Session #054 Planks Pigs & Pearls
Scripture Matthew 7:1-6
Summary When Jesus said “Do not judge,” what was He really addressing? Although many quote these words of Jesus, not as many are aware of the verses that follow, much less its right interpretation. Henson takes the trouble to teach Matthew 7:1-6 in its proper context, sharing seven principles for deeper contemplation, consideration and application.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. Matthew 7:1-6
When Jesus said “Do not judge”, what was He really addressing? It is not about ‘Not Judging’ but ‘How to Judge Ourselves and Others Rightly’. In this teaching, the context of the verses is examined and seven principles are shared for contemplation, consideration, and application.
The Greek word ‘krino’ for ‘judge’ has a variety of meanings. In the New Testament, it means to judge, to form, or give an opinion after separating and considering the particulars of a case. Everyone would agree that there is nothing wrong with doing this as described. From this word, we get ‘krites’ (a judge), which became ‘criticus’ (Latin) for a critic. To critique is to give an objective evaluation and not criticize which is usually subjective, negative, and derogatory, with an intention to tear down. This is what Jesus is referring to. The kingdom community has no place for a critical spirit, one that is self-righteous, that seeks to lift oneself up by putting others down.
There is also a difference between ‘judge’ and ‘condemn’ (Greek-katakrino). While these words are related, we can judge i.e., make an assessment and evaluation without condemning i.e., putting down or writing off a person. Our tendency is to condemn without even first judging rightly, or we may swing to the other extreme to avoid condemning people and refuse to judge rightly, ending up condoning sin. In John 8:1-12, Jesus did not condemn the woman but He judged that she was indeed sinful and told her to “Go and sin no more.” There was a judgment but no condemnation. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with making an objective judgment but we are not to be overly critical to put a person down.
Getting into the Text-Seven Principles
Go deeper into the text and extract seven principles for consideration and application:
Caution and Warning: Before You Judge (Matthew 7:1-2)
Jesus cautioned that we must not judge until we are prepared to be judged by others. In the same way, we reap what we sow either in the same measure or with a greater measure, whether it is about judging, condemning, forgiving or giving (Luke 6:37-38). This is not an escape clause for biblical ignorance or compromise. Many also refuse to judge because to do so would mean revealing their own sin or shortcomings. It does not mean that if you never judge or have an opinion about anything, that you will not be judged at the end. (John 12:48).
Do not Judge the Hidden Motives of the Heart
We must not assume sin even if we suspect sin. Our tendency is to jump to conclusions without sufficient facts and details e.g., gossip, rumours, and slanders are disguised as sharing and concern and we pass judgment and condemnation in the process. We must also be careful not to just listen to one side of the story (Proverbs 18:17). Furthermore, we need to be mindful not to judge by outward appearances, racial, gender, social stereotypes, and prejudices (John 7:24).
God has the Final Say/Judgment
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Paul was being compared and criticized but was not overly concerned. He wrote that only God can and will reveal the hidden motives of the heart and we cannot pass a final judgment, only God can. Our part is to be faithful to what the Lord has said and given to us.
Do Not Judge Others Without First Judging Yourself (Matthew 7:3-5)
Self-awareness is very important for a kingdom subject in God’s kingdom. Jesus contrasted the speck in our brother’s eye with a plank in ours to illustrate our own blindness when we judge others. In a parallel text in Luke 6:39-40, Jesus was talking about the Pharisees’ spiritual blindness. They judged others but did not practice what they preached. Similarly, we may have bible knowledge and go around judging others but are spiritually blind ourselves. We must also be mindful of who we hang out with or learn from – critical people and leaders or gracious and humble ones who learn from Jesus? For, from the latter, we will learn to judge rightly and with grace like Paul.
We need a self-alignment check – speck reflection before speck inspection. Whenever we see something ‘questionable’ in another person’s life or ministry, we must make it a point to ask ourselves if we are committing the same error without realizing it; or have we been justifying why we do it. Next, yank the plank before you check the speck i.e., repent – deal with the issue ourselves and turn from the wrong way. Then we can help another who has the same issue. We need to be rightly aligned before we can help another person to align. By practising the above points, we will then have the credibility and right to judge.
What Not to Judge: Do Not Major on the Minors
Majoring on the minors leads to legalism (Romans 14, Colossians 2;20-23). Outward religiosity, or a form of godliness, has no power. There is no point observing all these things (what we eat, which day we worship, which style of worship, which feast to observe, which seminar to attend, etc) and yet have no transformation at all. The righteousness, peace, and joy of the kingdom of God are not found in food laws or religious observances but in the lives led and changed by the Holy Spirit. It is not freedom to do anything but if we are led by the Spirit, we will eat rightly and responsibly, dress modestly and sensitively and speak carefully and wisely.
Judge Obvious and Explicit Sins in the Kingdom Community
There are three problems in the church. Firstly, we have confused what is minor and made these major, but totally neglected the majors and made them minor. We have neglected the explicit sins e.g., sexual immorality, covetousness, idolatry, etc (1 Corinthians 5:11, 6:9-10).
The second problem is that we prefer to submit more to the law of the land than the law of the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:1-11). However, the laws of man do not necessarily reflect the laws of God e.g., prostitution, adultery, smoking, gluttony are not illegal. In Singapore, homosexuality is technically illegal but not enforced and it is being challenged to be made legal by repealing Section 377a. If we know how to judge ourselves and our kingdom communities rightly and well, there is no need for Christians to sue one another and have unbelievers pass judgment over us. There have been many cases of control, manipulation, abuse, and cover-ups in Christian communities. We cover up because we do not want to look bad in front of others. God never covers up sin but exposes it. We try to protect God’s name in the wrong way. Instead of repentance, we cover up. We need to review and recover right judging, proper church discipline, ex-communication, where the primary purpose is the restoration of the individual.
The third problem is that we are not judging rightly. Believers are more ready to judge non-believers than believers. It is silly to expect non-believers to live as kingdom subjects for we have the holy spirit and they do not. Believers judge other believers with self-righteousness, without mercy and grace. They do not submit to the authority of the leaders. If they are judged by a leader and they are not happy, they go to another church. Leaders are also not of one mind concerning doctrines, judging, or church discipline. If we are not judging ourselves, God will judge us (1 Peter 4:17).
Proper Judgment is Precious and a Kingdom Treasure (Matthew 7:6)
If you judge rightly by the Holy Spirit, we have life and are no longer condemned. In the same way, if we know how to give feedback in the right manner, with love, with grace, with the objective of restoration, it brings life. Right judgment is precious and holy, a treasure to the kingdom community (Romans 7:12). This is the reason why Jesus likened it to pearls (compare with Matthew 13:45-46)
We have to be careful who we give feedback to for there are pariahs and pigs (derogatory terms for wild dogs and unclean animals). Usually, these are used to refer to Gentiles, pagans, and non-believers. Dogs were also used to refer to Judaizers (Philippians 3:2) and those who were cast out (Revelations 22:14-15). Jesus might have referred to the Gentiles but the teaching was levelled at the Pharisees and religious leaders who were judging others but were hypocrites themselves. Does this mean those kingdom believers who refuse to be rightly judged are considered non-believers? (Matthew 24:51, Luke 12:56, 1 Timothy 5:8)
Jesus is cautioning here ‘to exercise judgment, to discern so that you can give feedback and correction to the right people. Some will not take your feedback well or kindly and be prepared to be ignored, ridiculed, attacked, or killed e.g., in Jesus’ case. Many passages in Proverbs mention fools who are stubborn, rebellious, proud, refusing to receive advice and correction (Proverbs 26:11, 2 Peter 2:22). If we refuse to be rightly judged by our brothers and sisters, to be shown our blind spots, we are the dogs and pigs.
The question is not ‘To Judge or Not to Judge”? But how we can judge rightly, starting with ourselves and then helping others to see their blind spots. The kingdom is about righteousness, but it is also about mercy and compassion (Zechariah 7:9). Right judgment is holy and precious and a gift to the kingdom community for our good. However, not everyone appreciates it and so discern how you offer feedback and leave the final judgment to God.