Sapphire Sky

April 22, 2019

What did Jesus say about Judging?

Filed under: culture, encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 7:00 am

man wearing a suit jacket and stripe necktie

Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount…

 

“Don’t judge”.

This is a popular saying in our culture, and it is frequently used to defend a person’s actions, decisions, or lifestyle against criticism. Practically any type of verbal criticism is considered to be “judging”:

  • Gossip against a neighbor for guilty-looking behavior
  • Guessing a person’s motivation for their actions
  • Preaching against a specific sin
  • Declaring a lifestyle as wrong

Many people who are familiar with Scripture may even refer to Jesus’ words here, in Matthew 7:1, where He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Therefore, shouldn’t we be silent, and not speak against things that we see to be wrong?

Or, should we do as many well-meaning teachers do, and try to explain away Jesus’ words until it no longer applies to us?

Or to put this in another perspective, how can we answer real problems in this world and yet still obey Jesus’ command not to judge?

Jesus calls us to a life that transcends the failures of one another.

Matthew 7:1-12
“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. 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? 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? 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.

“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.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

 

Do not judge your brother

Matthew 7:1-2
“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.

Luke 6:37-38
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Unfortunately, the word, “judge”, is used very broadly in scripture. The original Greek word is krinō (κρίνω), which is used over 100 times in the New Testament. The equivalent Hebrew word is used over 200 times in the Old Testament. This word is used for:

Jesus does not clarify what he means by “judging” in the Sermon on the Mount. He says not to judge, and He shows the consequences when you do judge: God will judge you by the same standards that you use to judge others. 17

So what does it mean to judge? We are actually commanded to judge, but not as a hypocrite:

We are commanded to judge, but we are not to hold ourselves up above our fellow believers and declare them to be unfit for God’s mercy. To make matters worse, we are hypocrites when we condemn our brothers for the offenses when we are also guilty (see below). This command is also expanded in Romans 2:1-5.

It is important to remember that Jesus directed this command to citizens of His kingdom about other citizens of the kingdom. Put into today’s terms, this command is written to believers in Jesus Christ about other believers. This command is not related to the behavior of unbelievers (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

Romans 14 expands this command in terms of gray areas. We are not to judge our brother for decisions or rituals which are outside the commands of Scripture. See also Colossians 2:16-19 and James 4:11-12.

For more details about judging, see the notes below. 16

“[The disciples] are to be noted for their bond of unity, which is indicated by a lack of criticism.” 7

 

Correct your brother with humility and wisdom

Matthew 7:3-5
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? 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? 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.

Luke 6:39-42
He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Many commentators have expounded on the significance of the “speck” in our brother’s eye as opposed to the “log” in our own eye. 18 Or, as in other translations, the “mote” vs. the “beam”. But the point is that our brother has a small failure. We have the same failure, but to a much greater extent.

We are being hypocrites when we attempt to correct our brothers for the same failures with which we are also guilty. The only other time that Jesus uses this word (“hypocrite”) in the Sermon on the Mount is when he describes the false acts of service. The hypocrites are those who serve (in giving, prayer, and fasting) in order to be seen by others in Matthew 6:1-18 (see here).

You are a hypocrite when you correct your brother for a problem that you also have. Many readers stop at this point, but Jesus never allows us to ignore problems. Instead, we are to address both problems: first our own problems and then our brother’s problem.

“After we have judged ourselves honestly before God, and have removed those things that blind us, then we can help others and properly judge their works. But if we know there are sins in our lives, and we try to help others, we are hypocrites.” – Warren Wiersbe 4

 

Matthew 7:6
“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.

The dogs in Jesus’ day were not the treasured pets that we have today. They were wild scavengers, noted for being filthy, worthless, and very dangerous. You would not take your most precious and pure items from your household and throw them to the wild animals who were outside. Nor would you take a priceless string of pearls and throw it into the pig pen. The animals would have no concept of the value that you have just given then. They would destroy your valuables and reward your gift by attacking you.

Jesus uses the analogy of dogs and pigs when teaching about correcting our brothers. We need to address our own failures and then correct fellow believers. But to try and correct unbelievers is the same as throwing our valuables to dogs or pigs. Save our correction for believers and not for unbelievers, those who are outside of the kingdom of God. 19

This warning is also consistent with other scripture. Proverbs 26:4-5 teaches that there are times when to answer a fool, and times when not to answer a fool. The Apostle Paul teaches the same principles in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, that we are not to be concerned with the immorality of unbelievers but to judge immoral believers.

 

God will meet your needs

Matthew 7:7-11
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Luke 11:9-13
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

This opens an almost parenthetical section, where we are reminded of how much our Heavenly Father cares for us! Our Father will give good things to us when ask him. Ask him for what we need! Earnestly seek Him and you will find Him! Persistently knock and He will open the door to you!

Our Heavenly Father’s care is contrasted with the love of earthly fathers for their children. No earthly father would trick his hungry children by giving them stones instead of bread, or a poisonous snake instead of fish to eat! God shows His care by contrast — If sinful mankind knows how to care for their own children, how much more will a perfect God care for us!

But how does this apply to Jesus Christ’s teaching about judging? The world does not fit nicely into our own expectations when we obey Him, especially in regard to judgement and correction. How can we identify our own failures? How do we help our brothers with wisdom and grace? How do we respond to the unfairness that comes as a result of our actions? Our Heavenly Father will take care of us!

And above all, have your satisfaction in God Himself! You can only properly correct your brother when you are satisfied in Him!

“The tenses of the verbs are important here: ‘Keep on asking … keep on seeking … keep on knocking.’ In other words, don’t come to God only in the midnight emergencies, but keep in constant communion with your Father.” – Warren Wiersbe 5

“Our Lord does not promise to change life for us; He does not promise to remove difficulties and trials and problems and tribulations … But He assures us that we can so know Him that, whatever happens, we need never be frightened, we need never be alarmed.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 14

 

Conclusion: do to others as you would have them do to you

Matthew 7:12
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus finishes the section on judging with the popular statement that we have come to know as the “Golden Rule”: Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. 22

This can apply to all areas of life. 21 Treat others as you would have them treat you. Don’t have a standard for how you treat other people which is different than the way you expect them to treat you.

But in this case, Jesus is teaching about how to correct others. 20 We need to correct our brothers (and sisters) in the same way that we would want them to correct us.

“This great truth is a principle that ought to govern our attitudes toward others. It only applies to believers, and it must be practiced in every area of life. If our judg­ing of others is not governed by this principle, we will become proud and critical, and our own spiritual char­acter will degenerate.” – Warren Wiersbe 4

Jesus teaches that this rule “is the law and the prophets”. The Ten Commandments and the other laws are expressions of these two laws: Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-37). 10

“The whole purpose and the real spirit behind all of this law is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, that we are to love one another.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 15

We are not to judge our brothers in a way that holds us up higher than them, or treats them as if they are unfit for God’s mercy. We should only expect to be judged by brothers who are evaluating our words and actions in light of God’s word.

We are not to correct our brothers for problems that we are ignoring in our own lives. We first address our own problems and then correct our brothers. We would only expect to be corrected by a brother who has first addressed their own problems.

We are not to judge those who are outside of God’s kingdom. There is no way that they can provide us with any meaningful judgement or correction from God’s word.

We are to do all things through prayer to God the Father. He alone is able to meet all of our needs!

Colossians 3:16-17
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

“Half of our troubles are due to the fact that we live on the assumption that this is the only life and the only world.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 11

 

Previous post: What did Jesus say about anxiety?


Notes / References

[1] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 7, The Principles of the Kingdom, Part 3

[2] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 22, Secure and Insecure Foundations, Luke 6:39-49

[3] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 40, Teaching on Prayer, Luke 11:1-13

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 7:1-12, pages 24-26

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 6:27-45, pages 156-157

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 11:9-13, pages 173-174

[7] Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 7:1-12, pages 113-115

[8] Stephen Davey, Playing God, Matthew 7:1-12, 7/14/1991

[9] John MacArthur, Stop Criticizing, Matthew 7:1-6, May 4, 1980

[10] John MacArthur, Start Loving, Matthew 7:7-12, May 11, 1980

[11] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 15, Judge Not, Matthew 7:1,2, pages 424-434

[12] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 16, The Mote and the Beam, Matthew 7:1-5, pages 435-445

[13] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 17, Spiritual Judgment and Discrimination, Matthew 7:6, pages 446-455

[14] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 18, Seeking and Finding, Matthew 7:7-11, pages 456-465

[15] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 19, The Golden Rule, Matthew 7:12, pages 466-475

[16] When is it right to judge?

When is it wrong to judge?

  • When judging occurs before all the facts are known.
  • When judging condemns another person’s convictions
  • When judging attacks another person’s motives
  • When judging attempts to destroy someone’s reputation.
    • James 4:11 – “speak against” means “to defame” when the person is absent
  • When judging displays self-righteousness

(From Stephen Davey, Playing God, Matthew 7:1-12, 7/14/1991) 8

[17] Some commentators have interpreted the consequences in Matthew 7:1-2 (“that you be not judged”) as judgement from other people and not necessarily judgement from God. However, this interpretation is inconsistent with the one of the main themes of the Sermon on the Mount, that the approval from others is not important; approval from God is most important (Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 6:1, 2-4, 5-6, 16-18). Therefore, the best interpretation of these consequences is that you will be judged by God for casting judgement over your brothers.

[18] “The word translated mote signified originally a bit of dry twig or straw, such as the wind often carries into the human eye, thus causing blurred vision and tears until it is ejected. The word for beam really means a stick of timber, but was used colloquially in the Greek speech of our Lord’s days on earth as a synonym for a splinter, which, though small in itself, seems a veritable beam because of the pain it causes. No one is fit to rebuke another when there is something in his own life that is as much worse than that which he thinks he detects in the other, as a beam or splinter of wood is greater than a mote or speck of straw.”  – H.A. Ironside 1

[19] There have been many other interpretations of the command in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs”. The different interpretations take different views on what the dogs and pigs are, and what we are not to give to them. Some of the more common interpretations:

  • One interpretation is that the dogs and pigs are false teachers, as shown in 2 Peter 2:22. This interpretation is especially popular because it uses the same animals for comparison. But the problem with this interpretation is that there is no context in Matthew 7 that would apply to false teachers. These two passages are separated by time, subject matter, and the application of the animals.
  • Many conservative preachers use this passage as a counterpoint to avoid the excesses implied in abstaining from all judging (from Matthew 7:1, therefore showing that there are some times that you need to judge). They then use the following passage about asking God (Matthew 7:7-11) to direct listeners to ask God for wisdom to balance the two. The problem with this interpretation is that it implies that we need to balance Jesus’ commands against “the other side”. That is never the case for other commands in this sermon, even to the point when Jesus advises to cut off your own hand if you are tempted to sin. It is better to take His commands at face value. If people use Jesus’ words to promote their own sinfulness, then we do not fully understand His words. Don’t forget that these commands are addressed only to believers.
  • Another interpretation is that the pearls and holy things are the gospel, and the dogs and pigs are those who will never be saved, therefore they will never benefit from the gospel. The problem with this interpretation is that it requires for us to try and determine who is worth saving and who is not worth saving. There is no support in scripture for us, as humans, to declare others as unfit for salvation, and this is contrary to the context in Matthew 7, where we are commanded not to judge.
  • Another interpretation is a softer version of the interpretation above, where the holy things are spiritual truths, and the dogs and pigs are those who do not receive them. The problem with this interpretation is that its definition is circular: We don’t give holy things to the dogs and pigs because they won’t receive it, and we know that they will not receive it because they are dogs and pigs.
  • Another interpretation is that the dogs and the pigs are a direct reference to the scribes and the Pharisees, and that Jesus is teaching His followers to avoid them. This interpretation is often followed by those who view the Sermon on the Mount as a direct indictment on the scribes and the Pharisees. The problem with this interpretation is that it requires you to read in a lot of assumptions about the Sermon on the Mount that are not in scripture. It also removes the application of this sermon from modern days, when we don’t have scribes and Pharisees among us. See here for more details about the Sermon on the Mount itself.
  • The final interpretation, which I would agree with, is that we go to the immediate context to understand the meaning of these terms. Jesus is teaching about correcting your brother, therefore the best understanding of the holy things and pearls are that they are your acts of correction. The dogs and pigs are contrasted with your brother in the previous verses (verses 3-5), so they must mean those outside the kingdom, or unbelievers. Therefore, the correct interpretation is that we are not to apply our acts of correction to unbelievers, but only to our brothers.

[20] Matthew 7:12 starts out with “So”, or “Therefore” (in other translations). This conjunction shows that Jesus is not starting a new command, but is using the Golden Rule as a conclusion of His previous commands. Therefore, after all of the instructions about judging and correcting each other, you need to treat others as you would have them treat you.

[21] The Golden Rule is popular, even among the secular world. It is good advice and a great way to treat each other. But Jesus did not come to earth to dispense good advice, nor is the Sermon on the Mount about how mankind is to treat each other. The Sermon on the Mount is about how the citizens of the kingdom need to live in the presence of a holy God! See here for more details.

[22] Other ancient religions and philosophies all had a negative form of the golden rule, “don’t do to others what you don’t want them to you”, but only Jesus expressed it in positive terms, calling you to others as you would have them do to you.

  • The negative principle is rooted in selfishness: fear of retaliation.
  • The positive aspect is impossible for an unregenerate man.
  • The negative ethic is controlled by fear. The positive ethic is controlled by love.

From John MacArthur, Start Loving, Matthew 7:7-12, May 11, 1980  10

 

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