No, You Don’t Have to Measure Up

In the previous section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), we saw that Jesus addressed six popular teachings that were contrary to the actual message of the Old Testament after committing verbally to remaining faithful to the Old Testament Scriptures. The major way in which the Old Testament was misused, according to Jesus’ sermon, was in support of religious legalism. We even saw how the popular teaching of the day exceeded what was written. Jesus brought the people back to what the Scriptures stated in context. In the present section of His sermon to His disciples and in view of the large group of people (6:1-7:6), we see Jesus address not only the legalistic teaching but also the legalistic tendencies of the religious community. After teaching from the Old Testament that faith was a gift and a condition of the heart and after exposing how the Law was being mistaught, Jesus continues to expose the absurdity of majority human worldview.

As we conclude this section of Jesus’ sermon, we will see the way in which Jesus evaluates our religion and our participation in church (or the equivalent thereof).  Right practice (orthopraxis) follows right teaching (orthodoxy). Spiritually healthy people or groups don’t merely have one or the other but strive for both. In the context of this sermon, Jesus didn’t compare Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, the Imperial Cult, and Eastern Religion- saying one was right and the others were wrong. Jesus got at real things and at the human heart. Let’s take a moment and not defend our own beliefs, churches, associations, denominations, or religions. Let us evaluate what is taught and what is practiced in our lives and in our churches the same way that Jesus does in this section of His sermon.

Matthew 7:1-6

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 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? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 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.

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

What does it mean to judge others? (v. 1-2)

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

The word for judge, κρινετε,here means to form an opinion about someone. In verse 2, Jesus clarifies that He means specifically measuring others according to a standard of measure. To judge, according to Jesus’ use of the word here in the Sermon on the Mount, means explicitly to make a measure of. We judge when we measure someone’s morality or worth or are focussed on their measuring up to our standards regarding anything about them. By our own nature, we are really good at doing this. We measure people according to the rules in the Bible. We measure others by comparing them to what we believe to be morally good. We measure people based on their appearances. We measure people according to their biblical knowledge, ability to reason, and level of common sense. Here, Jesus’ instruction for His disciples is clear- do not judge, or make measure, of anyone else.

Jesus even states that His disciples are not to measure others so that they are not measured. The wording in the Greek reflects this exact translation. “ινα” is a word indicating consequence (“So that,” or “in order that”). “μη κριυητε” translates, “you will not be judged.” The indication, here, is that if we measure others in any way, we will also be measured and in the same way. If we are guilty of weighing the morality, worth, goodness, appearance, knowledge, etc… of others, we will also be measured. Jesus confirms this in verse 2.

For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

Throughout this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He has been addressing how legalistic teaching leads directly to legalistic religion (which is inconsistent with Biblical truth). In the majority of this section, Jesus has been teaching His disciples not to practice their religiosity or good works in front of people to be noticed by them (6:1, 5, 16, 19, 24). In chapter 6, verses 25-34, Jesus explained that God is the only one who provides. Legalism does not make sense in a system which God is recognized as the only provider. Here, Jesus shows us the other side of this truth. Legalism, or works-based religion, not only causes us to practice our acts of righteousness in front of others to be seen by them, but it also causes us to measure others according to some religious, moral, or other standard rather than according to God’s grace and mercy.

This tendency that we have to look at the world and measure the people of the world according to some standard we have is entirely contrary to the Gospel and to the grace of God. These two verses speak about something more basic than condemning others- they speak to making any sort of measurement of others. This teaching from Jesus will be difficult for us to reconcile with teaching that we see in other parts of the New Testament, which instruct us to measure the content of what is being taught (Titus 3:10, Matthew 7:15-23) or measure someone’s character before making him an elder or deacon (1 Timothy 3) or practicing church discipline (Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5:1-2). When we make our way to verse 6, Jesus’ words will help us think about what this means in light of passages that clearly instruct us to make judgment calls.

Right judgement (v. 3-5)

Jesus asks his disciples why they measure others, but have failed to measure themselves. How can we measure others while we, ourselves, need to be measured? Jesus asks these questions in the form of an illustration. Then He calls those who measure others hypocrites because they are in need of being measured, but they have ignored this need in order to measure others according to a standard that they have chosen to measure others by.

When we were in Matthew 4:1-4, we discovered that the purpose for the Law was that it might stand as a testimony against people (Deuteronomy 31:26-29, Romans 5:20-21, Galatians 3:19-22). We saw this truth again in Matthew 5:21-48. The point that Jesus has made is that when we look at the Law, the Law reveals our unrighteousness and sinfulness. By the Law, we come to realize our need for a savior who saves by grace. If we are measuring others, according to Christ’s teaching here, then we are using the Law for a purpose which it was not given- that we might tell where other people fall short.

In His teaching, Jesus is, once again, correcting the use of the Law. Considering the purpose of the Law, it is nonsensical for Christ’s disciples to read it and use it to point out what they perceive the flaws in others to be. When we remember verses 1 and 2, we know that if we do this, we will also be measured according to the Law.

As Jesus continues to correct the use of the Law for His disciples, we see Him expose, again, the purpose of the Law. He says, 

“…first take the log out of your own eye…” 

When Jesus gives this instruction, He emphasizes the whole purpose of the Bible, which is stated in the Law. Paul, when he writes about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, gets at this idea.

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:6-14).

According to Paul, the Law is good if it is used lawfully, or according to the purpose stated in the Law. It was meant for unrighteous people so that they might recognize their unrighteousness. The Law of God is designed to be heard and responded to by ungodly sinners, unholy and profane people, murderers, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and those who are morally corrupt according to the standard of the Law. Instead of pointing fingers, Paul identified himself as fitting into this group. Then He praised God for showing mercy and making His grace abundantly known with the faith and love that are found in Jesus Christ.

Instead of pointing fingers, when we look at the measurement of the Law, we only profit if, in response to God’s standard, we see the logs that are in our own eyes, repent (4:17), and trust in the amazing grace and mercy of God, which are abundantly found in Christ alone.

“…then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

If the Law is used lawfully, we will not measure others according to some standard that we have selected. Instead, we will see with the spectacles of grace and mercy. While we cannot rightly make sure others measure up, we are interested in building one another up in the grace and mercy of Christ. Furthermore, our attitude is not one that rebuts, “Don’t judge me,” but one of serious introspection for the purpose of our own sanctification (being made mature and complete) in Christ Jesus.

Wrong judgment (v. 6)

Verse 6 is, perhaps, the most difficult verse in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. So, we will consider it part-by-part.

Do not give what is holy…

When Jesus refers to “what is holy” and “your pearls,” He is referring to something that He has already mentioned in context. He has instructed His disciples not to measure others according to any certain standard. Then He reemphasized the purpose of the Law. After this, Jesus has stated that His disciples, being subjects of grace, are not to make sure others measure up, but are to be concerned with building up one another. When Jesus refers to that which is holy, He s referring to the standard of the Law.

…to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine…

Both dogs and swine were considered to be unclean animals (Deuteronomy 14:8). Jesus is instructing His disciples not to measure those who are unclean by the standard of the Law. This is not the purpose of the Law. Jesus is reemphasizing what He has already taught by making this illustration. In context, those people who are unclean are those who do not have a repentant heart (4:17).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are instructed explicitly not to measure people up against the standard of God’s law. Again, it is not the purpose of the Law. This is especially true regarding people who are not in Christ.

…or they will trample them under their fee, and turn and tear you to pieces.

We see this at play in the world today. Every time we see religious people try to measure those they perceive to be worldly according to some religious standard, the world always tramples on the religion of people, turns, and tears religious people to pieces.

For people who are truly in Christ, the standard of the Law is holy and it is a treasure because it exposes our own need for Grace. For people who are not truly in Christ, the standard of the Law merely looks like a set of rules by which they stand condemned.

Christ’s instruction, explicitly, is for us not to measure anyone by the Law, especially unbelievers. This is why we cannot base our interaction with people or involvement with people on the degree of their moral goodness, but only according to the truth of God’s grace and mercy.

When we see the Scriptures instructing us to practice church discipline, evaluate elders and deacons, and deal with false teaching, it always does so within the context of professing believers, and it does not measure people by their keeping of some religious standard, but according to the effecting of grace in and through their lives. 

The basic truth of the Gospel is this: Christ’s disciples are not measured according to their own righteousness but according to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Where, then, is there room for Christ’s disciples to measure anyone according to any moral standard of their own?

So, according to this text, we address, first, the Christian. We plead for the people called by Christ’s name to act with the grace of Christ in the world- not measuring people by some standard. We address, second, the non-Christian or the unchurched person. When you come to be among Christ’s true body, you will not be measured by some standard of morality. Our desire is for you to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness, not having to earn some place by any perceived righteousness of your own. It is God who predestines people to be conformed to the image of Christ; He calls, justifies, and glorifies (Romans 8:29-30). 

Questions

  1. How do we misuse the Law when we evaluate the world?
  2. What is the difference between making judgment calls and judging, or measuring, people?
  3. How are Christ’s disciples to treat those they perceive as morally corrupt?
    1. How does this speak into our own society and culture?
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