Matthew 7:1-6, “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.”
When an individual or a group of people develop their own standards of religion and morality, they inevitably judge everyone by those self-made beliefs and standards. The scribes and Pharisees had done just that. Over the previous several centuries they had gradually modified God’s revealed Word to suit their own thinking, inclinations, and abilities. By Jesus’ time their tradition had taken such a hold on Judaism that it had actually replaced the authority of Scripture in the minds of many Jews (Matt. 15:6; 15:2).
Along with the many other sins spawned by their self-righteousness, the scribes and Pharisees had become oppressively judgmental. They proudly looked down on everyone who was not part of their elite system. They were unmerciful, unforgiving, unkind, censorious, and totally lacking in compassion and grace.
Their evaluation of others, like every other aspect of their hypocritical system, was based on appearances, on the external and superficial (John 7:24; 8:15). They lived to justify themselves in the eyes of other men; but Jesus told them that their judgment was utterly contrary to God’s and was detestable in His sight (Luke 16:15).
The classic portrayal of self-righteous judgment is given in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gather who went to the temple to pray. Luke 18:11-14, “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayedthus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
An inseparable corollary of justifying oneself is condemning others. When anyone elevates himself, everyone else is lowered accordingly. The Pharisees were doing all they could to lift themselves up in their own eyes, including acting as spiritual judges by condemning others.
It should be noted that Matthew 7:1-6 has been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity. To the modern religious person those are the only doctrines worth defending, and they are the doctrines to which conflicting doctrine must be sacrificed.
Right doctrine not only is compatible with true holiness, unity, and fellowship but is absolutely necessary for them to exist. Only right doctrine, biblical doctrine, can teach us what true holiness, unity, and fellowship are—and are not.
In many circles, including some evangelical circles, those who hold to strong convictions and who speak up and confront society and the church are branded as violators of this command not to judge, and are seen as troublemakers, or at best as controversial. Yet at no time in the history of the church, or of ancient Israel, was spiritual and moral reformation achieved apart from confrontation and conflict. God’s prophets have always been bold and controversial. And they have always been resisted, often by God’s own people. The church reformers of the sixteenth century were men of strong doctrine, conviction, and principle—apart from which the Protestant Reformation would never have come about.
Reformation is needed when spiritual and moral life are low; and for the very reason they are low they will resist every effort to reform. The power of sin, whether in an unbeliever or believer, is opposed to righteousness and will always resist God’s truth and God’s standards. To the carnal person, absolute and doctrine and high moral standards are inherently controversial.
Christ does not here or anywhere else forbids courts of law, as claimed by the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and others. Both the Old and New Testaments uphold not only the right but the divine necessity of human courts of law (Deut. 19:15-21; rom. 13:1-7). Nor does this or any other part of Scripture teach that we are never to evaluate, criticize, or condemn the actions or teachings of another person.
The entire thrust of the Sermon on the Mount is to show the complete distinction between true religion and false religion, between spiritual truth and spiritual hypocrisy. Jesus places God’s perfect and holy standards beside the unholy and self-righteous standards of the scribes and the Pharisees aand declares that those who follow these unholy and self-righteous standards have no part in God’s kingdom (5:20). No more controversial or judgmental sermon has ever been preached.
In this greatest sermon by our Lord teaches anything, it teaches that His followers are to be discerning and perspective in what they believe and in what they do, that they must make every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between the internal and external, between reality and sham, between true righteousness and false righteousness—in short between God’s ways and all other ways.
A few verses later Jesus warns, “Beware of the false prophets” (Matt. 7:15). In other words, we are to judge who speaks for God and who does not. Jesus tells us to confront a sinning brother privately with his sin and, if he will not repent, to take one or two others with us to speak to him, and if that does not cause him to change, to bring him before the entire church. If he still does not repent, he is to be put out of the church and regarded “as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer” (Matt. 18:15-17).
Paul tells believers, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Rom. 16:17-18). He also instructs saints not even, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11). Obviously such commands demand that we employ a certain kind of judgment before we can obey.
Every message we hear is to be judged by the soundness of its doctrine. Paul told the Galatians in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” John says, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 10-11).
Not to rebuke sin is a form of hatred not love. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” (Lev. 19:17). Refusing to warn a person about his sin is just as unloving as refusing to warn him about a serious disease he may have. A person who does not warn a friend about his sin cannot claim love as his motive (Matt. 18:15). The author of Hebrews calls for a level of spiritual maturity wherein Christians “because of the practice have their sense trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).
But Jesus is here talking about the self-righteous, egotistical judgment and unmerciful condemnation of others practiced by the scribes and Pharisees. Their primary concern was not to help others form sin to holiness, but to condemn them to eternal judgment because of actions and attitudes that did not square with their own worldly; self-made traditions.
Krino (to judge) means basically to separate, choose, select or determine, and has a dozen or more shades of meaning that must be decided from the context. In our present passage Jesus is referring to the judgment of motives, which no mere human can know of another, and to judgment of external forms. Paul says in Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
The Bible consistently forbids individual or vigilante justice that assumes for itself the prerogatives of a duly established court of law. It also consistently forbids hasty judgments that do not have full knowledge of the heart or the facts. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Prov. 18:13). Sometimes what appears to be wrong is nothing of the sort.
It is significant that, though God is omniscient, He gives us many examples of the care we ourselves should take before making judgments, especially those that involve serious consequences. Before he judged those who were building the tower of Babel, “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built” (Gen. 11:5). Before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah He said, “I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” (Gen. 18:21).
What Jesus forbids in Matthew 7:1-6 is the self-righteous, officious, hasty, unmerciful, prejudiced, and unwarranted condemnation based on human standards and human understanding.
Jesus point in Matthew 7:3-5 is speaking of the condemning the spirit of censoriousness, judging harshly, self-righteousness, without mercy, without love.
To be discriminating and critical is necessary to be hypercritical is wrong. One should avoid saying what is untrue (Exod. 23:1, unnecessary (Prov. 11:13) and unkind (Prov. 18:8). That the sin here condemned was very common is clear, for example, form the fact that David condemned to death the rich man, who as the king had been made to believer, had stolen and killed the poor mans’ little ewe lamb, not realizing that in thus condemning him he (David was passing sentence on himself (2 Sam. 12:1-7).
The standard of judgment that you apply to others will be applied to you. If you judge without mercy, you will be judged without mercy. If you judge kindly you will be judged and treated kindly.
The beam is a heavy piece of timber fit to be used for the rafter or joist of a building. The speck or mote is a small piece of straw or of wood, a tiny chip from a beam. Now in the figure which Jesus uses he asks the average listener how it is that he is gazing at a mere speck in his brother’s eyes, and that he even requests permission to remove that speck while at the same time he completely overlooks the incomparably larger beam in his own eye.
Hypocrites according to Jesus are “those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and who despised all others” (Luke 18:9). Any person with a Pharisaic disposition is meant, therefore. Since in the hearts of all, including even Christ’s followers to the extent in which grace has not yet fully transformed them, their houses a Pharisee, the conclusion follows that this passage applies to all, in the sense that all need to examine themselves (I Cor. 11:28), lest without self-examination and self-discipline they find fault with and strive to correct someone else. A person may ever be so good in his own eyes (Luke 18:11-12); yet, if he is not humble, then, as God sees him, there is a beam in his eye, the beam of self-righteousness. This makes him a blind eye-doctor who tries to perform an operation on someone else’s eye! However grievous the other man’s error may have seemed to the eye of the would-be corrector was it not a mere speck compared with his own self-righteousness, a defect so glaring that in the sight of God it amounts to a beam in a critic’s eye?
When by sovereign grace this beam has been removed, the former faultfinder will be able to see clearly enough to take the speck out of his brother’s eye, that is, he will then be able to restore such a person in the spirit of gentleness and examining himself in the light, let us say of 1 Cor. 13, will look to himself lest he also be tempted.
It is not Christ’s purpose to discourage mutual discipline. On the contrary, both self-discipline and mutual discipline are encouraged in Matthew 7:3-5. Moreover, to prevent an notion from taking root that the hypercritical attitude denounced in verse 3-5 might mean that in dealing with errorists patience must be endless, the Lord now adds verse 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.” Believers must discriminate carefully between dogs and hogs.
What is holy that is set apart from the common sphere standing in close relation to God and consecrate to him and pears are here used synonymously in Matthew 7:6. The Greek word for pearl is margarites, from which the given names Margaret and Reta have been derived. In order to obtain a pearl a merchant might have to sell all his possessions.
Combining all of this we are now able to conclude that in Matthew 7:6 Jesus is saying that whatever it is that stands in special relation to God and is accordingly very precious should be treated with reverence and not entrusted to those who because of their utterly wicked, vicious and despicable nature, can be compared to dogs and hogs. This means for example, that Christ’s disciples must not endlessly continue to bring the gospel to those who scorn it. To be sure patience must be exercised. But there is a limit. A moment arrives when constant resistance to the gracious invitation must be punished by the departure of the messengers of good tidings.
The apostles took this lesson to hear as we seen in the case of Paul (Acts 13:45-46; 18:5-6; Rom. 16:17-18; Titus 3:10). Staying on and on in the company of those who ridicule the Christian religion is not fair to other fields that are waiting to be served especially in view of the fact that the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.
Matthew 7:6 is one of the hard sayings of Jesus. We must take the command seriously and do our best to obey it, because it is the Lord’s will. But because it is so serious and because we may also be inclined to be self-righteous and judgmental, we need to depend on the Lord with special care and sincerity. Even when we determine that a person is too rebellious to hear the gospel or is a heretical and false teacher, we go on our way not in self-satisfied judgment but in great disappointment and sorrow—remember how our Lord as He approached Jerusalem for the last time, “saw the city and wept over” those who refused to recognize and receive their King (Luke 19:41-42). To avoid wrongful judging and to accomplish right discernment is to be marked as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom.