Matthew 7:1-6 says
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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? 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? 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. “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.”
This portion of scripture is very often referred to. Usually it is cited by unbelievers or those who wish to rationalize their behavior as a way of saying leave me alone. Christians are likely to rebut that they are misusing this passage. It says that we’ll be judged with the same standard we judge others, so the call here is to judge by God’s standard rather than our own made up standard, since that’s the standard we want to be judged by, right?
While it’s true that we ought to seek God’s standard of holiness for our lives, we also ought to remember that we don’t really want to be judged by how well we adhere to it. None of us could survive such a judgment. Rather, we plead Christ’s obedience on our behalf as the basis for being judged righteous.
But even more to the point here is that such analysis does not fit with what comes after. Notice there are three proverbial sayings here, which I believe to all be related to this subject of our judgment in some way. I’ve boiled the three down to what I believe to be the lesson of each, and I believe it is the last, not the first, that should command our attention.
There’s a progression here. Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that a valid lesson from the first saying is to judge according to God’s standard rather than our own (or the standards of any other man.) We are commanded elsewhere in the Scripture to purge the evil from among us by not associating with those in our midst who are not walking with Christ and by restoring those who are caught in sin. If we are to do this effectively, we must have God’s standard as our guide and not one of our own making. This is not an implausible interpretation since one of the faults of the Pharisees is that thy added additional restrictions onto the law and that they often had a double standard.
The second lesson goes a step further and deals with the attitudes and the focus involved in judgment. Lesson two has two parts: judge yourself first and approach your brother humbly. This is both a call for us to look to our own sin before we take on the sin of a brother, and at the same time, it is a call for humility when we do confront a brother, that we would consider ourselves to be worse off than they, not better and “Holier than thou.”
Notice also the use of the word brother. The focus is becoming clearer here, and will be as crystal in a moment. Jesus is not speaking of the relationship between us and the lost, he is speaking of the relationship between brothers and sisters of the faith.
Who then are the dogs and the swine he refers to in the third proverb? Are they not pagans who are outside the household of faith? What are these holy things, these pearls, that we might cast before them? Are they not our judgments based on the Law of God? To put it plainly, the lesson here is to not waste your time or your breath taking the law of God to an unbeliever as you would to a believer. They are not capable of understanding the things of God (1 Cor 2:14), let alone to respond to the call to holiness. Unbelievers need the gospel most certainly, and the Word of God, including the law of God, is an important part of it. But the work of conversion is done in the heart as the Holy Spirit shines the light of the gospel (2 Cor 4). It is a foolish waste to expect unbelievers to act like anything other than unbelievers, and the natural result is for them to hate us for it!
Is this not the pattern we see now in our culture. This is a culture who has already suppressed the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1). This culture has already been given over to the passions of their flesh. Yet we want to stand and try to hold this standard over their heads in order that we might control their behavior. And what has been the result? They have turned and attacked us!
Now you’re likely at this point to say something about how the world is supposed to hate us, and how we should expect persecution. It is at this point that I refer you to 1 Peter 4:15: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” And 1 Peter 2:20: “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” If we bring persecution on ourselves because of our own arrogant meddling in the affairs of those who have not covenanted with us, how can we then play the martyr and pretend that we are being ill treated when they lash back? Is it not our own fault for having brought this upon ourselves? This is the same wrong thinking that drives our foreign policy by the way. It’s like we’re sitting in a bar and don’t want the biker across the room to pick a fight with us, so we go over and start bothering him. It’s like we’re trying to get rid of a bee hive by whacking it with a stick.
Where in Scripture are we commanded to judge those outside? Where are we commanded to enforce God’s law on them? We are not told to do so. Instead, Jesus tells us not to throw our pearls before swine!
Paul commands in 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 “But we urge you, brothers… to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” Included in the various aspects of walking properly before outsiders here is “to mind your own affairs.” In other words mind your own business!
And just in case you aren’t convinced, listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, when he is confronting the church for not disciplining a member known to be in sin: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you'” Do we put ourselves in the place of God?
But this takes me all the way back to Matthew 7. One of the reasons that Christians are so heavily derided on the issue of Gay Marriage in particular is the way in which we carry the banner of defending the family while the rates of divorce and single motherhood are indistinguishable between the church and the world. I think we may want to do some log removal from our own eye before we even think we can boss the world around. Perhaps we should clean our own house, before we start getting nosy about our neighbor’s.