DON’T BE OVERLY CRITICAL OF OTHERS BUT DON’T BE NAÏVE REGARDING VICIOUS OPPONENTS OF GOD’S TRUTH
Charles Swindoll: Jesus’ rapid-fire delivery of powerful principles in Matthew 7:1-12 builds up to a profound climax in what we know today as the Golden Rule —“Treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (7:12). These unforgettable and convicting words have the same impact on our lives as they did on the lives of the original audience on the mountain by the Sea of Galilee nearly two thousand years ago. And they come to us with the same authority of the same King.
R. T. France: Vv. 1-5 address the very down-to-earth issue of unfairly critical attitudes to others, which combined with a naive lack of self-criticism threaten to disrupt a close-knit community such as that of Jesus’ first disciples. A simple negative instruction (v. 1) is supported by an explanatory comment (v. 2) and by a parable which uses broad humor to show up the ludicrous inappropriateness of such behavior (vv. 3–5). Underlying the whole pericope is a principle of reciprocity such as we have noted above in 6:14–15, which will be taken up again in the summary in v. 12. We must expect to be treated as we treat other people
William Barclay: There are three great reasons why no one should judge another person.
- We never know the whole facts or the whole person.
- It is almost impossible for any of us to be strictly impartial in our judgment. Again and again, we are swayed by instinctive and unreasoning reactions to people.
- But it was Jesus who stated the supreme reason why we should not judge others. No one is good enough to judge another person. Jesus drew a vivid picture showing the difficulty in trying to extract a speck of dust from someone else’s eye when all the time there is a plank in our own eye. The humour of the picture would raise a laugh which would drive the lesson home.
E. Michael Green: We are not, therefore, to judge our brothers and sisters (7:1–5) but to serve them. After all, they are accountable to God, not to us. We can never know the whole story about them; but God does. And all too often what we condemn in others are the weaknesses we dare not face up to in ourselves. So it ill befits us to point out the speck of sawdust in our brother’s or sister’s eye when we have a great plank sticking out of our own, but are too blind to see it. Who said Jesus had no sense of humour? No, instead of the critical spirit, disciples should be known for their humility, recognizing their own shortcomings.
Daniel Doriani: Jesus gives several reasons why we should “not judge.”
- First, God is the judge of mankind. We have no right to usurp his role (7:1).
- Second, when we judge others, we invite judgment in return, both from God and from the people around us (7:2–3).
- Third, since we cannot evaluate ourselves very accurately, why should we try to critique the flaws of others (7:4–5)?
So then, instead of judging the sins of our neighbors, we should ask God for grace to remove our own sins (7:7–11).
I. (:1-2) AVOID ARROGANT CENSORIOUS JUDGMENT OF OTHERS
A. (:1) Warning of Boomerang Effect
“Do not judge lest you be judged.”
Keith Throop: Many people misuse this verse in order to avoid being criticized or confronted with sin. In fact, I have heard not only believers, but also unbelievers say things like, “Christians aren’t supposed to judge, are they?” This is usually thought to pretty much end the argument whenever any judgment is made about a person’s views or behavior. In fact, many seem to think that this verse advocates a universal acceptance of any viewpoint or lifestyle. But when Jesus gave this command He never intended us to suspend our critical faculties or to never make value judgments about the views or actions of others. And those who take it it that way are just plain wrong. (There I go judging!)
Donald Hagner: The command μὴ κρίνετε, lit. “do not judge,” should not be taken as a prohibition of all judging or discerning of right and wrong, since elsewhere in Matthew’s record of the teaching of Jesus—indeed, already in v 6—the making of such judgments by disciples is presupposed (see 7:15–20; 10:11–15; 16:6, 12; 18:17–18). Furthermore, v 2a assumes the making of fair or charitable judgments and does not entail the avoidance of judgments altogether. The meaning here, accordingly, is that unfair or uncharitable judgments should be avoided.
Grant Osborne: It cannot refer to discerning or evaluating right and wrong. All such are valid for believers (e.g., 1 Cor 5:5; Phil 3:2; Gal 6:1; Heb 3:13; 1 John 4:1). So what does this judgmental attitude connote? It means looking down on a person with a superior attitude, criticizing or condemning them without a loving concern (the opposite of the second we-petition on forgiveness, 6:12).
D. A. Carson: Those who “judge” like this will in turn be “judged,” not by men (which would be of little consequence), but by God (which fits the solemn tone of the discourse). The disciple who takes it on himself to be the judge of what another does usurps the place of God (“Why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” – see note Romans 14:10) and therefore becomes answerable to Him. The hina me(“in order that…not“; NIV, “or“) should therefore be given full telic (tending toward an end) force.
B. (:2) Warning of Principle of Reciprocity
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged;
and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”
Keith Throop: 2 Possible Interpretations:
- Perhaps Jesus is warning us that we will be judged by other people in the same way that we judge them.
- Perhaps Jesus is warning us that we will be judged by God according to the way we judge others. I think this is the correct interpretation for several reasons.
- First, it better fits Jesus’ description of a future judgment that is certain. He says, “with what judgment you judge you will be judged” (italics mine). The only certain future judgment all of us will face is the judgment of God.
- Second, it better fits Jesus’ apparent use of the Divine Passive in verse 2, when He says, “with what judgment you judge you will be judged” and “with the measure you use, it will be measuredback to you” (italics mine).
- Third, and finally, the interpretation that sees Jesus as referring to the judgment of God better fits the context, in which He has previously taught us to pray that we will be forgiven as we forgive others (6:12). He offered this explanation:
NKJ Matthew 6:14-15For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
In other words, Jesus has already said that God’s judgment of us will reflect how forgiving we are of others. Now Jesus is asserting essentially the same principle with regard to ajudgmental attitude (which is also usually an unforgiving attitude). If we judge others without recognizing first our own sin and our own need for forgiveness, then we judge in arrogance and hypocrisy. And when we are so unforgiving and lacking in proper self-examination, we will be judged accordingly.
Grant Osborne: The absence of mercy and love in the way we treat others will result in unmerciful judgment from God at the final judgment (Jas 2:13, “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful”).
R. T. France: For the warning that criticism can be turned back against the one who criticizes compare our proverb, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” It is this reciprocal principle which is the focus of the whole pericope, rather than a prohibition of any use of the critical faculty in itself.
Bethany Bible Church: I believe that the verse that follows these words teaches us what is being forbidden in the phrase “Judge not“. Look at verse 2; “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Jesus doesn’t speak here of a judgment based on God’s standards revealed in His word. He speaks of a judgment made on the bases of a standard that we come up with on our own – that is, “with what judgment YOU judge“, or of a measuring being made “with the measure YOU use“.
Clearly, the criteria for judgment that’s being used is not something from God, but something we create. Jesus is speaking of those cases in which we develop our own standard of judgment; and then evaluate someone, or discriminate against someone, or condemn someone on the basis of standards of our own making.
A word that comes to mind is “judgmentalism”. Any sensible person knows that there’s a difference between exercising good judgment, and acting ‘judgmentally’. And what Jesus is forbidding in this command is a spirit of judgmentalism. The Bible gives some very clear examples of what this sinful “judgmentalism” would look like. The apostle James, for example, wrote;
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4).
Jesus’ command means that we are to “judge not” in the sense that we are not to show partiality to people based on external things. Jesus has told us elsewhere, “Do not judge according to appearances, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
Something else that James wrote teaches us about what it means to “judge not“.
Unfortunately, it speaks of one of our favorite pastimes. James says:
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges a brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11-12).
I saw a button once that said, “If you can’t say something nice about someone . . . then sit next to me so I can hear you better.” We’re all guilty of this sort of judgmentalism at times, aren’t we? Jesus’ command is a call to stop gossiping about one another, or slandering one another. We’re not to hold someone’s faults up to others for review and critique and evaluate one another accordingly.
II. (:3-5) AVOID FOCUSING ON THE FAULTS OF OTHERS WHEN YOU SHOULD BE CORRECTING YOURSELF – CONVICTING PARABLE
A. (:3) Misdirected Vision
“And 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?”
Donald Hagner: The repeated reference in these verses to “your brother” indicates that it is primarily the Christian community that is in view. δοκός, “log,” is an intentionally ludicrous exaggeration in its contrast to the speck of sawdust. What is a tiny flaw in another is seen so clearly by a censorious person, while ironically what is an outrageously huge failure in the latter is conveniently overlooked altogether. It is the self-righteous, censorious person who is particularly eager to correct the faults of others. . . Also to be kept in mind in this analogy, however, is the familiarity of Jesus with the carpenter’s shop (cf. Matt 13:55, “the carpenter’s son”; Mark 6:3, “the carpenter”).
B. (:4) Misplaced Focus
“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?”
C. (:5) Misguided Priorities
“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.”
John MacArthur: Now, listen to me very carefully. This is fabulous, as we draw this to a close. Immediately we run into two dangers right now. You say, “I’m not going to judge. Woo-hoo, I hear that message. I’m going to go in a corner, and confess my sin, and take care of me, boy. I’m not going to get into this,” and immediately run into two dangers.
Danger number one is we will not be willing to confront a sinning brother. We’ll say, “Boy, I’m not going to. Oh, no, I’m not going to judge. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Who am I to say? We certainly don’t want to do that.” [addressed in :5b]
And danger number two, we will not discern or discriminate at all. We’ll say, “Well, we don’t want to get into that. [addressed in :6] Boy, oh, whatever you say, we’ll just take everything in.” And those are the two dangers. And we would be devastated, because if we don’t confront sin, then leaven is never put out of the lump, right? And the church is going to get corrupted. And if we don’t discriminate the true from the false, we’re all going to go waltzing down the line into heresy. So the two dangers are that we would fail to deal with a brother in sin, and we would fail to deal with a heretic, or one who would corrupt the faith, or one who would mock the faith, or blaspheme the faith; and we must do that.
He’s not saying, “Don’t help a sinning brother.” He’s saying, “Get your own act together first, because then your help is going to be the right kind. It’s going to be the humble help. It’s going to be the meek and quiet spirit.” “If you restore a brother,” – it says in Galatians 6:1, “restore him in love, in meekness and fear, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” You don’t come to a sinning brother on top, you come from underneath, in humility.
III. (:6) AVOID INDISCRIMINATE PROCLAMATION OF TRUTH TO VICIOUS OPPONENTS
“Do not give what is holy to dogs,
and do not throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet,
and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Note chiastic structure: A B B1 A1
Charles Simeon: Caution to be Used in Reproving
The words before us are connected with the prohibition respecting the judging of others. To judge others uncharitably will expose us to similar treatment from them, as well as to the displeasure of Almighty God. Before we presume to judge others at all, we ought to be diligent in searching out and amending our own faults; without which we are but ill qualified to reprove the faults of others. We ought also to consider the state of the person whom we undertake to reprove: for if he be hardened in his wickedness, and disposed to resent our well-meant endeavours, it will be more prudent to let him alone, and to wait for some season when we may speak to him with a better prospect of success. Such is the import of the caution in our text; from whence we may observe,
- That religious instruction is often most unworthily received—
- The value of religious instruction is but little known—
- Many, instead of being pleased, are only irritated and offended at it
- That great caution is to be used in administering it—
John MacArthur: Jesus, to His disciples, could only reveal certain things, and He had to hide other things. And to the world it says, “And He hid them from them, and revealed other things unto the babes.” Jesus didn’t say everything to everybody. . .
Now who are the hogs and the dogs? Look at 2 Peter 2, and I’ll show you, 2 Peter 2. It says, in this chapter, that, “There were false prophets among the people; and there will be false teachers,” 2 Peter 2:1. And verse 2 says, “And many will follow their pernicious ways.”
Listen, many are going to follow the pernicious ways of false prophets, false teachers. So all the people who are involved in the false systems of religion; the adamant, covetous, lustful, evil, vile people such as those who were drowned in the flood, verse 5; those who were destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah for their homosexuality; those who walk in the lust of uncleanness, who are self-willed, who mock angels, who are scabs. He calls them scabs; filth spots. . .
Now what is it saying? What is the holy thing, and what is the pearl? I believe, without a doubt, it’s the Word of God. It’s the truth of the Word of God, encompassing the gospel and all of the contents of the Scripture.
Bruce Hurt: We are not to continue to present the gospel to those who repeatedly mock, scorn and deride it. To be sure, this determination sometimes is obvious as in the case of rank infidels but in other situations requires God’s wisdom (see role of prayer in Matthew 7:7-8–note) and Spirit controlled guidance. There is a limit Jesus says and when that time arrives, it is high time for the ambassador of Christ to depart company.
And so we see Jesus instructing His disciples “And into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it; and abide there until you go away. And as you enter the house, give it your greeting. And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Matthew 10:11-15)
In the same way Jesus pronounced judgment on the Galilean towns which for the most part rejected the light of His presence and His gospel “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.” (Mt 11:21-23)
And we see Paul’s reaction to the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews of Corinth “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers. And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:1-6, see also Acts 13:44-51, 28:17-28; Ro 16:17-18).
Writing to Titus on the Isle of Crete Paul instructed him “Reject a factious (divisive, one who causes division) man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)