It is one of the more famous verses in the scriptures. Many people know John 3:16 and they also know this verse, even if they do not know where it is located. “Do not judge.” Of course, this is not only taking the statement out of context, but it is also cut part of the sentence and not quoting the whole statement. So as we live in a world where the greatest crime is to judge another person, we need to come to this teaching of Jesus and carefully consider what Jesus was teaching us to do and not to do as he continues his teaching in what we call the Sermon on the Mount.
Why Not Judge People? (7:1-2)
Jesus begins by telling us not to judge others. But it is important that we understand the reasoning so that we know exactly what this looks like in our lives. Jesus tells us that we must not judge other people because how to judge others is how God is going to judge you. Now it is important for us to think about this truth. God is going to judge you the way that you judge other people. God is going to use the same standard of measure on you that you use to judge others. So ask yourself this question. Do you want God to judge you the way you look at and judge other people?
When you think about how we can look at and judge other people, this becomes a frightening idea. Do you want God to judge you based on your looks? Do you want God to judge you based on where you are from? Do you want God to judge you based on your accent? Do you want God to judge you based on your parents? We all want judgment to be honest and fair. What Jesus wants us to think about is how we want God to judge us when we starting thinking about judging others. What do you want God to do with you? I would submit to you that all of us want God to judge us with mercy. This is the point that the scriptures make so that we will change how we look at others.
Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12–13 CSB)
This is what Jesus is moving us to consider. You are going to be judged by God in the same way that you judge other people. So this should quickly change how we look at people. The reason to not judge people in a superficial way is because this is not how we want God to judge us. But Jesus now exposes our hearts to show us our problem in verses 3-5.
What Are You Looking At? (7:3-5)
Jesus frames the problem in verse 3. Why are looking at the splinter in someone else’s eye when you do not see the beam of wood coming out of your own eye? Jesus is showing us that we have that amazing ability to overlook our own flaws but see everyone else’s flaws. We can quickly see the little specks that other people have in their lives. But we do not see the same flaws in our own lives. We have an amazing way to forgive our own flaws but no one else’s flaws. We have a way to completely miss how deficient we are but see every little problem with someone else. Notice what Jesus calls us in verse 5 for doing this. He calls us hypocrites. We are hypocrites when we see everyone else’s sins, problems, and flaws but do not see our own. It is amazing how we can see specks in others but miss our own planks.
Jesus’ first point here is that we need to stop looking at everyone else first and never looking at ourselves. We need to do this in an honest way. We can sometimes say it like this. “I know I have problems but this person’s problems are unbelievable.” Or, “I know we all have issues but this person has some issues that I just cannot stand.” So Jesus is asking us why are we looking at those things. Do you want to be judged in this way by others? Do you want to be judged in this way by God?
I want us to think about how we do this so often in relationships. Think about how we do this in marriage. “I know I am not perfect, but you will not believe what my spouse does.” We want mercy from our spouse for our flaws but do not want to give the same mercy to our spouse for their flaws. We do this in our family relationships as well. I am the only one who has it together and the rest of my family is a total mess. We do this with friendships as well. We burn relationships to the ground failing to see that we have our own problems that people put up with. Let’s be clear: people have to put up with you too. You are delusion if you think people are not tolerating you with all of your flaws and issues. Friends, the more we read the scriptures, the more it should become evident that we have all kinds of issues and flaws that we problem are not recognizing.
But I want us to notice the purpose of judgment in verse 5. Jesus tells us to remove the beam of wood in our own eyes so that we can see clearly to take out the splinter in someone else’s eye. Pay attention to your issues first so that you can help others. This is an important teaching that Jesus is giving. The purpose of judgment is not make ourselves feel superior to others (which is typically what we do and why we are speck seekers). Rather, we see specks so that we can help the person remove the speck. Do you see this in verse 5?
Jesus is not telling us to never judge people. Rather, Jesus is saying judgment is to do two things. First, we are to see our own wood planks in our own eyes first. But Jesus does not say that you need to simply see your own sins and flaws first. Rather, Jesus says you need to see them and remove them so that you can see clearly. This is an important truth. You cannot see other people correctly until you have dealt with your own sins and flaws. Please hear Jesus’ words. You are not seeing other people correctly until you have dealt with your own issues. We claim we can see clearly when we say, “I am not perfect.” But Jesus is saying that you need to do something about it. If you have a problem with anger, why don’t you deal with it first but trying to deal with someone else’s anger issues? Look at your own problems first and then you can see clearly.
Notice the second purpose of judgment in verse 5 is to help the other person. The purpose of judgment is not to ruin the person, but to assist them. Notice this is what Jesus is picturing. If you are going to go in for surgery on someone’s eye, you need to see clearly and you need to be coming to help instead of hurt. I do not mind you passing judgment on me if you are going to help me with my problem. It is important to see that when Jesus is telling us to not judge others, he is including not judging other people’s sins. Here is what I mean. Do not judge people’s sins if all you are doing is ignoring your own sins and trying to elevate yourself and your righteousness. Do not judge people’s sins if you all you are doing is going to harm them for their downfall. Judge people’s sins ONLY after you first deal with your own sins. Judge people’s sins ONLY when it is your goal to truly help the other person overcome their sins.
Pearls and Pigs (7:6)
Now verse 6 is also frequently removed from its context and misunderstood. But let’s keep Jesus’ words in this context about speck finding and judging sins. Jesus says in verse 6 to not give what is holy to the dogs or throw your pearls to the pigs. The reason why is that they are going to trample your pearls under their feet and tear you to pieces. How does this fit what Jesus has been telling us about judgment?
Notice that we are called to make a judgment about if our effort is going be the same as throwing what is holy to the dogs and throwing pearls to the pigs. Here is the point: your help can only go so far. You can only point out specks in other people’s lives and try to help them if they are willing to receive your help. Some people do not want help with their sins. Please notice that we are not just talking about the world. Our context has been about helping people with their sins who are brothers and sisters in Christ. There are some who are not going to receive your help, even if you do exactly what Jesus says to do. You can check your own sins and deal with them. You can see the speck and come trying to give help and care and not ruin. But if they do not want your help, then you are going to get destroyed in the process.
You have probably experienced something like this. I know I have where I thought that my help was going to make a difference in a person’s life only to have that help thrown back on me and then used it to tear me to pieces. There is a need for spiritual wisdom and discernment. We will need to decide if our help is actually going to be helpful and received as help or if it is throwing pearls to pigs and your help is going to spun back on you to attack you. We have a saying about shooting the messenger rather than receiving the message. That is going to happen sometimes as you try to help people. You must do everything on your part to make sure that you are doing exactly what Jesus says to do as you try to help people with their sins.
So let’s draw some conclusions from Jesus’ teaching. First, before we judge other people, ask yourself if you want to be judged the way you are judging this other person. The standard of judgment you use on others is going to used by God on you. This should make us much slower to judge others. This should also make us be far more merciful when we see the sins and flaws of others. If you blow up another person for their sins, then just remember that God is going to do the same to you. If you want mercy and compassion from God, then you must first show mercy and compassion to others who are in sin.
Second, before we judge we need to look at ourselves. Are we being hypocrites? Are pointing out other people’s sins and flaws but are unwilling to see our own sins and address our own sins? Are we pointing out other’s sins to cover over people seeing our own beams of wood? Before we open our mouths about the sins and problems in other people’s lives, we must first consider our own sins and problems. This action will help us come to people with mercy and compassion, rather than harshness. What keeps us from being judgmental is seeing our own beams of wood!
Third, come to the person because you want to help, not ruin. We are only to be point out specks in others once we see clearly and once we are coming to help. If we have any other motivation besides wanting to help this person overcome their sin or weakness, then we must not judge. Judgment is to only have the purpose of rescue and help for the other person.
Fourth, understand that you cannot help a person who does not want help. There are going to be brothers and sisters in Christ who will attack you for your help. So we must have discernment on how we help one another.
But let’s draw an important final conclusion. Jesus is telling us that we need each other. We are not to be independent or isolated. We are to be a family. To do what Jesus is telling us to do requires us having a relationship with each other. We need to know each other so that we will know that we are going to be gentle, careful, and wise as we help each other with our sins and weaknesses. This kind of spiritual help cannot happen if we do not connect with each other, know each other, and care for each other. This means we cannot simply show up, sit in a pew, and leave. We need to talk to each other about life so that we can be here for one another. We also need to know that the role of the shepherds in the church is to help sheep. So Dan and I are going to come to you in love if we see sins and weakness that we can help you with. Know that we have this responsibility. But Jesus is showing us that we all have this responsibility to each other. So let us stop judging on another in a superficial way. Rather, let us be the family that Jesus calls us to be. Let us live our lives as the family of God together.