Judge not, that you be not judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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? 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? 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. 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 then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:1-6).

Now Jesus turns our attention to relationships in His counter-cultural Kingdom. Having already addressed the Christian’s character, influence, righteousness, and aspirations He acknowledges that we do not live in a bubble but are engaged in various interactions and relations. Knowing that we live in community Jesus saw our relationships as being critical in importance and must be rightly managed as part of following Him. This passage first deals directly with being judgmental toward our brothers, or fellow believers.

The text presumes Jesus understands the sinfulness of humanity and that His followers will not be perfect in this life. He also recognizes that we often deal with the sin, poor decisions, flaws, and misbehavior of others in ways that do not honor Him and are contrary to Kingdom living. This passage does not prohibit discernment, insight, wisdom, or criticism of all sorts but forbids condescending, harsh, destructive, censorious, and hypocritical judgments against our bother’s faults. Our attitudes and motives are the issues here. There are times we must speak the truth with God’s word as our guide but this is to be done with grace and love. Paul encourages us to speak the truth but do it with a heartfelt compassion for the audience (Ephesians 4:15).

Jesus identifies that we tend to forget that we have a higher judge in Him that judges us all (including ourselves). He is the ultimate measuring stick and intentionally finding fault in others while ignoring our own problems and spiritual issues is wrong. In other words, we need to look first at our own lives, in comparison to a perfectly holy God, before we begin the process of nitpicking the shortcomings of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus infers that those most often guilty of condemning others are often the ones with the biggest issues. Such hypocrisy is a major stumbling block in our relationship with others and intimacy with our King. It also sets us up for a harsher judgment than the one we have inflicted. How differently would we treat fellow Christ-followers if we considered that we will be measured against the same standards that we hold others to? And that we are also held to God’s perfect standard.

When comparing ourselves to others it is, due to our fallen nature, easy to exaggerate their faults while minimizing our own. This is a means of exalting ourselves while disparaging others. When this is done to promote a false sense of self-righteousness it becomes hypocrisy (see Luke 18:9). Addressing to the issue of focusing on our own problems first, Paul writes in First Corinthians 11:31, “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment”. Such is the attitude of those who desire not to be hypocritical but, instead, transparent before a holy and omniscient God.

On the other hand, in one of Jesus’ most challenging statement, we see that some elements of this lost world are so egregiously evil that they are to be avoided ( Matthew 7:6). Jesus used two dirty animals to portray those who live such filthy lives that what is sacred and eternally valuable is wasted upon them. This speaks to us being discerning but not judgmental. Who are those who are so calloused and degenerate that they are beyond receiving “the pearl of great value’ (see Matthew 14:36) which is the Kingdom of Heaven (salvation)? Although they may be those who have heard the precious gospel of the Kingdom, had ample opportunity to receive that truth, but steadfastly and belligerently refuse the free offer of grace I do not know for sure. There may be those who live in a place of incurable godlessness that God’s spirit no longer pursues them (Genesis 6:3) but I am not wise enough to identify them. This passage, I believe, calls us to try to reach all, but be prudent about whom we spend our time with as some will refuse to receive Jesus’ truth. I believe we see an example of this in the two vastly different ways that Jesus interacted with the two criminals that were crucified on each side of Him (Luke 23:32-43).

Although God’s word is clear that we should “teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19) I believe Matthew 7:6 suggests that we should not allow the wicked to trample God’s sacred and infinitely valuable truth of Jesus and His grace by going on and on with those who belittle such precious things. After doing our best to exalt the King and His Kingdom, we are to leave this these types in the hands of a sovereign God while keeping them in our prayers. But first let’s make sure that we are doing our best to discerningly spread the good news to all and doing so without an attitude of judgmental hypocrisy.