By Gene Price
Pastor, Tumbling Creek Baptist Church, Gleason
In this passage Jesus speaks first of our relationship with other people (ch. 7:1-6). A Christian is to be a brother who loves rather than a judge who judges. Then Jesus deals with our relationship with God. A Christian is to be a child of God who asks for good things and receives His providential blessings.
Perhaps the favorite verse of a lost person is verse 1, “Judge not that you be not judged.” Lost people use that verse but they do not understand the context. Every day a person has to make judgments about both actions and people. This evaluation is necessary. In John 7:24 Jesus said “Judge not according to the appearances, but judge correctly.” Those who are called to serve on a jury are an example. As Christians we are called to correctly discern what is right and wrong according to God’s Word. Jesus is forbidding a critical, judgmental spirit that looks down on other people.
Jesus gives reasons why a person should not judge (vv. 1-5). 1. Only God is qualified to be the judge because often the person’s history, background, or motives are not known (v. 1). 2. Man sees the action but God sees the heart. God will judge you the same way you judge others (v. 2). If you are harsh toward others, then God will judge you harshly (Romans 2:1). God will treat you as you have treated others. 3. You should judge yourself first (vv. 3-5). Jesus uses a humorous illustration of a man who has a beam in his eye yet desires to take the speck out of his brother’s eye. It is easy to see the sins of others, yet difficult to see our own personal sin. When you focus on the sins of others, often you will develop the harsh, critical, judgmental spirit that Jesus warns about. Jonathan Edwards said, “Proud people often speak of others’ sins.” Therefore it is hypocritical to place yourself as judge when you have sins of your own. Take care of sin in your life first. However, this does not mean a person needs to be perfect before they can help others. In verse 5b, Jesus warns not to ignore the speck in our brother’s eye. It is not loving to ignore that speck. We must approach them as a brother or sister and not a judge. In verse 6, not every person wants to be helped with their sin. Many will refuse help. Not everyone will accept the gospel. When someone continuously rejects the gospel, then move on. Pray for them but move on! Others more receptive are waiting for your influence in their lives.
Prayer is the key to helping a person distinguish between improper criticism and appropriate discernment. Oswald Chambers said, “God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.” Therefore we are to seek God’s wisdom. In verse 11, all need to pray because we are “evil.” Our first prayer should be: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Jesus speaks of “ask, seek, knock” which implies the frequency and persistency that should be found in our prayers. In verse 11, Jesus portrays God as our Heavenly Father desiring to give us good things in answer to prayer.
The 17 words found in Matthew 7:12 are often called the “Golden Rule,” which simply stated means to treat others the way you want to be treated. This command is unconditional and universal. We are to treat others the way we want to be treated, regardless of their response. As a believer we are to love in spite of how others love and treat us. After all, God Himself always loves us and treats us better than we deserve. It is this unconditional love and grace that compels us to show mercy and grace, not judgment, toward others.