“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 pics, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matthew 7:1-6 ESV)
First verse – love it. Second verse – love it. Third verse – see? Fourth verse – I told you! You should see it by now. Take your judgment elsewhere… Jesus said so. Folks can probably recite with some accuracy those first four verses. Let’s be real, they come in handy sometimes when we just don’t want to face the truth. What happens when we realize there is a verse five? Uh oh. Same sermon. Same context. Less palatable.
“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.” (Matthew 7:5 ESV)
According to Jesus, the problem isn’t that we judge one another. The problem, as is the case throughout the Sermon on the Mount, is the sinful human heart behind the judgment. Our hypocrisy blinds us from making right judgments. How can sinners judge sinners? A wonderfully valid question, mind you.
But in nearly the same breath as He raised the caution flag regarding hypocrisy, He encourages judgment as a good thing, provided the whole “log in your own eye” issue is addressed.
OK, maybe so, but who is Jesus talking about here?
Great question. (obviously… I asked it!) Context matters. Is this a blanket statement for all of humanity? (I started the thoughts that will follow last week in a post here.)
NERD ALERT: Commentaries are fun. Bible dictionaries are fun. Without such literary aids, how else would I know that there are no fewer than six… SIX… interpretations of the sermon on the mount. If you don’t care what they are – skip the list. If you dig a good dig, read my admittedly biased bullets with an adventurous spirit.*
- Interim Ethic – Jesus was introducing a crazy tough ethic for the immediate days (AD30-ish, a long, long, long, time ago) to impact the globe because the Kingdom was knocking. The end was ultra-near. But since the Kingdom has not yet consummated a couple thousand years later, this interpretation doesn’t hold much weight.
- Classic Liberalism – Jesus was providing an unfolded roadmap to a better, more progressive society.
- Lutheran Orthodoxy – Through the Sermon, Jesus was describing an impossibly high ethic designed to show us the hopelessness of achieving on our own the righteousness God demands. The Sermon then becomes a broad gospel invitation to trust the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness. While our inadequacy is pretty obvious in other parts of the Bible, the challenge here is that this interpretation has little direct Scriptural support.
- Existential – The Sermon aims to orient lives to a heavenly perspective. There is no literal, coming Kingdom, but there is a heavenly ideal. Make a better future, people!
- Dispensational – In this system of thought, there are distinguished periods of law and grace. As such, historically, God has dealt with people differently during each. Extreme dispensationalism would say salvation has come via different means to people at different times. The key to this view of the Bible is based on knowing how God is dealing with people at that moment. The Sermon, then, was an offer of a millennial kingdom to the Jews. This potentially narrow view could then render the Sermon irrelevant in the “church age” (today) because the Jews then rejected the Kingdom – though it is still reserved for the future millennial kingdom. I get confused just talking about dispensationalism.
- Straightforward – Jesus was preaching to people following Him who were living in a sinful world waiting for the King to come fully and finally establish His Kingdom. The Sermon is a heavenly, Christlike standard that followers of Jesus should strive after, even if we will never get there until He comes back. You could also toss in a handful of inaugurated eschatology here to say that Jesus brought a taste of this standard – along with the power to even try – via the Holy Spirit as the Kingdom crashed to earth with Him. Personally, it may be worth noting, I like this one.
Wake up! Back to the passage. Two chapters prior, Jesus “went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:” (Matthew 5:1-2 ESV)
Jesus taught them.
Who is them? (such a grammatically horrific question)
I hang on to that straightforward view. Jesus was teaching His disciples, those who were following Him. There were crowds around, undoubtedly containing folks who though He was crazy. But His target audience? Followers. Disciples. Christians. Super important in applying this Matthew 7 text, as well as the rest of the Sermon.
So who does the judging? Christians.
Who are the recipients of Christian judging? Their brothers and sisters (a.k.a. “other Christians”).
This is church business.
Does that mean Christians can’t offer judgment (a human determination between options, the evidence and support for which has been gathered via the human senses) to non-Christians? Well that’s sticky, because any fruitful discussion of the gospel will inevitably involve pointing out the reality of sin. I’m going to come back to this in a later post.
For now, let’s stick to the first point – Christians are instructed to judge Christians.
BUT… there’s always a but.
* Check out the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for elaboration on the six interpretations above.