation, if we are not humble, if we are not teachable, and if we have not grown in our own spiritual life, then we do not have any foundation to ever help anybody else. We can't fall into the trap of self-righteousness, of being judgmental or critical of others when we ourselves have enough to deal with in terms of our own spiritual life.
So Jesus contrasts the ethic that the Pharisees were putting forth with the higher ethic, the higher standard that should characterize someone who is a true child of God and someone who is truly seeking to walk in a way that honors and glorifies the Lord,