July 26 – Matthew 7:1-5
We’re getting close to the end of our series on the SOTM, after which we’ll be diving into the book of Daniel, starting August 9. In our passage for this week, Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus is moving from his section on everyday life (6:19-34) and getting into topics on human relationships (glance back at week 5 if you need a refresher of the SOTM outline). Observe that verses 1-5 are two separate but related teachings, “judge not” in v.1-2 and the speck and the log in v.3-5. You can see the delineation more clearly in Luke 6:37-42 (from the Sermon on the Plain, the cousin to the Sermon on the Mount, likely another time Jesus gave roughly the same sermon, a common tactic for itinerant preachers in his time).
Taking them one at a time, it’s important to keep in mind that the way we typically use “judge” is different than how Jesus uses it here. When you say you feel judged, typically you’re talking about feeling mocked, disagreed with, devalued, or misunderstood, as if someone passed their gaze over you and found something about you to be wrong. The assessment dimension of this feeling conjures up the idea of judgment, since we feel like someone has decided something about us unfairly or ungenerously.
But in this usage the person doing the judging rules over a very small court; typically we’re talking about an interpersonal conflict. When Jesus uses the word judge he’s talking about a much bigger claim. Jesus’ word in verse 1 for judge is krino, literally meaning “to separate or distinguish.” It is a highly legal word; take for example Matthew 5:40, when Jesus is talking about someone suing you in court, the word for “suing” is derived from krino. So in this instance Jesus is talking about judging as in pronouncing someone to be in a certain legal standing, and considering every time he’s mentioned the law in the SOTM it’s been God’s Law, he’s talking about us condemning someone as guilty before God. And Jesus, the final Judge, is telling us to stop trying to sit in his seat.
And this extends to more than just deciding whether or not you think someone else is a Christian (that’s how this verse is commonly interpreted). This “judge not” stands alongside “with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” He’s talking about weights and measures there, like how you might weigh things out if someone was buying a pound of tomatoes from you at the farmers market. If the scale reads 1.2 lbs, do you just give it to them or look for a smaller tomato? Jesus is talking about a gracious position towards others, one that is slow to decide, assumes the best, and overflows in emotional and material generosity. You can see how this teaching dovetails into the next, because that same position isn’t quick to nitpick and correct a brother when something about yourself needs correction first.
For some of you this isn’t new news, but when Jesus talks about a log in your eye he’s talking about a big honking branch stuck in your eyeball. He’s purposefully exaggerating to make his point: often we nitpick the tiniest things about others when we have monstrous, glaring issues of our own that we’re leaving unaddressed, issues that actually obscure our ability to see and help others. This is a position of humility, one that is willing to work on ourselves first, one that not only admits our faults but actively seeks to lay down disobedience and brokenness. “Judge not” and the speck and the log combine to communicate a gracious humility that is meant to characterize God’s people. Jesus humbled himself from the height of heaven, came not to be served but to serve, died for our benefit, and opened a way for us to receive mercy instead of judgement; he is the standard of humility and graciousness. His followers are meant to be the same.
But don’t miss that last phrase in verse 5! Once you’ve removed the log from your own eye, “then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” This helps clarify our understanding of “judge not.” Apparently Jesus’ expectation of us is that we wouldn’t hand down condemnation, but that we would make decisions about dealing with specks for our brothers and sisters. Remembering back to 6:22 and the eye being the “lamp of the body,” Jesus is telling us that things will obscure our spiritual vision, which keeps us from living the shining resurrection life that Jesus has for us. When something obscures our vision we’re in need of assistance, and believers should certainly come to one another’s aid. Much more can be said from the Bible about how we encourage, admonish, correct, and restore one another, but in this specific section we should see that “judge not” doesn’t release us from our responsibility to help each other hold fast to Jesus.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Matthew 7:1-5 for us?
• What stands out to you from this passage?
• How does this passage feel relevant to your life right now?
• Jesus tells us to “judge not” in verse 1, but then he says to “take the speck out of your brother’s eye” in verse 5. How is Jesus calling us to relate to others in this passage?
• Why do you think Jesus wants his people characterized by these things?
• What are some reasons Jesus has given you to be generous and humble towards others?