“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 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? 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 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.” (Matthew 7:1–6, NASB95)
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Matthew 7:1 quoted, sometimes in context and other times as a seeming way to write off or excuse speaking up in one way or another for biblical truth. Strongly present in the crowds when Jesus spoke to large groups of Jews, such as here, were Pharisees and other legalists. Jesus addressed them earlier in this Sermon on the Mount. The apostle Paul also dealt with judgmental attitudes even among believers in the last chapters of Romans, particularly in chapter 14. In each of these we find at the heart of the issue a haughty better-than-thou attitude, where the person standing wagging his finger is both guilty of not looking honestly at his own life and not regarding that all ultimate judgment belongs to God. These people are consistently referred to as hypocrites, or those who hold others to a standard they do not adhere to themselves.
There is a big difference between holding to biblical values and encouraging others to do likewise and looking down your nose at those who don’t and judging them for their actions. One side of this picture is based in love and what is best and the other is founded in harshness and condemnation. Sure, people do make choices and some choose to listen to God and obey Him and others don’t. There are many who become saved and have their lives shaped by God working in them as they submit to His truths, and there are those who aren’t saved and continue in their own ways—believing as they think right. In between these there are those who claim to be saved, whether they really are or not, and who live with a pick and choose or advisory attitude toward God’s Word. Among these are many who are influenced by a growing number of churches who have strayed from God’s inerrant and authoritative Word.
In this passage Jesus warns against being the judge. In fact, He said that those who stand in judgment in this way will also find themselves judged by that same standard, and that the consequences for those judgments will be appropriately measured out. We even find for believers that there will be a time when each of us stands before God and what we do here in these bodies will be tested by fire, and that there would even be those, who while eternally saved, will indeed suffer some form of loss (Romans 14;10; 2 Corinthians 5:10;
“Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12–15, NASB95)
In addition to not being a harsh judge, Jesus instructs His listeners, and us, that there are some appropriate things in which we should engage. First and foremost among them is that we are to be people who deal honestly before God with our own actions. Putting the issue in stark perspective, Jesus says to take the log out of our own eyes before we even consider pointing to the speck in another person’s eye. James gave us a picture of the type of person we become when we know God’s Word and yet we don’t live by it ourselves. He said, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” (James 1:22-24, NASB95). James continued to describe the person who takes the way he lives his life seriously before God this way, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25, NASB95)
Clearly we have a contrast between the hypocrite who will be judged for his harsh criticisms and the one who is blessed because He takes the entire instruction of God and shapes his life accordingly. This second person is the one who honestly and lovingly can follow the next part of Jesus instruction in today’s passage—going to others and helping them to see the issues in their own lives. This is a picture of someone who humbly submits themselves to God and who lovingly approaches others to give them aid.
But Jesus does not end here. He adds, “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.” Simply put, there are those who will not listen and who have no desire to follow after God’s will according to His Word. In fact, they may even be quite hostile to God, His message, and you the messenger. In relation to these Jesus seems to be saying, “Don’t waste your breath. They are just going to trample what you give them under their feet.” This doesn’t mean that we don’t try, but when we are rebuffed we are to move on and minister to those who will listen.
In Mark and Luke we read of Jesus sending His disciples out by two’s to speak to the people and He gave them the accompanying power to perform miracles. Among His instructions was what they were to do when they were rejected. He said, “Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” And in the next verse it says, “They went out and preached that men should repent.” (Mark 6:11, 12, NASB95)
The apostle Paul also experienced a great deal of resistance to the gospel, and he referred to those times when He was forced to move on as closed doors for ministry. The simple truth is that when we engage with others there will be those who respond and those who don’t. We cannot control their response, but what we can do is to continue to share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ and make disciples of those who respond, teaching them to obey all that He commanded even as we do likewise (Matthew 28:19-20). This is both the Great Commission and our reasonable spiritual response (Romans 12:1).