Every Christian reading this would agree that the teachings of Jesus are difficult to understand. His wisdom, being the God of Creation, is far beyond our own understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). In this blog series, we will unpack some of the most difficult teachings from Jesus, which come from Matthew 5-7 in the illustrious Sermon on the Mount. Each blog will touch on a different teaching from Jesus within His most famous sermon in an effort to help you apply His teachings to your life as a Christian working in the sport industry.
In our tenth blog of the Sermon on the Mount series, we’ll help you better understand and apply Jesus’ teachings on judging others, which are found in Matthew 7:1-6.
Most everyone who grew up in the church, and even many who did not, can quote Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:1. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” It is a common and very important teaching for us as followers of Jesus to understand and apply properly.
It is important to note that God, in his very nature, is a judge and will judge every man who has ever lived. Psalm 75:7 says, “It is God who judges: He brings down one, he exalts another.” Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” This character trait of God is a reminder to all of us that He, and He alone, is the final judge. You and I are not in that position and should respond humbly, knowing God can judge our actions.
So, how are we called to judge as humans? Oftentimes, this verse is wielded as a weapon of acceptance. Many will apply this passage wrongly by thinking that Jesus teaching us not to judge means that we should never disapprove of any action, no matter how bad it may be. The fact of the matter is that we make judgments thousands of times a day. It is impossible not to judge. In fact, when you tell someone not to judge, you have made a judgment against them! Jesus is not teaching us never to judge but to judge righteously and not hypocritically.
Imagine if you brought in a donut to work and your coworker told you that donuts are full of unhealthy trans fat and sugar, and later that day, you caught your coworker sneaking a donut in the break room. How frustrating would that be? They judged you hypocritically! This is exactly what Jesus is teaching not to do. In Matthew 7:2, Jesus says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The command here is fairly simple and applicable. Our judgment of others should not be harsher than how we judge ourselves. The measure we use to judge others is the same one God will use to judge our own lives. Jesus was careful to point out time and time again how the religious leaders of His day were judging those around them hypocritically.
In Luke 11:46, Jesus said, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” The experts in the law were quick to judge others to a difficult standard but were not holding themselves to that same standard. We should be diligent to only judge according to how we would like to be judged and be quick to be merciful with those who fall short of God’s standard.
A Speck & A Plank
In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus provides an example to further His teaching in judging others. “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? 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? 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.”
The point that Jesus is trying to make in this example is that we are far more tolerant of our own sins than the sins of others. Do we get as upset at ourselves when we break a traffic violation as when someone else does? We don’t honk the horn at ourselves, but we are quick to lay it on at someone else. This is human nature at its finest. We tend to see more clearly the wrongdoings of other people while failing to recognize the many wrongdoings in our own lives.
Jesus is certainly not teaching us to ignore other people's sins. Rather, He is teaching us to be just as aware, if not more aware, of our own sinfulness than others. In verse five, Jesus teaches that we should first deal with our own sin for two reasons.
The first reason is so that we will not be judging others hypocritically. If we are quick to point out the speck of sawdust in the eye of a friend but fail to see the plank in our own eye, won’t we be hypocritical? Rather, we should be cautious of our own shortcomings lest we judge another according to a standard that we are not willing to be judged by.
The second reason is so that we will be able to see ‘more clearly’ the speck in our brother’s eye. If we can recognize our own sin and deal with it, we will be more able to see how to best help a brother or sister dealing with a similar struggle. The more careful we are to deal with our own sins, the more good we will be in helping those around us deal with theirs. Furthermore, our judgment in that case will no longer be hypocritical but will be according to the standard by which we judge ourselves.
Pigs & Pearls
Jesus wraps up his teaching on judgment with a rather difficult message to understand in Matthew 7:6. “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.”
Anytime Jesus uses real-world examples such as this, it is incredibly important to think carefully about what would actually happen in that situation. If you threw a brand-new pearl necklace to a pig, that pearl necklace would effectively be ruined and likely covered in dirt or manure. The obvious thing to do would be not throwing a pearl necklace at pigs. But how does this apply to the kingdom of God and Jesus’ teaching on judgment?
The interpretation of this could go a few ways, but the main point remains the same. While Jesus clearly teaches us not to judge hypocritically, he also wants to be clear that he is not teaching us to lack discernment. In the context of what Jesus taught in verses three through five, we can conclude that the pearls are Godly correction, and the dogs or the pigs are people who are unwilling to receive that correction. In short, Jesus is teaching us to have discernment in whom we give Godly correction. Some people are open and willing to receive Godly correction, but others have hearts that are hard towards it. It is on our shoulders to make a judgment on whether someone is ready to receive Godly correction because if they are not, they may ridicule and trample the righteous teachings of our Lord.
Jesus’ teaching to ‘judge not’ is not a teaching to never judge. Rather, it is a teaching to judge righteously and not hypocritically. There are some practical ways to ensure our judgment of others is being done in a Godly manner. These include avoiding assuming the worst in others, seeing only the faults in others, seeing someone’s life by their worst moments, assuming the hidden motives of others, not putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and failing to be mindful of how harshly we would judge ourselves if we were in that person’s position.
While it is difficult, nearly impossible, to judge in a Godly manner all of the time, it is important to apply this teaching from our Lord Jesus so that we may not live hypocritically and that we may be merciful to those around us.
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