To sum up, the command to judge not is not a requirement to be blind, but rather a plea to be generous.
John Stott, The message of the Sermon on the mount , 177.
This week, while at our local market, I gave some cash to some of the beggars there. Among them were some boys who divvied up the money and then followed me to another stop. When I came out, they started again, insisting they were different boys and I hadn’t given them anything. I didn’t berate them. In fact, I told them it’s fine to ask for money. But I also told them they didn’t need to lie. Lying is only going to hurt their relationship with God and others in the long run. We don’t have to be blind to be generous.
Matthew 7:1-12 is all about discernment. Living in the kingdom means seeing things as they are–not more, not less. We need to know God as he really is. We need to approach others as human beings. And we need to see ourselves as we really are.
This is not, “You do you.” In fact, Jesus followers are called to more responsibility: for ourselves and others. Jesus’ words are complicated by the fact that “judge” has negative connotations for us. Yet, even in English we still have “sound judgment” or a “good judge of character.” It may be help us understand what Jesus is saying if we pull apart the different senses of the word and translate 7:1-2a as, “Don’t condemn so that you will not be condemned. For in the way you evaluate, you will be evaluated.”
And this carries the theme of discernment to 7:6. What’s up with the pigs and dogs? John Stott, from the quote above, goes on to say that rather we should be reasonable toward fellow humans instead of tearing them apart. That’s what separates us from animals. Interestingly, that’s what Jesus calls those who are unreasonable, who don’t know the difference between pearls and slop.
This seems to come from Proverbs 9:8, “Do not correct a cynic, or he will hate you; correct a wise man, and he will love you.”
Jesus wants those who follow him to be discerning enough to know when to help someone and when someone doesn’t want our help. Some people take this weird turn of phrase about pigs and dogs to mean we shouldn’t tell the good news to others. That’s ridiculous. The book of Matthew ends with the Great Commission (28:19-20). Jesus clarifies what he means here: “with the measure you use you will be measured,” (7:2). Later he clarifies again, “Do to others what you would have them do to you,” sums up the goal of all ethics (7:12).
Do we want others condemn us when they stand equally condemned? No. Do we want others to make snap judgments, call us pigs and not share the gospel with us? No. Again, this is not “You do you,” or “My truth.” This is living in a way that is deeply in tune with reality. We have to really get to know people: ourselves and others.
- This Atlantic article describes a non-discerning, judgmental kind of “Christianity” some are noticing amid COVID-19.
- As both D. A. Carson and Thabiti Anyabwile have preached from Matthew 7:1-12, the kingdom life is a life of perfect balance (though not necessarily perfect obedience . . . yet). We are to be equally understanding and yet discerning, forgiving and yet willing to confront, sharing the good news and yet making the most of our opportunities.
“It is a wise Christian who first assesses the condition of a person’s heart before sharing the precious pearls.”