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Life Upside Down

The Measure of Judgment

Matthew 7:1-5



As we have studied through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has made it very clear that our life of faith is a matter of the heart.  Yes, our faith should also be reflected in what we do, but Jesus points out something that many of us deal with, a disconnect between our heart and our actions.  We may do the religious things we are expected to do, but our heart may be far from Him.  Yet on the other end of the spectrum, we may say we have faith in God, yet our actions look faithless.  Jesus points this out in the lives of the Pharisees.  He talks about them as people who look like they are very religious people on the outside, but their hearts are full of darkness.  Their motivation is self-righteousness.

You see, self-righteous people give an outward display of religious virtues to look good to other people.  But if their heart is not right with God, they pervert what it means to follow God.  Instead of living for God from the heart, they turn the life of faith into a legalistic standard of rules.  Jesus keeps pointing us away from the legalistic standards and traditions of men to a heart devoted to God.  What flows from the heart is what matters.  What Jesus said to the people on the hillside that day must have seemed like life turned upside down.  Jesus takes the things they are being taught by the religious leaders of their day and explains to them what it looks like when their actions come from a heart that is in love with God.

Here are a few examples of what we have talked about:

~ Be reconciled with others before you try to worship God

~ Looking at a woman with lust is like committing adultery with her

~ Don’t take an oath to prove truthfulness, just be truthful in everything you say

~ Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you

~ Prayer, giving, and fasting should not be done to be seen by others

~ Layup treasures in Heaven not on earth

~ Don’t be anxious about your life, trust God with your life

It is not just about obeying the law, it is about a love for God that transforms your life.  The reason I want you to remember some of this is that this is the context of what Jesus says next.  Often, we try to take snippets from His sermon and try to make them stand on their own.  This is often what people do with our passage today and they come to a conclusion that you are never to judge people.  But is that what Jesus is really saying here?  Or does it mean something else in the context of His sermon?

Let’s begin by reading our passage and then we will look more closely at what it says.

Matthew 7:1-5

1 Judge not, that you be not judged.

2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

3 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?

4 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?

5 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.

Let’s start with that often repeated first verse of our text.

A Self-Righteous Judgment (v. 1)

I would bet that everyone here has heard someone say or has even said this yourself, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  Well, I certainly will not argue the point that this is what the verse says, but does it mean that we should not judge whether something is good or bad, sinful or righteous?  If I talk to someone about sinful practices in their life, am I judging them and if so, is that wrong?  Today we live in a culture where we are told we need to be tolerant of nearly everything, including sin.  You know as well as I do, that those who espouse this tolerance mantra are intolerant themselves of those who disagree with them.

Even in churches today we struggle to be clear about the the Bible clearly defines as sin.  Jerry Bridges wrote a book he titled “Respectable Sins.”  In it he identifies a problem he calls the disappearance of sin in the church.  Somehow, we no longer talk about sin.  Why is that?  Is talking about sin being judgmental?  In fact, talking about sin in some circles is taboo.  When sin is not rebuked or even talked about, it becomes an acceptable part of our lifestyle.  Then, if anyone dares to talk about it, then they are being judgmental.  So, is that what Jesus is talking about?  Are we not supposed to talk to someone about their sin? 

Have you ever said something like this; “I don’t think what he or she is doing is right, but who am I to judge?  They will have to answer to God themselves for it.”  Or if you are brave enough to talk to someone about their sin, you might get this response; “Don’t tell me what to do, who are you to judge me?”  We certainly don’t want to be called judgmental or be guilty of this judging misconception of verse one and so we just keep our mouths shut.  Over time, we become like the church of Corinth which Paul admonishes for their tolerance of sin in their midst.  We no longer function the way God designed for the church to function.

Did Jesus mean for us to be tolerant of sin and not be involved in each other’s lives?  What did Jesus mean when He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged?”  I believe the context helps us to understand what He meant.  Jesus is focusing the hypocritical heart of the Scribes and Pharisees.  They focused on obedience to the letter of the Law, while their hearts were far from God.  Over and over Jesus rebukes them for being religious with the wrong motivations of pride and being seen by others as pious.

One time when Jesus was in the Temple area teaching, during the Feast of the Tabernacles, He faced the judgment of the religious leaders about His healing people on the Sabbath day.  You see, they viewed this as working on the Sabbath.  Jesus uses the argument of circumcisions that end up being done on the Sabbath because there are times when a baby will be eight days old on a Sabbath.  Following the Law, they still do the circumcision even though it is on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ argument to them is simple.  If ceremonial cleansing of one part of the body is permitted on the Sabbath through the act of circumcision, how much more so should the actual healing of the entire body be permitted on the Sabbath.  Listen to what Jesus said about their judgment of Him in this situation.

John 7:24

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment

Notice, Jesus did not say to the religious leaders, “Don’t judge me,” but “judge with right judgment.”  Jesus made it clear in this situation that they were not to judge on what seemed or appeared right in their own opinion, a legalist self-righteous judgment, but He want them to exercise a moral and theological discernment about the situation.

I believe our passage is Matthew 7:1 is Jesus is pointing at the kind of judgment the Scribes and Pharisees were making based on their self-righteous, legalist, mentality that cared nothing about the heart of the people or the heart of God.  When Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” in this context of His address of the Pharisaical teachings, He was referring to judgment like the Pharisees, not righteous judgment.

The Apostle Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Romans.  We are not to judge others of the very sins we are guilty of ourselves.  That is hypocritical, and we will be judged by God for it.

Romans 2:1-3

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.

3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

This leads us into the second point of my outline that focuses on verse 2.

The Measure of Judgment (v. 2)

2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Judgment of others must be measured according to how we want to be judged.  Isn’t that what the Apostle Paul just said to us Romans 2?  The problem I face, and I know many others do also, is that often we find we are most judgmental of the things we are most guilty of ourselves.  We will be judged with the same kind and measure of judgment we pronounce on others.  The Pharisees applied their strict judgment to one another as well as those outside their group.  If you remember Nicodemus came to Jesus at night for this very reason.  He knew he would be judged for visiting Jesus and that is one reason he came to Jesus at night to ask his questions in John 3.  In fact, John 12:42 records that many of the religious leaders believed in Jesus but they would not publicly confess Him out of fear of being be put out of the synagogue.

To be judged with the judgment we pronounce is simply that we will also be judged according to the judgment we make. lists five kinds of judgements Christians should never make.

~ Superficial judgment - Passing judgment on someone based solely on appearances that what they are doing is sinful (John 7:24).

~ Hypocritical judgment – Passing judgment on others about something we are guilty of ourselves (Matthew 7:1-5).

~ Harsh, unforgiving judgment – We should always be gentle and show mercy when we are talking to someone about sin (Matthew 5:7).

~ Self-righteous judgment – Humility and compassion is to be extended toward those involved in sin.  Not that we condone the sin but keep ourselves from a self-righteous attitude toward others by showing humility (James 4:6).

~ Untrue judgment – Knowingly pronounce false judgment on someone is always wrong. (Titus 3:2).

The reason I bring these five kinds of judgment up is that, according to verse two of our passage in Matthew 7, we will face the same kind of judgment we pronounce on others.  It is likely others will judge you with the same kind of judgment.  But not only that, but you will face judgment with the measure of judgment you use.  What does that mean?  According to Jewish teachings, God uses two measures when judging us.  God has a measuring stick of justice and a measuring stick of mercy.  You know as well as I do, that God’s mercy is the only way that His justice can be softened.  God extends mercy toward the sinner when we place our faith and trust in Him and what Jesus has done on the cross.

The measure of justice and mercy that we judge others with is the measure of justice and mercy we will face when we are judged.  I believe that when we truly recognize the wonder of God’s grace in our salvation and the horribleness of sin we were saved from, we become more compassionate and less self-righteous.  I believe this is illustrated for us in verse 3-5.  Seeing clearly our standing with God gives us clear vision for judgment.

Clear Vision for Judgment (vv. 3-5)

3 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?

4 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?

5 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

Jesus did not say leave the speck in your brother’s eye, but first take care of the log in your eye so that you can see clearly to remove the speck.  Once again, it is not that we are not supposed to help someone in sin, but we must be careful about where we stand.  Once again, Jesus is addressing the heart of the matter.  When we judge a sinful matter in someone else’s life, what is our motivation and heart for the judgment?  Are we being self-righteous, hypocritical, harsh, superficial, or saying something that is untrue?  Or is our judgment of a sinful matter in someone else’s life come from a heart of compassion, mercy, understanding, and a desire to see that person grow closer to the Lord?  Remember what John 7:24 said?  We are to judge righteously.  Righteous judgment can only take place when we examine our lives first.

The terms used here are important.  The word “speck” is not an insignificant particle of dust like some might think.  Speck is κάρφος (karphos), a small dry piece of straw, wood, a splinter, or piece of chaff.  The “log” is δοκός (dokos), a beam of wood, shaft of timber.  In light of the word δοκός, a large piece of wood, κάρφος is probably a wood splinter rather than a piece of straw.  The point is simply this.  The sin being judged is a serious matter.  If you have ever gotten a wood splinter in your eye, you know it is serious.  There is pain and if it is not removed, infection can occur and eventually lose of sight.  So, it is not an insignificant matter as some might try to interpret here.  But the point of Jesus’ illustration is that the sin of the one judging is much greater than the sin of the one he is criticizing.  How is that?

The log can be anything, but in the context of this sermon, I tend to think that the log Jesus is referring to is the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.  He even refers to them as blind guides in Matthew 23 because their self-righteous deeds have caused them to be blind their own heart condition.  The Pharisees were busy condemning others and telling them all the sinful things they were doing in not keeping the minutia of the Law, but they had the greater blinding sin of self-righteousness.  A log in their eye.

Our immediate reaction to these verses is that we will never say anything to anyone ever again.  We don’t want to be guilty of judging.  But verse 5 makes it clear that in the end we are to help each other with the sin in our lives.  We are to help each other remove the wood splinters.  We are to use righteous judgment (John 7:24).  To not help each other with the wood splinters would indicate our hatred toward them.  1 John 2:9-11 tells us that if we hate our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are still in darkness ourselves.  To leave a brother or sister in sin means we do not love them.

Galatians 6:1-2

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

So, it is clear that we need to make judgments concerning sin.  But first we need to examine our heart.  Is the log of self-righteousness, hypocrisy, harshness, unforgiveness, falseness, or superficiality hindering our perception of that sin in another person’s life?  There needs to be clarity of vision on our part by self-examination, confession, and repentance.  Then and only then, can we see clearly to address sin in someone else’s life.  We must go to them in compassion and love all the while extending mercy but showing them justice.  Being Christian demands that you are to walk with the Lord in holiness.  It also demands that you are to love others enough to be humble as you help them overcome the sins that overtake them.


Can I encourage you this morning to not fall into Satan’s trap of thinking that we can never say anything to anyone because we might be judging them?  “Judge not that you be not judged.”  Jesus is not saying to never talk to someone about sin in their life.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  We are to judge, but with righteous judgment.  Remember the whole passage in its context and make sure that you have examined yourself so that the log of self-righteousness is out of your eye.  Then go to your brother or sister and help them with the splinter in their eye before it becomes serious.  Make sure that you judge sin based on the Scriptures and not on man-made traditions.  You are to speak the truth in love, not in condemnation.  You are to go with all humility, grace and mercy, and not arrogant, self-righteous pride. You are to come along side and bear their burden with them.

How do I know if my judgment is righteous?  Well, unrighteous judgment is never out of love for the person.  In fact, there is a pleasure in hearing that someone is caught in sin.  Righteous judgment comes about because of a sincere love for the person caught in sin and mourns over the sin and is merciful.  Unrighteous judgment is when there is prejudice in our hearts and criticisms of others not based on Scripture.  Righteous judgment is motivated by love.

I know this is tough for some of you to hear this morning.  We judge people based on the hurt they have caused us or a family member.  We judge people based on how we perceive their personality or disposition.  Judgment must always come from a heart of love and compassion, measured with mercy and justice.

I was reading one of John Piper’s sermons where the points of his outline summed this up well.

~ Be quick to believe innocence

~ Be thorough before pronouncing guilt

~ Aim for restoration

~ Keep it quiet if possible

~ Judge with right judgment