Let me reason with you why our culture believe the way they do about this issue. In our culture people hate absolutes, especially, moral and theological absolutes. And one of the primary reasons for this is because pluralism and inclusiveness is an easy way to escape from confrontations. It is much easier to say, “Your opinions are welcome” than to say, “Your opinions are wrong” or that “Your opinions don’t matter.” Hence it is a convenient way to escape from confrontations.
Tragically, such worldview has crept into churches and churches have now capitulated to theological pluralism. Just like the unregenerate world, churches are now saying, “Your theological views are welcomed,” which is another way of saying, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, we will accept you here in our church.” That is why churches that embrace theological pluralism, you won’t find strong theological convictions, authoritative dogmatic preaching, and no sense of exclusivity (whether it refers to the gospel, Christ, church membership, salvation and so on). You wonder why churches like this don’t preach the doctrines of election and sovereignty of God? It is because those doctrines go against the grains of pluralism and inclusiveness. Why would a theological inclusivist and pluralist accept a doctrine that excludes some and not the other? Hence it is much easier to be an “open-minded” person about religion and theology than those that are dogmatic, so they think.
Now, if not all judging is wrong then what is Jesus saying here? The verb to judge here in verse 1 in Greek is krino, which means to “divide, separate, make distinction, to pass judgment of condemnation.” As you can see this verb has multiple meanings. But what ultimately determines the meaning of the text is the context. Hence the meaning of krino here is being judgmental, which Jesus is commanding not to do. So the first part of verse 1 is best rendered as “You all, stop being judgmental.”
As you look at this section on judging, you will notice that this section on judging follows immediately after our Lord’s teachings on material riches, investments, and a command to not worry about material needs. The connection between these themes is very important. It is easy for Christians who have little or nothing to criticize those that have much. On the other hand, those that have much can easily look down on those who do not have much or look down on those who desire for the simplicity of living by faith. The point is either way we need to put away such judgmental attitude of others.
And Jesus gives the reason why we are commanded not to judge in verse 2. To me the NKJ offers more accurate translation for the first part of verse 2, which says, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged.” This particular noun judgment or krima in Greek refers to the final verdict. In 1 Corinthians 6:7 it is used as the final legal verdict like a judicial judge would make. Also same noun is used in Revelation 20:4 to describe God’s judgment during the Millennium. All that is to say this type of judgment refers to someone like an earthly judge or something that God would make. The point is the same standard or measurement you would hastily, harshly and hypocritically use on others, God will hold you accountable. As we would see in following verses the type of judging that Jesus is condemning here is hypocritical or self-righteous judging and verdict.
Verse 3 is a classic illustration of what hypocritical judging looks like: Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? The phrase “do not notice” means do not consider, think of, or observe. In other words, there is a failure to self-examine on the part who is criticizing. But problem with these people is that even though they examine themselves they think of themselves too highly. Hence such self-examination is deceitful, blind, and biased.
The fact that both people’s eyes have something in it reminds us that not everyone is morally perfect. We all have blurring visions due to our sinfulness. However, as Jesus illustrates not everyone’s moral quality is same or equal. Some are more grossly deficient than others, namely those that judge others hypocritically.
John Calvin defines this act here to mean “to be influenced by curiosity in inquiring into the actions of others…condemning any trivial fault, as if it had been a very heinous crime; and next breaks out into the insolent presumption of looking disdainfully at every action, and passing an unfavorable judgment on it, even when it might be viewed in a good light.” Being judgmental hypocritically has to do with one’s attitude of himself and one’s attitude of others. And generally judgmental people have higher view of ones’ self than others. Likewise according to Sinclair Ferguson:
He is looking for sins in other people, and he pounces whenever he sees one. So absorbed is he in his campaign that he is blind to the fact that hehas sin in his own life that is far greater than anything he sees in the lives of others. In fact, his pursuit of others’ sins (which he regards as proof ofhis good standing with God) is like a plank of wood compared to a speck of sawdust. He is guilty of the sin of censoriousness. So deeply has his sinconquered him that he has become blind to it. Sensitive to sin in others, he has been desensitized to the sin in his own heart.”
That is why Jesus labels people like this in verse 5: You hypocrite. According to Leon Morris, “This word is singularly appropriate here where someone with a large fault is pictured as offering to help another whose disability is the most minor that could be imagined.” To me, this is an epitome of arrogance. He criticizes, judges and undermines the way someone flies when he can’t even fly, let alone know how to walk! And that’s hypocrisy! I believe this is best illustrated in 2 Samuel 12:1-7.
So here’s what Jesus commands in verse 5: First take the log out of your own eye. That’s the first step. Without this procedure, you can’t see clearly to help your brother. And Paul later reiterates this in his letter to Galatians:
- NAU Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Now, verse 6 may seem very obscure or out of place, but it is very fitting since it truly brings a balance to what Jesus is saying. It simply proves the point that not all judgment is wrong. There is a time and place to make a proper judgment call. The Kingdom citizens are not to be judgmental self-righteously, but that does not mean they have to lack discernment, which is a form of judging what is right and wrong, an ability to distinguish truth from errors. A case in point, how would you know who is qualified as dogs and swine without making some form of judging?
Leon Morris writes, “What is precious is not to be given to people who have no appreciation of it. In a Christian context the pearls are apt to be pearls of wisdom, apt pieces of teaching.” That’s why discernment is needed. Again, how are we to discern who would appreciate precious truths or not when we don’t make some judgment calls?
Moreover, according to Jesus the pigs and dogs would not only appreciate things that are holy, but also turn on those who give them the pearls and tear them to pieces. Anyone who has been in the ministry can testify this to be totally true.
Scripture repeatedly gives illustrations of making sound judgment call. Due to time let me give you few examples. Let’s begin with Matthew 15:14.
Also in Acts 18:1-11 Paul leaves his ministry to the Jews in Corinth because they resisted him (meaning him as the messenger and his message and his ministry) and became abusive (in Greek this verb is in present active participle, meaning they were continually slandering and insulting Paul). And sometimes that is the only option the minister has, namely to leave his post and go somewhere else. Now the question is: how did Paul make his decision as shown in verses 6 and 7? The answer? Some where and some point Paul had to make a judgment call. This is not the only place where Paul moved on. Luke records two other places where Paul moved on when people rejected his message (13:44-46; 28:23-31). And one more in Titus 3:10-11.
In conclusion let me raise four implications. First of all, God’s truth is treasure and more precious than fine jewels. If you have a common sense not to throw costly and precious jewels to wild beasts, why dispense something that is far more precious than jewels to someone who has no desire or show any appreciation for it?
Secondly, discernment is needed. The late James Montgomery Boice said, “We are to discriminate. No congregation will ever be strong unless it is filled with persons capable of leadership who have drunk deeply at the fountain of God’s Word and who are therefore able to be discriminating. We are not to support error” (emphasis his).
Thirdly, not everyone is going to appreciate and accept precious truths of God. D.A. Carson writes:
Over the years I have gradually come to the place where I refuse to attempt to explain Christianity and introduce Christ to the person who just wants to mock and argue and ridicule. It accomplishes nothing good, and there are so many other opportunities where time and energy can be invested more profitably.
And finally, be saddened by people’s rejections of the gospel and biblical truths. Don’t take rejections personally because ultimately they’re rejecting God and his truths. Hence don’t be malicious and vengeful but continue to speak the truth in love.
 John Calvin, “Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke,” translated by William Pringle in Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 346.
 Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 151-52.