Matthew 7:1-6

Matthew 7:1-6

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 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? 4 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? 5 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. 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.


History is full of bad, uninformed, and downright silly judgments.  Consider:

  • In 1737, Johann Adolf Scheibe described Johann Sebastian Bach’s compositions as being “deprived of beauty, of harmony, and of clarity of method.”
  • Louis Spohr described Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as “an orgy of vulgar noise.”
  • In 1833, Ludwig Rellstab said that Chopin was so talentless that, had he had a teacher, his teacher would have torn his music up and thrown it at his feet…or, said Rellstab, he would at least like to imagine that would have happened.
  • Emile Zola said that Paul Cezanne did not have the persistence to become a great painter.
  • In 1849, James Lorimer took consolation in the fact that, as he saw it, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights would never be generally read.
  • In 1855, The London Critic opined that Walt Whitman was “as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics.”
  • One critic said of George Orwell’s Animal Farm that, “it is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
  • A critic said of Anne Frank, after reading The Diary of Anne Frank, “This girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”
  • Edouard Manet said to Claude Monet that Renoir “has no talent at all, that boy.”
  • MGM’s Irving Thalberg suggested that the studio not buy the film rights to Gone With the Wind by saying, “No Civil War picture ever made a nickel.”
  • Gary Cooper, after he turned down the role of Rhett Butler, said, “I’m just glad it’ll be Clarke Gable who’s falling flat on his face and not Gary Cooper.”
  • An MGM executive wrote this after Fred Astaire’s 1928 screen test:  “Can’t act.  Can’t sing.  Balding.  Can dance a little.”[1]

These are all charming and silly simply because they are so manifestly wrongheaded, but what about judgments of a more serious nature, judgments about other people, their motives, their characters, their worth, their value?  It is one thing to think that Fred Astair could not dance.  That’s silly.  It is another thing to judge a man or woman’s character without all of the facts.  That is careless and harmful.  It is yet another thing to judge a person when you yourself are doing what that person is doing.  That is a gross sin.  It is even yet another thing to judge a child of God as worthless and meaningless.  That is demonic.

Of course, in our country we may face the opposite extreme more often:  the refusal to make necessary judgments.  To be sure, being judgmental is a sin, but so is, unfortunately, the inability to make a judgment when needed.  Gene Fant said this about an experience he had on jury duty.

Recently I opened a jury duty summons for one of our local courts. My report date hasn’t arrived quite yet, but I’m looking forward to the possibility of serving. I’ve only been empanelled once and it was a nightmare; I’m hoping for a better experience this time. The accused was clearly guilty; everyone identified him as the culprit (it was a robbery and stabbing), there were multiple witnesses, and the case was solid from start to finish. The accused even admitted that he had done it, but he claimed, with a straight face, to have stabbed the guy “accidentally” four, count ‘em, four times: once in the chest and three times in the back after he flipped the victim over. He threw the icepick (he claimed it was a meat thermometer) into a river, he said, while fleeing to another state because he was afraid that he would be charged with a crime.

Incredibly, we ended with a hung jury because one of my fellow jurors kept saying, “Who am I to judge this man?” It was a case of eleven angry men and women and one owner of a half-baked hermeneutical approach to Scripture, in this case Matthew 7:1-3, which she had denuded over and over in a refrain of its first two words: “Judge not.”[2]

Yes, here we see the opposite extreme.  Here we see a human being who honestly believed that literally all judgment was sin and that human beings have no right whatsoever under any circumstance at all to judge.

I say that we may encounter this extreme more frequently than the other (though, to be sure, the church, in many quarters, is brimming over with sinful judgmentalism), because our national mood is one in which judgments are not desired.  In short, we now have trouble saying of anything or anybody that it or he or she is wrong.  Ed Stetzer put it like this:

The reality is that sometimes we forget the worldview of the era in which we live. The world is not filled with people who are aware they are spiritually dead and looking for Jesus. Today, people think they are spiritually alive and are finding their own path to God. God is fine with however they wish to live because the only thing they know is that Jesus said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”[3]

That is true.  Matthew 7:1 may be the favorite verse of modern Americans because, twisted just a bit, it can be made to sound like we should never make moral judgments at all.  Theologian Roger Olson noted,

Even people who know very little about the Bible are usually familiar with Jesus’ saying “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, KJV). This command is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; it is Jesus’ most popular saying because our culture values tolerance so highly.[4]

Perceptively, Jean Bethke Elshtain described judging as a modern phobia!

Judging has been in bad odor for quite some time in American culture. It is equated with being punitive, or with insensitivity, or with various “phobias” and “isms.” It is the mark of antiquated ways of thinking, feeling, and willing…Why is judging—what Arendt called the preeminent political faculty—at a nadir among us? Surely much of the explanation lies in the triumph of the ideology of victimization coupled with self-esteem mania.[5]

Maybe there is something to that:  the ideology of victimization and self-esteem mania.  We are a people that do not know how to approach judgment.  We either tend to judge haughtily, hypocritically, and arrogantly, or we do not judge at all, even when certain judgments are needed.

What are we to make, then of our text this morning?

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 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? 4 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? 5 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. 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Yes, what are to make of this…or, more importantly, what is it to make of us?  After all, these are the words of Jesus.  We bow before them.  We do not make them bow before us.

Does Jesus mean that we should actually and literally never judge?  Is that what He is saying?  Or can we whittle this down to make it mean that we can judge freely and with impunity?  Certainly not!  Or could it be that there is a kind of judgment that is a sin and another kind that is not?  I would like to show you this morning that this is, in fact, the case.

I.  Followers of Jesus Must Not Indulge in Sinful Judgment:  Haughty, Arrogant, and Hypocritical (v.1-5)

Clearly, the focus of our text this morning is to reject a kind of judgment that is sinful and wrong and unbecoming for the children of God.

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.

Here are the words that our culture knows so well.  These seven words have become a kind of modern mantra against moral judgments.  Regardless, even though these words have been abused, this is clearly a prohibition from Jesus against sinful judgment.  As disciples of Jesus, we must listen to the whole counsel of God, taking into account what else God has said on the matter (and we will do that today).  It is clear that there is a kind of judgment that is evil and wicked and should not be indulged in.

2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

This is a chilling word!  Would you like for God to judge you in the same way and with the same standard that you judge others?  I ask you:  are you hard on people?  Are you brutal on people?  Are you quick to see the faults of others, condemning them for their mistakes while giving your own a pass?  Do you forgive others as readily as you forgive yourself?  Would you like to stand before your own standard of judgment?

Furthermore, Jesus tells us that it is often the case that we judge hypocritically.

3 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? 4 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? 5 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.

There is a simple logic to this, and one that shames us.  A man with a board in his eye should not condemn the speck in his brother’s.  That, friends, is hypocrisy.  That is the kind of absurd judgment that makes fools of us.  We Southern Baptists are particularly good at this:  condemning the sins of others when we have massive sins of our own.

There is a weird kind of blindness that comes with judgment.  Caught in the fervor of condemning another’s sin, we miss our own.  It is a strange and tragic state of affairs.  Paul put it like this in Romans 2:

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

If you judge the sins of others while you yourself are in a state of sin, you will be judged by God.  The Lord will not tolerate such hypocrisy.  Thomas Merton has passed on the following story from the desert fathers.

Time and again we read of Abbots who refuse to join in a communal reproof of this or that delinquent, like Abbot Moses…who walked into the severe assembly with a basket of sand, letting the sand run our through many holes.  “My own sins are running out like this sand,” he said, “and yet I come to judge the sins of another.”[6]

Do you relish in finding out that your brother or sister has sinned?  Do you take perverse joy in the failings of others?  What of your own sins?  What of your failings?  Do you consider those?  That old adage about those who live in glass houses not throwing rocks is really quite wise.  Do you fear God so little that you would judge another while you yourself are in sin?

Furthermore, we should avoid sinful judgment because only God sees the full picture.  This is why only the judgment of God can be perfect and without error.  There is an interesting text in 1 Corinthians 4 in which Paul responded to the fact that he was being judged by his detractors in the church.

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

God alone possesses the needed light by which to see situations clearly enough for pure judgment.  You are not God.  Neither am I.  At best we are operating on merely a part of the story.  We do not see all.  We must accept the limitations of our own knowledge.  James put it like this in James 4:

12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Yes, who are we to judge our neighbor?  I know who we are not:  we are not God.

William Barclay told the story of Collie Knox and what happened to him and a friend of his in a London restaurant.  It beautifully illustrates the limitations of our own knowledge and how these limitations cloud our ability to judge.

Collie Knox tells of what happened to himself and a friend.  Collie Knox himself had been badly smashed up in a flying accident while he was serving in the Royal Flying Corps.  The friend had that very day been decorated for gallantry at Buckingham Palace.  They had changed from their service dress into civilian clothes, and they were lunching together at a famous London restaurant, when a girl came up to them and handed to each of them a white feather – the badge of cowardice.[7]

This ignorant girl called two men who bore wounds from their patriotic service cowards.  How embarrassing for her!  But she was operating on the limited knowledge she had.  The two men appeared to be living the high life when they should have been serving their country.  But that was a faulty appearance.  Her judgment was hindered by her ignorance.  Ours usually is too.

Brothers, beware of sinful judgment.  Sisters, beware of sinful judgment.  But that phrase, “sinful judgment,” raises an interesting question:  is all judgment sinful?  Was Jesus saying that there is never a situation in which we are to judge?

II. Followers of Jesus Must Carefully Practice Godly Judgment:  Loving, Reciprocal, Clear, and Careful (v.5-6)

Verses 5 and 6 are very interesting.  Jesus condemns the hypocrite who would scoff at his neighbor’s speck while giving his own plank a pass.  That is absurd!  That is hypocritical!  We dare not do that.  What He says afterward is telling.  Listen closely.

5 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.

Now, it is not my intention to try to water down what Jesus is saying.  Not at all.  My intention is simply to listen to what Jesus, in fact, said.  In verse 5, He says that removing the plank from your eye will enable you to see clearly enough to help your brother.  Hear it again.

5 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.

This is not a hall pass for judgment.  Not at all.  On the contrary, the man who has removed a plank from his own eye is going to be a very different kind of judge for having done so, is he not?  He is now humbled.  He is now broken.  He now knows the reality of his own sin.  He has been to the throne of grace.  Indeed, it is a very different thing when that man goes to his brother and says, “Friend, I need to talk to you as one sinner to another.”  He will not do so haughtily.  He will not do so hypocritically.  He will not do so in order to condemn.  He takes no perverse delight in doing so.  His own plank is fresh in his mind.  He comes now, after having removed the plank from his own eye, as a sinner to a sinner.

This is godly, careful, humble, loving judgment.  It is also reciprocal.  It acknowledges that we all stand under judgment for sin and that judgment cuts both ways.  The man who has removed, by God’s grace, the plank from his own eye understands that his life must be open to scrutiny as well.

Clearly this is a different kind of judgment than that which Jesus condemns.  Indeed, Jesus cannot mean that all judgments are sinful or that all judging is sinful, for the Word of God stands without contradiction.  In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul called upon the church to respond to a situation of grievous, open sin in their midst.  The words sound hard, but, again, they are addressing a flagrant instance of open rebellion that was known and unaddressed by the congregation; namely, a man was having a relationship with his own father’s wife.  Here is what Paul writes:

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

This is a helpful text, and a provocative one.  First, v.12 draws a distinction between judging the world (which Paul says he does not do) and judging fellow Christians (which Paul says we should do).  Now, clearly this does not mean the kind of judgment that Jesus forbids.  Paul and Jesus are not in conflict on this point.  Instead, they are talking about two very different things.  Jesus is condemning haughty, hypocritical, arrogant judgment.  Paul is commending careful, necessary, heart-broken judgment, born of love and seeking the restoration of one who has rebelled.  In point of fact, it is most unloving to stand idly by when an individual or a church destroys itself and make no judgment in situations that demand it.

There is a judgment to be avoided and a judgment that must carefully be taken up.  It is a dangerous business even then, and it is most telling that Scripture gives many more warnings against judgment than it does instances in which it is allowed, but sometimes it is allowed.

Furthermore, please take note of the last verse in our text this morning, Matthew 7:6.  It is a strange sounding verse, but a crucial one.

6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Well!  That is fascinating, especially where Jesus says this.  He says it immediately after condemning sinful judgment.  But what is most intriguing is that verse 6 involves divine judgment and also calls upon us to make a judgment.  “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs.”

The meaning seems clear enough.  There are people who are so full of hatred, rancor, wickedness, and hostility, that you cannot reason with them about the gospel.  They are like wild dogs or ravenous pigs.  Paul used the same image in Philippians 3.

2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

What is evident in this text is that there are people who have so hardened their hearts against God that they will not hear the gospel.  All they desire is the death and destruction of God’s people.  These people, Jesus says, act like dogs and pigs, and the people of God must guard themselves against them.  These people would be analogous to those mentioned in Matthew 10:14.  In that verse, Jesus instructs His disciples concerning what to do when people reject them and the gospel:  “if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”  Those before whom you would shake off the dust from your feet are like dogs and pigs.  They will not hear.  They do not want to hear.  They only desire the triumph of evil.

Why does Jesus insert this strange reference about dogs and pigs here?  Why does He say this immediately after warning against judgment?  Is it not because He understands the human penchant for extremes?  Is He not saying in our text this morning that there is a kind of judgment that is sinful and a kind is not?

Knowing that somebody is acting like a dog or a pig requires a kind of judgment.  Even here, though, extreme caution must be used.  We are not to go around assuming that people are pigs and dogs.  Jesus is addressing a very specific situation in verse 6 that He will make abundantly clear to His people at the appropriate time.

In our text this morning are six verses.  Five are cautioning us against hypocritical and arrogant judgment.  Only one allows for a kind of judgment.  That should tell us something.  It tells me that most times our judgments are flawed and possibly even sinful.  We are more apt to sinful judgment than non-sinful judgment.  We are more apt to fall in this area than to soar.

Let our dispositions toward one another be dispositions of love.  Let us assume the best about one another.  Let us refrain from judging unless and until we can go to a brother or sister carefully, in love, fully aware of our own sinfulness, having rejected that sin ourselves, and gently pleading for a wayward brother or sister to come home.

Above all, let us put on love towards one another.  It is a shame that 1 Corinthians 13 has been relegated primarily to weddings.  We need these words as a living presence in our midst today.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Amen, and amen.



[1] Umberto Eco, On Ugliness. (New York, NY: Rizzoli, 2007), p.393.





[6] Thomas Merton, The Way of the Desert (New York, NY:  New Directions), p.19.

[7] William Barclay, Gospel of Matthew. Vol.1. The Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1968), p.266.

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