This morning I want to encourage you, if you will with me, to turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 7. Matthew 7, beginning at verse 1. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye measure, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, ‘Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye;’ and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and lacerate you.”
Now this is a fascinating portion of Scripture, a Scripture that is frequently referred to and oft quoted, and yet sometimes not really put together in a total package as the Lord, I believe, intended for it to be. Let me give you a little background as we approach it. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord has touched on all of the areas of a believer’s life, in a wonderful and marvelous summation of all of the areas of truth related to living within the kingdom. We have seen Christ meet us at every point.
He began with our perspective on self in the Beatitudes, with our perspective on the world in the statements on salt and light, with our perspectives on the Word of God as He talked about the law and the fact that it was immutable and unchanging, our perspective on the moral law or holiness as He discussed the fact that we are to have an inward commitment as well as an external one.
He discussed our religious activity – giving, praying, fasting. He discussed our perspective, as we have just recently seen, on money and possessions, material goods. And now he comes to a text that deals with our relations with other people. We’ve talked about our relations to ourselves, to God, to His Word, to the world; our relations to religious activity, our relations to the morality of the time and what God wants; and now to human relationships, right relationships. And this is a tremendous passage that you’ll be looking at.
Now as in all the other elements of the Sermon on the Mount, the perspective here is given in contrast to the view of the scribes and the Pharisees. They were the existing religious influence of the time; and against the background of their perspective, the Lord presents the truth. They came along, and their view of life was to be proud, and the Beatitudes were to be humble. They were a part of the system; Christ said that we are to be salt and light to the system.
They had denied the Word of God and established their own; Christ reestablished the affirmation of His Word and His Word alone. They believed only in an external morality; Christ brought about an internal morality. They acted out their religious activities of giving, praying and fasting in a hypocritical, superficial way; and the Lord said it has to be from the heart. They were preoccupied with money and possessions; and the Lord says you are not so to be, but with the kingdom.
And they were very involved in wrongful human relationships, and the Lord sets it right here. And in so contrasting Himself with them, He is unmasking the inadequacy of human religion, and reaffirming the fact that true religion comes only from God. The last area then of His comparison is this area, in chapter 7, of human relations; and then from there He goes to sum up and finalize His message.
Now the area of human relations goes all the way through verse 12, but we’re only going to be considering the first six this morning, and we’ll get to the second section, the second six verses, next time. But suffice it to say at this point that the Pharisees were so proud, and so self-styled, and so self-righteous, and so smug, and so convinced of their own superiority, that one of the natural results of that was that they became totally condemning and judgmental of everybody else.
I mean any time a person, a man or a woman, invents a system of morality, they then become the judge that sits on the throne of that system and determines whether anybody else qualifies or not; and that’s exactly what happened in the Pharisees’ case. And so they became oppressively judgmental of other people. They condemned and criticized. They were censorious. They were unmerciful, unforgiving, unkind, lacking grace in their constant, carping criticism of everybody who didn’t come up to their own standard.
Jesus said to them in John, chapter 7, verse 24, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment,” because it was their habit to judge in a very superficial manner. Also in Luke 16, the Bible tells us in verses 14 and 15 that the Pharisees were covetous, and they heard all these things and were scoffing at Him – that is at Christ – and He said to them, “You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; and that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God.” In other words, “You think you’ve got the answers. You think you’ve got the system. You think you’re the judges. But you’re wrong.” Their judgment was inevitably the reverse of God’s judgment.
For example, in the classic illustration of this problem, in Luke 18, it says in verse 9, “And Jesus spoke this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.” Now that’s the Pharisees. They trusted in themselves. They put all their confidence in their own self-righteousness. And because they had set their own standard – and they were the standard – and because of their pride and egotism, everybody else they looked down upon, they despised, they hated. And so the Lord confronts them with this parable.
“Two men went to the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.” Now from a Pharisee’s viewpoint, a tax collector was the most wretched, rotten, vile person in human society, because he would be a traitor among the Jewish people who had aligned himself with the Romans to collect taxes on the behalf of Rome, and for all intents and purposes to rip off the Jewish population in doing it. He was a traitor of the first order.
“And these two went into the temple to pray. And the Pharisee stood and prayed with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not as other men: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” You notice, the Pharisee prayed with himself. The Pharisee was not interested in associating with anybody, because nobody came up to his level.
“So he went off to a place where he stood alone and apart, to demonstrate his self-righteousness as being unattained by any other person. And he said, ‘I’m so thankful I’m not like that vile tax collector. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector over in the corner was beating upon his breast and saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ And Jesus said that tax collector went home justified and not that Pharisee.”
In other words, they made judgments, but their judgments were wrong. They sat as condemning, critical judges of other people. This is the one thing that marked their relations with others: a judgmental, condemning attitude. And, frankly, folks, it belied their claim to be citizens of God’s kingdom. They couldn’t be and be that kind of person. And so the Lord, in recognizing this particular problem, speaks to this issue.
Now in Matthew chapter 7, verses 1 to 12, you have the sum of teaching in the Sermon on the Mount relative to human relations. You might not think you could sum up all there is on human relations in twelve verses; and I suppose a man couldn’t, but Jesus can. I mean there are books on behavioral psychology ad infinitum, ad nauseam, trying to figure out how to coordinate human relations. Jesus says more in twelve verses than all of them put together. And He has an amazing way of summing up the whole world of human relationships in very simple terms, because He sees the whole come together.
Now in this twelve-verse section, you have, first of all, in terms of how we are to act with one another, how we are to deal with one another; what we are not to do, that’s verses 1 to 6; and then what we are to do, verses 7 to 12. First a negative, and then a positive; and the sum of the two is enough to govern all our human relations. If you want to know how to act in your family, or on your job, or in your neighborhood, or in your recreation, or you want to know how to deal with people in business, this is the sum of it all: the negative and then the positive.
Now for this morning, we’re going to look at the negative, what not to do, verses 1 to 6; and the principle appears in verse 1 – note it: “Judge not.” Now you can stop there. That’s the principle. Don’t judge.
Now you say, “Well, you can’t reduce all of human relations down to that.” Oh, yes, you can, from the negative, as we shall see as we move along. Don’t judge. Now that sounds so simplistic. Don’t judge. And you hear people throw that around. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I’ve heard that. “Who are you to judge?”
Now there are many people who’ve misunderstood this. Tolstoy, for example, the Russian novelist, said, “Christ here totally forbids the human institution of any law court.” Now that is a gross misunderstanding of this. But there are other people who equally misunderstand it, only with another aberration. They say, “We should never criticize. We should never condemn anybody for anything. We should never evaluate anything at all. We don’t want to judge, lest we should be judged.”
And that phrase sort of fits our time, I think, because we live in an age when the wrong use of “judge not” would find a ready audience. Our time hates theology. Our time hates dogma. Our time resists doctrine. Our time doesn’t like convictions. People speak about love, and they speak about compromise. They speak about ecumenism, they speak about unity – anything to get everybody together. And somebody who talks about doctrine or dogma or convictions is generally unpopular in many circles.
I know this week we received a phone call from a church. They wanted to know if we had a young man who might be interested in candidating for their pulpit, and they said, “We want someone who will teach holiness, not doctrine,” holiness and not doctrine. There is a resistance to any conviction. Our time dislikes strong men – even though I think we’re waking up to the fact that we could use a few. Our time dislikes men with convictions, who speak up, who confront society, who disturb the status quo, men who know what they believe and why they believe it and are not intimidated about saying it. Such men today are branded as troublemakers. They’re branded as controversial.
I received a book this week, and someone was writing in the book. They wanted me to review the manuscript of it. And basically the book says the one thing we’ve got to eliminate in Christianity is doctrine, and we’ve got to go all out for love and fellowship, because doctrine is dividing us; and people who want to always talk about doctrine are the dividing ones in the body of Christ. And that was the thesis of the whole book.
But, you know, as you go back, if you have any sense of perspective in church history, you know there have been times in history, the history of the church, when men were praised for being men of conviction. They were praised for being men of principle, men of standards, men of dogma. Frankly, there wouldn’t have even been a reformation if there hadn’t been men like that. But today such men are difficult, non-cooperative, self-styled, unloving; and the man who is praised is the compromiser. And so some people have taken “judge not” and just fit it into the mentality of the time.
But the Lord is not condemning law courts. I mean the Bible instituted that. The principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is based upon a law court; and Romans 13 affirms the right for a nation to rule its people. And the Bible is not condemning any kind of judging or discriminating. The Bible tells us, as believers, that we must discern – right? – that we must know the truth from the falsehood.
And the whole of the Sermon on the Mount is predicated on a clear understanding of the distinction between true religion and false, between hypocrisy and reality. We’re not to be undiscriminating. We’re not to be blind. We’re not to be flabby sentimentalists.
For example, look at verse 6. It says, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine.” Now if you’re not going to do that, you’re going to have to find out who the hogs and dogs are so you know not to give them that. There must be discrimination.
Look at verse 15. “Beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing.” Now if you only perceive things superficially, you’ll see the sheep’s clothing and never know the wolf that’s under there. There must be discernment. There must be judging, or we don’t know the false prophets, we don’t know the dogs, we don’t know the swine that we’re to avoid. So in the very passage itself we are told to test, discriminate, evaluate between the true and the false.
We have law courts to do that. The church, for example, in the same gospel of Matthew, is told to confront a sinning brother in chapter 18, and to confront that brother boldly, forthrightly about his sinfulness, and to make it a matter of public knowledge if he doesn’t repent. So we are not flabby and soft in obedience to Scripture; Scripture calls us to discern.
Paul says in Galatians 1, “If somebody comes and preaches another gospel, let him be accursed!” John says, “If anybody comes and talks about a Christ other than the Christ of the Bible, don’t receive him into your house. Don’t even bid him Godspeed, or you’re a partaker of his evil deed. We are told to remove from our midst those who are sinning as leaven that leavens the lump, in 1 Corinthians 5. Hymenaeus and Alexander were put out of the church because of the corruptive influence they had upon it. So all throughout the Bible we are commanded to discern, to try the spirits, to have our senses exercised to know the difference between good and evil, says Hebrews 5:14.
Now having said that then, we look at “Judge not.” We know it doesn’t mean that we’re not to discriminate between truth and error. I mean that’s infantile. It is a child, according to Ephesians 4, that doesn’t know the difference between good and evil, that becomes victimized and prey to Satan’s cunning craftiness because of an inability to discern. We must discern. We must discriminate. We must evaluate. There are things we must judge. That’s not what the Lord’s talking about.
What is He talking about? What He’s talking about is the critical, judgmental, condemning, self-righteous egotism of the Pharisees. They weren’t criticizing people because of sin, they were criticizing them because of their personality, their character, their weaknesses, their frailties; perhaps the way they looked, or the way they dressed, or the fact that they didn’t do the things the way they did them. They were criticizing their motives, which they couldn’t see or perceive anyway in their humanness. You don’t know why a person does what he does.
To go around saying, “Well, we should love everybody and never judge anybody,” that isn’t what the Lord is saying. In fact, in Leviticus 19:17, it says this: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother.” Thou shalt not hate thy brother? What do you mean? “Thou shalt in any case rebuke they neighbor and not allow sin on him.” In other words, to allow him to sin is to hate him, not to love him. So, if you see sin, it is love that makes a change. It is love that demands a repentance.
People say, “Oh, I don’t want to say anything. We just love everybody.” No, when you find sin and you tolerate it, you are hating your brother, not loving him. It is love that confronts; it is hate that ignores a fault and a sin and lets a person go in that path.
Jesus expressed such evaluation. He condemned repeatedly. He judged; He evaluated; He criticized. He unmasked and stripped naked the Pharisees in Matthew 23. We’re not talking about that; we’re talking about the ugly, self-righteous, judgmental, critical spirit of the Pharisees. And not only the Pharisees, but a lot of other folks had the same problem; and we fight it as well, even today. We’re not shirking church discipline, but we are talking about that personal, critical spirit.
So if you want an easy translation of what it says in verse 1, it says, “Stop criticizing. Stop criticizing.” Who are you to criticize other people? That’s the issue.
We must judge. We must evaluate. Romans 16:17 says, “We must mark them that cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we’ve learned and avoid them.” We must make doctrinal distinctions, and we must mark the people who offend that doctrine, and we must avoid those people. “We can’t all get together, we must make distinctions, and that judgment must begin” – says Peter – “at the house of God.” We have a right to judge righteous judgment – John 7:24 – but not the carping criticism of the Pharisees; and that is essentially what He’s saying.
You see, the word “judge” here is the word krinō, and it’s translated at least fifteen different ways potentially, or even twenty different ways. It has such a broad meaning, and so we must see the context to get its meaning. And as we look at the context, it’s a contrast with the Pharisees all through the sermon. As we look at the biblical context, we know He’s not forbidding all judgment, because He talks in so many other places of the necessity of that kind of judgment.
But we’re not to judge people’s motives. We’re not to condemn them because they don’t look like we think they ought to look, or they don’t act or talk like we think they ought to talk or act, they don’t come up to our supposed self-righteous standard. We have no business doing that. That is forbidden. Romans 14:13 succinctly puts it, when it says, “Let us not, therefore, judge one another anymore.” Stop doing that. Stop criticizing.
The Bible is very clear about the kind of judging we’re not to do. In the first place, we’re not to do some official kind of judging. Do you remember when we studied back in chapter 5, eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, and we said that that is a legal prescription, not one for personal relationships? That’s for the law courts, and you have no right to carry those things out. There’s no place in the Bible for personal vengeance. We cannot make official or vengeful judgments.
Secondly, the Bible forbids hasty judgments. “He that answereth a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him,” says Proverbs 18:13. The Bible forbids us from making great judgments on less than full knowledge and facts, to make some hasty judgment.
I always think about a story I told you a few years ago. Paul Gray was in the tape room. He was looking out the window, and he saw a fellow halfway into the trash bin, where all the tape materials and things that are no good or aren’t used are thrown in the trash bin. And he was looking out the window, and down in the trash bin was a couple of feet sticking out of the top. And all of a sudden the guy came out, and he had in his hand a tape.
He put the tape in his pocket, and he came upstairs about ten minutes later, and he says, “I got a defective tape when I sent for this tape, and I’d like to replace it with a good one.” And Paul had seen the whole incident, and he said to him, “Are you sure?” He wanted to give him an opportunity to confess. “You sure you want a tape to replace that tape?” “Yes, I want to listen to this tape. Boy, I’ve been the series and the Lord’s blessing me, and I want to listen to this tape.”
Oh, and Paul was really getting upset. “Are you sure you want this tape?” “Yes, I want the tape.” And finally he went over to get him the tape, and he came back and he said, “I just can’t give you this tape. I want you to know I was looking out that window and I saw everything you did. I saw you go in there and get that old tape in there and come up and then ask for an exchange.”
And he smiled and he said, “Oh.” He said, “no, no.” He said, “I’ve been here all day helping pastors move to new offices, and I brought that tape with me from home, and I had it in my pocket, and when I was dumping their trash it fell out of my pocket, and I just put it back in.” Hasty judgment. One of the reasons why we’re not so hot at this process is because we don’t always have full information. We don’t always see what we think we see.
We are not to make an official judgment. We are not to make a hasty judgment. We’re not to make unwarranted judgments, or undeserved judgments, such as in Colossians when they were judging the believers for not keeping a new moon or a feast or a Sabbath day, and those things had already been abolished. We’re not to set up some human standards, some of our own little codes; and then if people don’t live up to our little non-biblical codes, put them in another category spiritually.
We’re not to make unjust judgments, like the judges in the northern kingdom of Israel made. They were unjust judges who took bribes. We’re not to make those kind of judgments. We’re not to make unmerciful judgments, where we’re unrelenting and persistent, and we never let up, and we just keep criticizing and criticizing and criticizing. That’s even more than God does, for God is rich in – what? – mercy.
And what the Lord here is forbidding is that officious, hasty, unwarranted, unjust, unmerciful condemnation that is spawned by self-righteous pride. We’re not to do that. And then worst of all, after we’ve made that judgment in our heart, we go tell people about it, and we become a tale bearer or a gossiper. So we’re not to do that. He gives three reasons why not. And I’m going to go through these rapidly, so hang on to your seat.
Number one: To make that kind of a judgment manifests an erroneous view of God, verse 1, an erroneous view of God: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” And He simply reminds them that they are not the final court. “You do this, and you will be judged. Have you forgotten that you are not God?” That is precisely the bottom line in this sin. To judge other people, their motives and so forth, is to play God. It is to usurp the divine position.
John 5 tells us that judgment belongs to God, and He’s committed that judgment to the Son, and that’s the extent of it, folks. We are not, at this particular time, to sit in judgment. There will be a time millennially when there will be a joining together with the Lord as He reigns, and we will carry out some of His rule and judgment, the Bible says. But at this time and for now, we have no right to judge. We literally blaspheme God by usurping His proper place.
Think of it that way. Every time you sit in judgment on someone, every time you criticize their motives, or every time you think you have a right to make an evaluation, you’re playing God. Every time you carry out vengeance or a vendetta or you get even on your own, you are playing God. Every time you pass sentence on someone arbitrarily, you’re playing God.
Now it isn’t true if there’s an obvious sin. It isn’t true if you follow the principle of biblical judgment, which is always with two or three – what? – witnesses. It is when you set yourself up as the authority, and you’re going to call all the shots, and you’re going to determine who fits and who makes the standard; and in so doing, you’ve taken God’s seat.
And Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to do that? Who do you think you are?” Listen to what Paul said: “Who are you that judges another man’s servant?” In other words, “That person is God’s servant,” that’s the analogy. “To his own master he’ll stand or fall. God’s able to make that determination.”
In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, the apostle Paul says, in verse 3, a simple thing: “With me it’s a very small thing that I would be judged of you, or of men’s judgment. That’s a small issue with me. For I don’t know anything against myself; yet am I not hereby justified. He that judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time. Let God evaluate my ministry.”
Oh, we sit in judgment on other people’s ministries, and other people’s teaching ,and other people’s life, and other people’s attitudes, and we do this all the time. To me, I hear Jesus saying, “If you will eliminate this, you will literally, dramatically alter and transform all human relations.” Just stop judging each other, criticizing.
In James chapter 4, in verses 11 and 12, another word that speaks directly to this: “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judges his 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. Why don’t you let God’s law do its work? You can’t set yourself up as the judge;” – verse 12 says – “for there is one lawgiver who is able to save and destroy; and who are you that judges?” In other words, “You’re usurping God’s role. You’re setting yourself above the law, as the judge of the law, rather than one who is subject to it.”
Every time you criticize somebody because they don’t do something the way you think it ought be done, or because you think you’ve figured out their motive, you pass judgment and set yourself up as God. Listen to what one writer said: “Judge not. The workings of his brain and of his heart thou cannot see. What looks to thy dim eyes a stain, in God’s pure light may only be a scar brought from some well-won field where thou wouldst only faint and yield.” Don’t play God.
Secondly: Don’t judge, because it’s an erroneous view of God, and also an erroneous view of others, verse 2. You see, most people think that they can judge, because they’re under a different condition than everybody else is. The Pharisees thought they were exempt. They lived on some strata beyond the purview of any judgment. I mean they were up here where everything was fine, and only people down here got it. But he says in verse 2, “With what judgment you judge, you’ll be judged; and with what measure you measure, it’ll be measured to you again.” You’re going to get just what you give.
Now some people think this is talking about human relationships: You judge somebody, they’ll judge you the same way; you measure out something to them, they’ll measure it out to you the same way; and they keep it on a human level. There is a sense in which the way we treat people, they’ll treat us. That’s true, to some extent. Luke 6:38 says, “Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give into your bosom.” So there is a sense in which we will get reciprocation for the way we treat people.
But that’s not the heart of this verse at all. That’s to miss the point. Because, you see, how men treat us is not what motivates us, right? Paul says, “It is a small thing how you judge me.” That’s a small issue with me. I mean what people think of me is not a major restriction on my behavior. A man or a woman who walk with God is not so concerned about what men think as about what God thinks. And the great restriction on our life, the great confining element of our life is what God thinks, and what God feels about us.
Oh, we’re not indifferent to what men feel. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” And we want to hear criticism, like Psalm 141, “Let the righteous smite me if I deserve it.” It isn’t that we’re indifferent; but it is that, more than anything else, we seek God and His judgment and His evaluation, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4.
And so I believe it’s talking about God’s judgment. And what He’s saying is – and I want you to see this, it’s a powerful statement: “What judgment you judge, God will judge you with; and what measure you measure, God will measure to you again.” In other words, God is going to evaluate you on the basis of your knowledge, your light. If you say, “All right, I know enough to judge all of you people on this,” then you prove you know enough to be judged on it yourself. Right?
I mean if you’re the guy who’s going to be able to judge everybody else at that level, then you manifest evidence that you know enough to be judged for that same standard. That’s why the Bible says, “To whom much is given,” – what? – “much is required.” That’s why the Bible says that when you trample underfoot the blood of the covenant, and count the sacrifice of Christ an unholy thing, and you reject the full gospel, as the book of Hebrews says, you reject the whole knowledge of everything there is to know, and you reject all of that, you’re going to receive the hottest hell and the sorest punishment of all; because the more you reject, the greater evidence you give of guilt. And that’s really what He’s saying. The more you know, the more you’re responsible for.
That’s why James is so pertinent. It says, “Stop being so many teachers, because theirs is the greater” – what? – “judgment.” Why? Because the one who stands up in teaching is the one who gives evidence of knowing; and what you know is going to be what you’re judged on. And the more you know, the severer the judgment.
So He’s saying to them, “Look, you think that by knowing all of this stuff, you sit on a seat of judgment; and I’m telling you, by knowing all of that, you manifest the fact that you are responsible to have lived up to all of it. And if you haven’t, you’ll be judged on it all.”
You see, they had a wrong view of others. They thought they were exempt and everybody else was going to get it. And He says, “No, I don’t have a double standard. You’re going to be judged on the same basis that you’re judging everybody else.” That’s power.
In Romans 2, he said the same thing, Paul did, in chapter 2, in verse 1: “Therefore, thou art” – listen to this – “inexcusable, O man,” – you have no excuse – “whosoever thou art that judgest;” – if you judge, you have no excuse – “for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” And you prove, by judging another and doing it yourself, that you know better; and you’ll be judged on that knowledge.
There’s no double standard. We should not criticize, because in criticizing, we play God. And in criticizing, we assume that we’re exempt from what other people are not exempt from, and we miss the point. That’s the wrong view of others. They’re not under us, they’re equal with us, and God’ll judge us by the same standard.
If you’re negative, gossipy, tale-bearing, critical, judgmental, you’re under the false illusion that you’re exempt from judgment. For whatever you condemn in somebody else, you prove that you should be condemned for in your own life by virtue of such knowledge. Criticism then becomes a boomerang; you throw it out and it comes right back. And unloving criticism will recoil on your own head at the hand of God.
I always think about Haman in the book of Esther, who built a gallows to hang Mordecai, and wound up being hanged on his own gallows. There was a king named Adonibezek in Judges chapter 1. He had captured seventy other kings, and cut off their thumbs and their big toes; and then he was captured, and they cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And he said, “The Lord has requited to me as I have done.”
Listen, to judge wrongly is to play God, and it is a serious thing, because you will be biased and you will bribed by your own self-righteousness, by your own pride, by your own ego. And you can’t judge righteous judgment, because you don’t have all the facts.
In early Greece, whenever they had a very severe case to try, they tried it in the middle of the night, in the pitch dark, so there were no faces, so that no one would be prejudiced. And all they would hear were the words of the case.
In Persia once, there was a judge – Montagne tells this story – and this particular judge was bribed; and so he rendered a wrong verdict, for money. Cambyses was the Persian king, and he heard what happened, and so he ordered the judge to be executed. And after the judge was executed, he ordered his soldiers to skin him: “Strip off all his skin.” He took all of the skin of that judge, and with it, he covered a chair. And on that chair sat every judge from then on who judged in that court in Persia. I would say that would be a fairly good reminder of justice.
You see, we are prejudiced by our own egos, and we are impotent by our own ignorance. We have no business trying to play God or assume we are operating on another standard than anybody else is.
Finally, of these three reasons not to judge: when you critically judge other people, you manifest an erroneous view of yourself. I mean are you so good that you can sit around checking out everybody else? I mean you’ve got nothing to work on? I mean you’ve got it all under control, so that you could spend your time evaluating everyone else? Some of us would do well to take the time we spend criticizing other people, and put it to action in prayer and confession of our own sin somewhere in a closet; because until we get our own life straightened out, we have little usefulness in trying to assist someone else.
That is essentially what the Lord says in verses 3 and 4. Listen to it. And this is like a cartoon; this is so bizarre. “And why beholdest thou the moat” – and that means a splinter or a twig; a splinter might be a good one. But it’s the idea of not something that’s mammoth, but something that’s the size of a twig. It’s not a little tiny speck, it’s something substantial. I mean if you got it in your eye, it would be horrendous. But anyway, so let’s call it a splinter in your brother’s eye – “and you’re not considering the plank, the timber, the beam” – like a beam underneath a ceiling – “in your own eye?”
And you see the picture? Here’s a guy with a twig in his eye, and he’s miserable. I mean you get anything in your eye and it’s really – you get a little tiny thing in there and it’ll drive you crazy. But imagine a twig or a splinter in your eye, and here comes a guy, “I’ll help you.” And sticking out of his eye is an eight-foot two-by-four. I mean he can’t even get over there to help the guy, let alone see what’s going on. It’s the blind leading the blind. “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother,” – verse 4 – ‘let me pull the splinter out of your eye; and, behold, you’ve got a two-by-four in your own eye?” Ridiculous. It’s comedic, it’s so bizarre.
We are unfit judges, not only because we are fallible and we can’t play the part of God, and because we are partial in our own favor and tend to think we have a different standard than everybody else, but because we are hopelessly and utterly blind when it comes to perception; because – listen to me – as soon as you approach someone to judge them or to criticize them or to force them to your standard, you give evidence of the fact that you are blind, or you’d be working on your own plank instead of their splinter. See? That’s the point.
Now people have argued back and forth about what the splinter is and what the plank is; and some have said the splinter is sort of a little sin. Well, I don’t see it as a little sin. I think it’s pretty severe sin, a twig in your eye. And then they say, “But the plank is a vulgar, heinous, vile, wretched, evil, horrible sin.” I don’t see that, either. I mean people with a vile, wretched, evil, heinous, horrible sin in their eye aren’t going around trying to straighten out other people, they’re usually trying to justify themselves. And so someone with a smaller sin they would easily justify, right? That wouldn’t be a problem for them.
Usually the people who see everything wrong in somebody else’s life see absolutely nothing wrong in their own life. And the only gross, vile, wretched sin that never sees anything wrong in its own life is – what? – self-righteousness. And that’s what the plank is. As long as you’re self-righteous, as long as you’re spiritually proud, as long as you set yourself up as a judge, you can’t help anybody out with any sin.
It is interesting, though, that in the Lord’s caricature, that is a far worse sin than any other, because it plays God. It is the vilest of all sins. Do you realize that every situation in the New Testament, Jesus condemns sin, not the sinner, except one: self-righteousness. And there He blasted the sinner with the sin, because it is the worst sin of all. It plays God. It denies the gospel. It denies the need for redemption. It says, “I’m holy like I am.”
And so the plank is self-righteousness. And as long as you’re self-righteous, and you think you’re all right, and you never bother dealing with your own sin, there’s no way you’re going to help anybody else. You’re blind. It is the sin of subtle, self-righteous criticism; and it’s a plank in your own eye, and you cannot help anybody else.
Listen, if you’re more interested in the principle than the personality, you’ll deal with your own problem, not the other person, not the other person. If you’re really concerned about righteousness, if you’re really concerned about judgment, if you’re really concerned about truth, then you’re going to see it first in your own life, aren’t you; because if you have the perception to know truth and see it, and you have the perception to see righteousness and hunger for it, where you’re going to see it is right where it is most obvious, and that’s in your own heart.
You see, that’s why the key to this whole thing is the Beatitudes. Until you have humbly and meekly hungered and thirsted for righteousness out of a recognition that you’re sinful, you can’t follow up on any of these things. The truly holy person is lost in his own sinfulness; he’s not trying to pull splinters out of people’s eyes with a plank in his own eye. He sees himself for the way he is.
Verse 5, “You hypocrite, you phony,” – he says, hupokritēs, - “you absolutely false person, pretending to be what you’re not.” The eye doctor, the oculist, is a phony. He’s a fraud. So, you see, people, we can’t judge, because it’s a wrong view of God, others, and self. Who are you to do that?
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.”
And danger number two, we will not discern or discriminate at all. We’ll say, “Well, we don’t want to get into that. 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.
And so the Lord closes then with an injunction to cover both of those, and it is a masterful balancing. First of all, he says we must still, even though we have to be careful, we must maintain the tension and the balance, so that we still reprove and rebuke a sinning brother. Verse 5: “First, cast the beam out of thine own eye.” Now He doesn’t stop with, “It’s in your eye.” He says, “Get it out of your eye. Get rid of your self-righteousness. Get rid of your pride.”
How do you do that? I believe it’s a matter of confession of sin. Don’t you? I think first you have to look and see that it’s there, verse 3: “Considerest not the plank in your own eye?” And the word “considerest” there means to perceive in a meditative, prolonged way. It is used, for example, in Luke 12:27, “Consider the lilies.” In James 1:23, “As we behold our face in a glass.” It is a constant look, a look of understanding, a look of comprehension.
And so he’s saying, “Take a good look. Don’t you see you’ve got a spiritual problem yourself? Don’t you see you’ve got an ungodly, self-righteousness that makes you judgmental and critical of other people? Consider that.”
Having considered it, you go to verse 5: “Cast it out.” And how do you do that? By confessing it to the Lord. First Corinthians 11:21, “If we judge ourselves, we won’t be judged,” right? God’s not going to have to chasten the sin of self-righteousness if we deal with it. And so I bring my life fully to the judgment of God, and I ask Him to cleanse, to purify, to remove it.
And once I’ve done that, I can move on to verse 5, “And then shalt thou see clearly to cast the moat out of thy brother’s eye.” Listen, we’ve got to get the thing out of our brother’s eye, don’t we? We can’t let him go on in sin, that’s to hate him, Leviticus 19:17 says. We’ve got to get it out. But we’ve got to deal with, first, ourselves.
Listen to how David put it. Psalm 51: “Create in me, O Lord, a” – what? – “clean heart.” Did you hear that? “Create in me, O Lord, a clean heart.” Now listen, “Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners shall be converted to Thee.” But there’s no way to teach a transgressor the right way, and there’s no way to convert a sinner to God, until I have in my own life a clean heart.
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.
Jesus said to Peter – and this is a very potent passage. In Luke 22, He said, “Peter, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat. He’s going to find out what in you is real. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.” Now listen to this: “And when you are recovered, strengthen the brethren.” The point is, he couldn’t strengthen the brethren until he got recovered himself. He was useless until his own life was made right.
“Ye who are spiritual,” – Galatians 6:1 – “restore such a one.” We have to be right before we can help. So the key is a selfless, humble love. We’re not to be a judge, playing God. We’re not to be a superior, thinking there’s a double standard. We’re not to be a hypocrite, blaming everybody else and not seeing the sin in our own life. But we are to be a brother; and having dealt with that sin, we are to deal in brotherly love.
The second danger is that people who say, “Well, judge not, judge not,” like today, in this flabby, sentimental day. They say, “Well, we don’t want to discriminate. No doctrine. We don’t want to get anybody upset, we just want to love everybody. We’ll all get together.” They don’t discern, and they don’t discriminate.
And then verse 6 comes like a thunderbolt to them. Listen to it: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs. Neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and lacerate you.” Now listen, this is a fascinating verse, and I want to pull it together for you, because I think it’ll really open your understanding.
Dogs in those days were not the little, you know, nice-smelling, painted nails, rhinestone collars, funny little sweater things that flip flop around the houses today. They were not the little lap dog, pet dog things, you know, that we spend a fortune on and all. Dogs in those days, apart from the dogs that worked with the flocks – and, of course, in Job, it talks about the dog of the flocks; it would be a trained dog that worked with the sheep. But the dogs in the cities were a mongrel, ugly, big bunch of dogs that scavenged around the city and ate the garbage; and they were a horrible, ugly bunch of wild dogs.
The Jews believed them to be filthy – the Old Testament talks about that – unclean. The Psalms say they threaten, they howl, they snarl; they are a greedy, shameless group. They are called contemptible in 1 Samuel. Dogs were an ugly kind of a being. They weren’t anything like we have today, except for those that worked with the sheep. They would be pariahs, savage, mongrels. Lived in the garbage heaps. And holy things were not to be thrown to the dogs.
What are the holy things? Well, when you came to the temple to make a sacrifice, the sacrifice would be presented to the Lord. You’d keep a part to take home, a part would go to the priest for his meal, and a part would go on the altar. The part that went on the altar was for God, and it would be consumed on the altar as an offering to the Lord.
Now no priest would take the part on the altar. He might throw the bones left from the part that he took, and you might throw the bones left from the part you took out the opening in the house so the dogs could have something to eat, the wild dogs roaming the streets; but no way was a priest going to take that which was offered to God on the altar and throw it to the dogs. That would be a horrible desecration by an unclean, filthy, vile animal. I wouldn’t do that.
Jesus says, “Anybody knows you don’t throw the holy part of a sacrifice to a bunch of wild dogs.” In other words, the Lord is saying, “Look, you’d better be discriminating in your ministry. There are some people who will hear your criticisms, and who will respond to your work, and respond to your word, and respond to your efforts. But don’t waste the precious truths on those who would shred it and tear it without a thought of its significance.”
And then He gives them a second illustration. By the way, dogs were so rotten, they even ate people in those days. When Jezebel fell out of a window, the dogs came over and ate her up. And, by the way, to be eaten by a dog was considered a curse. So they were a vile bunch.
Secondly, He says hogs, dogs and hogs. He says, “You don’t throw pearls to swine either, because they’ll trample them under their feet, and they’ll get so angry they’ll turn and tear you up.”
Now the pigs in those days weren’t quite as domesticated, perhaps, as today; and you get a bunch of hogs mad at you, you could be in real trouble. You come out pretending to feed them and throw them pearls. You say, “Who’d do that? Nobody would do that.” That’s the point. I mean a man would have to liquidate his entire fortune to get just one pearl from the Persian Sea or the Indian Ocean. They were priceless things, incredible things.
Who’s going to throw a pearl to a hog? A hog can’t appreciate a pearl. True? A hog’s going to think it’s a big piece of barley; and when it isn’t, boy, it’s going to go bang, bang, and you’re going to get it, see? Hogs don’t appreciate pearls. Don’t waste things on those who don’t appreciate them. Therefore, you’re going to have to discern and discriminate that.
This is a tremendous truth, people. We have to learn in our ministry to be discriminating. You don’t say everything to everybody. Paul even said to the Corinthians, “I could not speak unto you certain things, because you were carnal. I wouldn’t waste them on your misunderstandings. I wouldn’t waste them on your sinfulness.”
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. When Jesus rose from the dead, He never one time appeared to an unbeliever, never once.
You see, we have discrimination, so we have to evaluate. Hogs were the chosen refuge of the demons in Matthew 8. They were contemptible and filthy in Jewish eyes. The prodigal son, to eat pig slop and live with the hogs, had reached the pits of Jewish culture. They were considered unclean; and in Isaiah it says that the eating of hog’s flesh is an abomination to God.
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.
Verse 14: “Cursed children, in the way of Balaam.” Verse 17: “Wells without water,” liars, so forth. “And who have” – verse 20 – “escaped the pollutions of the world through a head knowledge of the Lord Jesus, but have turned away from it.” And then verse 22: “It is happened unto them according to the true proverb: ‘The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.’”
You could take one of those street dogs and bring him in and try to change his diet, but he’ll go right back to his vomit. You can take a hog in the house, clean it up, leave the door open, it’ll be right back in the slop. Hogs and dogs are those who, having known the truth, have followed the way of false teachers and false prophets and liars and deceivers.
I saw that thing on television with the gay power, gay politics. And your first reaction is that somebody ought to give them the gospel. And your second reaction is that they are the hogs and the dogs of which Jesus spoke, who have willfully and wholesale turned their backs on the truth of God. And we should not allow them to trample under their evil feet the purity of the gospel message. That’s a hard, hard word from the Lord, because it’s difficult to distinguish so much in our own mind, that we have to be dependent on the Lord.
When the disciples were sent out in Matthew, chapter 10, He said, “If you come to a place and they don’t hear your message, you leave that place, and you shake the dust off your feet.” Listen, Jesus was patient with Peter and He was patient with Thomas, but He didn’t say one single to Herod Antipas, because Herod Antipas had a hard heart, and He didn’t waste the pearls. See?
And the apostle Paul in the eighteenth chapter of Acts went, and he preached to the Jews; and they blasphemed, and they mocked, and they rejected. And he said, “Your blood be on you. From now on I go to the Gentiles.” He turned his back and walked out.
You say, “Well, what about them?” Well, listen. Later, some of them were saved. But they had to be saved by coming to the gospel, not by the gospel coming to them. Paul turned his back and walked out.
There comes a time, you see, when we have to be careful. In John’s epistle, he says, “If somebody comes to your door, and he belongs to one of these false systems, don’t let him in your house, and don’t you bid him Godspeed.” You say, “Well, what about his soul? Maybe I could win him to the Lord.” You let God take care of that. Don’t you let him trample the pearl. Don’t you throw holy things to dogs.
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. I go to speak sometimes in places where I’m not speaking to Christians. I’m very careful how I use the Bible, because there are things they will reject, there are things they will refuse, there are things they will mock and despise. And I choose not to give them that opportunity, for the precious treasures of God’s Word.
We must make judgments, beloved; but they must be proper, righteous judgments. We must discriminate, and we must deal with sin in the life of another brother or sister. But we must never be judgmental and critical, because we set ourselves up as some self-righteous judge.
And I’ll tell you frankly, folks, it all comes down to an attitude. And I say this because I really believe this. It all comes down to an attitude. Are you criticizing, are you evaluating, are you discerning, are you discriminating in order to know the truth, and honor God; or are you doing it to exalt yourself and hurt somebody else? Ultimately, it comes to that decision. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank You that You have been so gracious as to forgive us our many judgments, our many criticisms. You have been ever more merciful with us than we are with each other, ever more forgiving than we are with those who fail us. Thank You that You’re a far more merciful God than we are merciful men and women.
Lord, help us to follow Your instruction and Your lead, to be tenderhearted and kind and forgiving. Help us not to set ourselves up as judges, all the while maintaining discrimination and discernment, having our senses exercised to know the difference between good and evil, not compromising, standing for the truth and marking those who cause division and offenses; but never, Father, for a selfish motive, never because of self-righteousness or self-seeking, because we think we’re better; but ever, Father, that we may pursue the truth. And even when we find those who err, may we restore them in love and meekness, knowing we, too, could be in the same situation. And may we be forgiving and merciful.
Lord, we pray that our fellowship here, this church, might be known as one that loves. We know that all human relations could be amazingly adjusted if we just stopped being critical, and had good words for one another, except in those times where rebuke and reproof and restoration is needed; and then we seek your counsel; and those times when we must confront the evil, Christ-rejecting, God-hating, Scripture-denying who would trample the pearl. Help us, Lord, to know how to keep that balance; and we’ll thank You in Christ’s name. Amen.
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