Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Jesus' Teaching on Judging Others

[Read]  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.  (Matthew 7:1-6)

[Meditate]  Verses 1 through 5 are a complete thought.  Verse 6 is a new thought.

"This chapter has several asyndetons (lack of linking particles, which was very unusual in Greek), Matt. 7:1,6,7,13,15. It was a grammatical way of highlighting individual truths. It is presuppositional to assume that Jesus' sermon had a unifying theme or structured outline. He may have been following the common rabbinical teaching technique called "pearls on a string," which links unrelated topics together. Although some of the individual subjects at first seem unrelated to their surrounding contextual units, it is the best hermeneutical approach to interpret them in light of (1) context and (2) their usage in other Gospel parallels. The author of Matthew did have a unified theme and structured outline determining which of Jesus' teachings to record and in what order to record them."  -Bob Utley,

"It certainly does not command the sons of God, the disciples of Jesus, to be amorphous, undiscerning blobs who never under any circumstance whatsoever hold any opinions about right and wrong.  Are we to say nothing about the rights and wrongs of a Hitler, a Stalin, a Nixon?  of adultery, economic exploitation, laziness, deceit? ... Jesus warns, "Watch out for false prophets" (7:15) and alludes to certain people as pigs and dogs (7:6).  -D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, 105.

What judgments are believers supposed to make?

Believers are supposed to judge correctly how to interpret the scriptures so that they themselves can live rightly.  Here, Jesus is saying it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath.  A correct judgment would lead to correct practice:

Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed.  Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath.  Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?  Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”  (John 7:21-24)

Christians are supposed to judge whether a prophet is from God, or in other words, who they should listen to:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  (1 John 4:1-3)

Believers are also encouraged to judge other believers.  In fact, in the book of James it is highly commended:

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth [sin] and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.  (James 5:19-20)

Notice here that one of the roles for the believer is to point out the sin to the fellow believer with the goal of repentance.  Paul makes a point of emphasis to talk about how the Christian is supposed to point out a fellow believer's sin- with gentleness:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

In this case, Paul is speaking in the context of false (erroneous) teaching:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

The harsh and public rebuke of Christ, Paul, and John the Baptist (among others)- found in verses such as Matthew 12:34 and 2 Peter 2- is not meant to be a pattern for us to follow.

Paul's letter to the church in Corinth seems to paint a different picture of sin and judgment toward believers.  The believers there were proud about their sin of sexual immorality.  Paul says that he himself was judging them for their sin, and encourages the believers there to judge those in sin also; encouraging them not to associate with those people and even to 'expel' them:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?  For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.  Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”  (1 Corinthians 5:1-13)

Note Paul also tells them not to judge the unbelievers doing the same things.  The judgment is only for the believers. 

So why is the judgment for believers in sin harsher here?  Perhaps it is because they were unrepentant in their sin.  When Jesus addresses the issue by prescribing an order for pointing out sin in other believers, he also brings up the issue of repentance versus unrepentance:

“If your brother or sister sins (some translations 'sins against you'), go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  (Matthew 18:15-17)

So then, "What then does Jesus mean by his imperative in Matthew 7:1, 'Do not judge, or you too will be judged'?... The context here argues that the verse means, 'Do not be judgmental.'  Do not adopt a critical spirit, a condemning attitude.  The same verb is found twice, with identical meaning, in Romans 14:10ff.: 'You, then, why do you judge your brother?  Or why do you look down on your brother?  For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.  It is written: 'As I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'  So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.  Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another."  -D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, 106.

2  This verse is similar to Matthew 6:14 which reads, 'if you forgive others you yourself will be forgiven.'

"[These words] may mean the measure we use on others will be the measure others use on us; the person with a critical spirit is inviting a lot of criticism.  Alternatively, verse 2 may mean that the measure we use on others will be the measure God himself will use on us.  I think it is the latter meaning that is in view... The point of these two verses is not that we should be moderate in our judging in order that others will be moderate toward us, but rather that we should abolish judgmental attitudes lest we ourselves stand utterly condemned before God."  -D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, 107.

3-5  "Note that the passage does not tell us not to take the log out of our brother’s eye, but to first deal with our own sin. This process restores both the confronter and the confronted to Christ, pulling all back into unity in Him."  -Ginger Taylor, from

"When Nathan confronted David with a story about a rich man who had stolen a poor man's lamb, David was livid with anger and said, "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity" (2 Samuel 12:5-6).  Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" (v. 7)."  David had stolen a man's wife, then murdered him to cover it up.  (Lutzer, 45)

6  'Dogs' is a name David uses for evil men:

Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:16).  See also Psalm 22:20, Isaiah 56:10-11.

Paul too refers to a group of people as 'dogs' in his letter to the church in Philippi:

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.  (Philippians 3:2)

" is no accident that Jesus speaks of pearls and not gravel.  The man in the scenario is in possession of great wealth.  Interpreting the metaphor, we learn that the good news of Jesus Christ, with all of history and revelation pointing toward it, really is a priceless treasure."  -D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, 113.

"Pearls signify all spiritual things that are worthy of being highly prized."  (Augustine, "Sermon on the Mount," 2.20.68-69)

"Jesus is commanding his disciples not to share the richest parts of spiritual truth with persons who are persistently vicious, irresponsible, and unappreciative.  Just as the pearls were unappreciated by the savage animals, but only enraged them and made them dangerous, so also many of the riches of God's revelation are unappreciated by many people.  And, painful as it is to see it, these rich truths may only serve to enrage them.  In the New Testament, there are several examples of this principle in action.  In Matthew 15:14, Jesus, speaking of certain Pharisees, tells his disciples, 'Leave them; they are blind guides.  If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.'  According to Acts 18:5f., Paul abandons his ministry to the Jews in Corinth because they oppose him and become abusive.  Instead he turns to the Gentiles to minister to them.  Paul recommends a similar course of action to Titus concerning divisive people within the professing Christian community: 'Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.  After that have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned' (Titus 3:10f.)."  -D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, 113.

"Who are the dogs and the swine in this passage?  It is well known that they are both used as derogatory terms for the Gentiles."  See also Matthew 15:24, 10:6, 10:23; B. Shab. 188a, B. Yom. 29a, Panim Aherim 71.  (Lachs, 140)

"...we must be careful not to reveal anything to one who cannot bear it, for it is bette that one make a search for what is concealed than assail or despise what is revealed."  (Augustine, "Sermon on the Mount," 2.20.68-69)

"There are many situations in which Christians need to persist in their witness and be patient with their sowing of God's truth... What Jesus is calling for is discernment... He can dismiss a group (Matt 15:14), write off a Herod (Luke 13:31-33), promise judgment to whole cities (Matt 11:20-24); but he can be patient with a group (Luke 9:51-55; Mark 6:31-34), offer indisputable evidence to a doubting Thomas (John 20:24), and weep over a city (Luke 19:41ff.)."  -D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, 114-115.

[Pray]  God, you don't desire for me to have a spirit of judgment in looking down upon my brother or sister.  Would you convict me through your Holy Spirit first of sin in my own life and a desire to repent of that sin.  In situations where a brother or sister is caught in sin and you have placed me in a position to gently restore them, would you give me the boldness to confront them and a spirit of repentance toward my brother or sister that we may follow you all the days of our lives.  In regards to the riches of Christ, would you give me wisdom on whom to continually share and whom to invest time teaching the scriptures.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

[Live]  I am to call out sin in a fellow believer with a spirit of gentleness and respect; first examining it in my own life, realizing that I am prone to sin myself.  Once this is done, I should confront my brother or sister individually, then in a group, then with the church leadership if repentance does not come first.  If repentance never comes, consider the person as an unbeliever.  I am also called to examine teaching critically to see if it is Biblically accurate and consider carefully what the Scriptures say so that I am living Christianly.  In regards to sharing the word of God, I am called to consider whom I am investing deeper with.  Let the Spirit lead in determining if this person is unappreciative, vicious, or consistently irresponsible toward the word of God.

Erwin Lutzer, Who are you to Judge? (Chicago: Moody Press, 2002).

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