Moving away from the traditional interpretation, Pastor David Boone exposits Matthew 7:1-6 in this week of “The Kingdom: What it is like”
Part 14 – judgment in the kingdom
Do not judge. This is everybody’s favorite verse. It’s kind of like that verse in Hezekiah 3 God helps those who help selves. Unlike “God helps those who helps themselves, “do not judge is actually in the Bible.
And it is exactly where we begin today. Turn in your Bibles to Matt 7.
In case this is your first Sunday with us or first time in a while, let me catch you up. Since last summer we have been discussing the doctrine of the Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the community or territory over which Christ reigns as King.
We have seen that God raised up Jesus as the New Moses to lead a new covenant community in a spiritual exodus out of a spiritual Egypt and in Matt 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount Jesus prepares this new Israel for life in the New Jerusalem, the new Promised Land, the heavenly Kingdom.
We are now in Matt 7 beginning in verse 1.
Matt 7:1ff “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
As always, a healthy place to start is determining the meaning for the original audience. My interpretation of this text differs from the majority. Big surprise, I know.
Throughout the SOM we have seen Jesus making a contrast between two ways: 1) the way that He was advocating and 2) of life lived by and advocated by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.
I believe that in this text on judging, Jesus follows the same pattern here. I believe that Jesus is condemning the judgmental ways of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law and in the same way that Jesus in Chapter 6 said “do not be like them” so also here, I believe that that he is saying “do not be like them.” We know from Jesus’ teaching throughout the gospel that Jesus condemns the faultfinding, nitpicky ways of the Pharisees.
In Matt 23:23-24 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Notice first, that Jesus calls them hypocrites. Then notice that Jesus condemns their priorities, their focus. He points out that they focus in on the less important matters of the law while neglecting the more important matters of the law like how to treat people, justice, mercy and faithfulness.
So back in Matt 7, I believe that it is this type of practice that Jesus is condemning. Notice in Matt 7:3 that he says, “why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.” The speck and the plank, I believe, are metaphors for less important matters of righteousness and more important matters of righteousness.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law, who were guilty of heinous and grievous sins before God, were pointing out petty things that people weren’t doing; with a plank sticking out of their eyes they were trying to pick specks of sawdust out of the eyes of others.
This section of the text ends with an interesting piece. Do not give dogs what is sacred and do not cast pearls to pigs. Jesus, after saying do not judge, that is a very judgmental thing to say. Who are you calling pigs and who are you calling dogs? Just as the plank and the sawdust were not literal, so also, this is not talking about literal animals, but unclean animals (dogs of day were not pets); throughout bible animals used as metaphor for people, saw that in Isaiah 11 with unclean lying down with the clean in the age to come representing Jew and Gentile equality in the kingdom. Here, the reference to dogs and pigs is the same – dogs were gentiles (Canaanite woman) and pigs were a specific reference to the Romans.
The religious leaders were guilty of the biggest plank of all. Essentially in their day the religious leaders were getting in bed with Rome. We see this by the end of the gospel narratives when they put Jesus to death. Crucify him we have no king but Caesar. Woah. Talk about mixing the sacred and holy with the supposed pigs and dogs. They had taken the mark of the beast (Rome) and as the harlot dressed in scarlet was riding the beast, essentially inclining Rome to get involved with the persecution of Christians.
So Jesus here I believe is condemning the religious leaders’ hypocritical means of judgment. They were judging people in a very strict way, a condemnatory way according to the law.
Jesus came to bring in the age of grace. Jesus was warning them that with the measure they used they would be judged. They were judging strictly according to the Law. Deut 28. As breakers of Torah, they would be destroyed by a foreign army. Their sacred temple would be trampled under feet by the pigs and dogs and they would then turn and tear the Jews to pieces in the conflagration of AD70.
So Jesus, in this passage, I believe is calling the people not to judge as the hypocritical nitpicking, faultfinding, religious leaders do.
MODERN DAY APPLICATION?
What about you and I today as citizens in the Kingdom?
Is Jesus saying that his people should not render any kind of judgment whatsoever? I don’t believe so. For starters, in the text, Jesus is calling people pigs and dogs. Sounds a little judgmental, there, Jesus. How would somebody know who a pig or dog is if they don’t make some kind of judgment?
Furthermore, throughout the Scriptures, God’s people are called to evaluate, use discretion and make decisions which all necessitate a form of judgment.
So I don’t think that Jesus is saying no judgment whatsoever.
In fact, we find in John 7:21ff 21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle,and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (or rightly, or make a right judgment). Notice that Jesus didn’t say, you guys are judging, remember what I said in that sermon on the mount? I said don’t judge. He says “Judge correctly, rightly.”
So Jesus is not saying no judgment whatsoever; he is condemning improper judgment and giving a caution.
Now mark your place in Matt 7 and turn over to 1 Cor 5.
Not only do we see that Jesus doesn’t condemn all judgment, we see that Paul encourages a form of judgment within the Kingdom.
1 Cor 5:1ff It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister[c] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Now we have a passage here that seems to fly in the face of the idea of “do not judge.” Let’s see if we can tease out some elements from this text.
First, I want to say that there is no way that I can deal with all of the points in this text and I will attempt to keep this brief.
What is the point of the judgment encouraged in this passage? To purify the church for the glory of God and the good of the people.
First off, Paul didn’t have a plank sticking out of his eye. He used to. He used to persecute and kill Christians. But he removed that plank years back and here he isn’t trying to take a speck out of someone’s eye. I would say that he is dealing with a plank. He was dealing with a man in the church at Corinth who was sleeping with his mother in law. Paul points out, this isn’t a matter of whether someone is eating kosher or giving ten percent of their spices, or keeping the Sabbath. This is something that not even the pagans approve of, kind of a big deal, it’s a plank.
This is Paul encouraging the Corinthians to do the very thing Jesus said to do in Matt 7 and John 7, make a right judgment.
The main point that I want to drive home from this text is that citizens in the Kingdom are NOT to judge those outside the Kingdom.
He says in verses 12-13 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.
Think about it this way. As Christians, as citizens of the Kingdom, we bow the knee to King Jesus. He is our King and his Word is OUR standard. For those outside the Kingdom, for those who do not bow the knee to King Jesus, they aren’t to be held to the same standard. In earthly terms we don’t go to Africa and impose American laws on Africans. In other countries they have their own laws by which they are to abide. We have our own laws in America and we can’t go to other countries and impose U.S. laws on their citizens.
I don’t think people in other countries would appreciate it if we did that. In the same way, I don’t think people outside the Kingdom appreciate it when we impose our standard upon them. We should abide by the decree of our King, but not impose that upon them. I think that historically, Christians have been guilty of this, which is probably why so many people think that Christians are judgmental, statistically speaking,
87% of those surveyed by the Barna Group said that Christians were judgmental. Where did they get this idea unless we are passing judgment on those outside the church?
So since Jesus isn’t condemning all forms of judgment and we are to make some form of judgment, the first point I’d like to reiterate that we are not to judge those outside the church.
So, when we DO make judgments, how should we do so?
JUDGE RIGHTLY (NOT MERE APPEARANCE)
We judge rightly. As Jesus said in John 7, we aren’t to judge by mere appearance. We should get the facts first. For example, if you came early this morning and you saw me walking across the premises carrying an empty beer can, should you jump to the conclusion that I chugged a beer before service? That’s how it appears. But what if there was a wedding or event here at the Page House last night and there were empty beer cans that I was picking up? We should be careful not to make judgments based on mere appearances but try to get all of the facts first.
Also, in an effort to judge rightly, I believe it is important that when we judge or render a decision about one’s conduct, we need to be careful not to call something sin that the bible doesn’t call sin.
Jesus says with the measure you use it will be measured to you; in other words, you will be judged by the measure you use to judge others. I don’t hear him saying with the measure you use to judge yourself you can use that to judge others. I believe that the Bible shall be our standard measure for what is appropriate in the Kingdom.
We may have personal opinions about ambiguous matters or matters about which the Bible does not speak directly. I think we should be careful not to impose our extra-Biblical personal convictions on others. In other words, the Bible is silent on the matter of rated R movies. You may have a very strong conviction that watching rated R movies is sinful. Or that watching TV is sinful, or playing cards, or drinking a beer, or dancing. The Bible doesn’t call any of that sin, but for you, in your heart, your conscious convicts you and you are choosing personally to abstain from those things. That does not mean that you should impose those personal convictions on every other Christian and hold them to that standard and judge them by it.
JUDGE WITHOUT HYPOCRISY
Additionally, I believe that we are not to judge with hypocrisy. Jesus’ illustration of a man with a plank sticking out of his eye while trying to pick a speck out of a neighbor’s eye is fitting for this. Bottom line, before we start making judgments about others, we need to check ourselves first. We need to examine ourselves, evaluate ourselves. Is there sin in our own lives? If there is glaring sin in our own lives, we are in no place to pass judgment on others.
Often times when we really stop and examine our lives, our own hearts, I believe we will often be inclined to pass on passing judgment.
Does that mean that we should strive to get sin out of our lives SO THAT we can pass judgment? What does that say about our motives? That says that we are bent on faultfinding and nitpicking and if our purpose of sanctification is SO THAT we can pass judgment then our motives are wrong. Our purpose for ridding ourselves of sin should be to please God, for his glory and our good, not so that we can make sure we can bring the hammer down on people, so that we can be the sin police.
And passing judgment should not be something we are quick to do. We should be slow to pass judgment.
Again, a huge theme in the SOM and in the Kingdom is that the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. When it comes to passing judgment on others, where is your heart? Are you trying to help someone or harm someone? Are you trying to build others up or tear them down? Are you trying to bring condemnation or sanctification? Are you trying to make other people look bad so that you can feel better about yourself or are you ultimately trying to make others look good and do good?
When it comes to judgment, in the Kingdom, the purpose has to be for God’s glory and the good of others. There is constructive criticism and destructive criticism. If we criticize others, are we doing so in order to help them or harm them? What is our motive? Where is our heart? And we have to use discernment; we have to know the person and their circumstances. Some people like constructive criticism and welcome it. Most people don’t like criticism. And if they don’t like it and don’t want it, they probably won’t receive it well. It doesn’t mean we should never give it, but we should be careful and cautious when offering it.
SOME PEOPLE DON’T NEED IT
Additionally, some people don’t need it. While some people may need it, others don’t. Have you ever done something, you messed up and your conscience condemned you already know that you shouldn’t have done it and you feel terrible. The last thing you want or need is some to come along and remind you of your fail. That only brings more guilt, more shame, more condemnation. And you are trying to remind yourself that your sins have been washed clean and you are forgiven and now someone else has come along and made it even more difficult with their criticism. Let’ be careful not to make people feel that way.
Let’s use discernment so that we will be cautious and careful with our criticisms. So while there is constructive criticism that can be helpful, not everybody wants or welcomes it even if you mean well and we should be mindful that someone may not even need it.
DO TO OTHER WHAT YOU WOULD WANT…
That brings us to our next point. Here we are going to jump ahead just a bit and peak at Matt 7:12. There, Jesus said “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
This is an extremely helpful litmus test when it comes to making a right judgment. How do you want other people to treat you? Do you want people examining your life as a sin police, nitpicking and faultfinding so that they can bring the hammer down and bring condemnation upon you? Probably not. Do you want people to love you and have your best interests in mind? Probably. Do you want them to try to help you? Probably. When they speak into your life with constructive criticism, how do you want them to approach you? More than likely, clothed with compassion, mercy, grace, gentleness and lovingkindness. That is how we should treat others.
That is a very helpful point to remember and keep at the forefront of our minds as we try to judge rightly.
Another important point to draw out with regard to making judgments or passing righteous judgments, we need to be careful not to bring an air of condemnation with it.
Jesus modeled this well. A woman was brought before Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. According to the LOM, adultery was punishable by death. They were supposed to stone the adulterer to death. They asked Jesus, what do you say that we do? His response: sure, whichever one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast the stone. They all walked away. Jesus asked her: where are those that condemn you? There are none. Then neither do I condemn you, no go and sin no more. Notice that Jesus doesn’t condemn her. But he doesn’t condone sin either.
So Jesus makes a judgment about her conduct. He calls a spade a spade. He acknowledges that her conduct was inappropriate, but he doesn’t condemn her. He calls her to henceforth live in righteousness. So based on that I believe that as citizens of the Kingdom, we are to acknowledge sin as sin (in order to discern what is sin one must evaluate or judge conduct), but not condemn others for it, and yet still call them to walk in righteousness.
As Jesus modeled, I don’t believe we go, well, that’s sin, but you should just keep doing it. As Jesus modeled, it’s more like, acknowledging sin, being clear that there is no condemnatory judgment, and a call to leave sin behind and walk in righteousness. It’s that tension between the real and the ideal.
Additionally, Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If Jesus doesn’t condemn the sinner, who are we to condemn others? If there is no condemnation for those in Christ, let’s not bring condemnation upon those who are in Christ. If they have been declared not guilty before the Judge, let’s not make them feel guilty.
This goes back to our motive, our hearts. What is the purpose? Is it to bring condemnation or sanctification? It should never be condemnation.
Now as a final word on this, I’d like to turn to the book of James.
James 2:8ff 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”also said, “You shall not murder.”If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James calls to mind the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then, he says speak and act as those who will be judged by the law that gives freedom. Let love be the rule, the guide, for your judgment. Is your judgment loving, gracious, and merciful? Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
While we are called to make judgments and evaluate, we are to make right judgments.
- We are not to judge those outside the church. We have no business calling those outside the kingdom to the standards of the Kingdom.
- We should not judge by mere appearances but be sure to get all of the facts.
- We should not judge hypocritically, we should examine ourselves and get our act together before we even think about criticizing another.
- We need to check our motives and our heart to ensure that we are being constructive for the purpose of sanctification, not destructive and bringing about condemnation.
- Finally, anytime we render judgment, it must, it must, it must be bathed in tenderness, compassion, mercy and loving kindness. I believe that we are to err on the side of grace. Mercy triumphs over judgment.