Reading Time: 7 Minutes
Matthew uses the word, “hypocrite,” thirteen times in his Gospel. Four of these instances are found in the Sermon on the Mount.
We have learned that “hypocrite” originally referred to an actor or actress on the stage. The part that an actress or actor plays is not necessarily who that person is in real life. They are simply playing a part.
I played a rock in a grade school drama. I guess they ran out of sheep and squirrel roles and I was given the privilege of being a rock. All of us budding drama performers were pleased to know that sheep, squirrels and rocks were not who we actually were.
When we meet someone who is playing a part that is not a genuine expression of their actual person, it is tempting to be critical of them. This section of the Sermon on the Mount addresses the way we should respond to such situations.
Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
3 “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is 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 neighbor’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you” (Matthew 7.1-6).
Three Reasons To Not Judge
Jesus gives us three reasons to not judge other people with the intent of criticizing their behavior.
There are times when we must judge other people. For example, we have to discern the nature of false prophets (Matthew 7.15-20). The kind of judgment Jesus is describing in this instruction is the kind that is critical and harmful.
(1) Verses 1 and 2 highlight the nature of how shame and blame try to balance each other out.
Imagine an old fashioned scale like the one pictured in the “scales of justice.” If you place blame on one side of the scale, it will cause shame to be felt on the other side. Almost always, the person who has been shamed will attempt to even the scales by in turn blaming the other person.
Here are some examples:
— If you “get on the case” of your teenage daughter for possible risky sex with her boyfriend, she may “throw in your face” your own risky teenage behavior.
— If you condemn someone for their lifestyle, they may “shoot back” about an equally objectionable part of your lifestyle.
— Parts of the church “fire” Bible verses at a part of the church with whom they disagree. In turn, the other side will “shoot” back with their own Bible verses to prove that they are right.
I have intentionally used violent words to describe how people who blame and shame others receive in turn what they give out. That is because “shame and blame” speech feels like we have been violated as we receive it.
We do well to practice Jesus’ words, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matthew 7.1-2).
(2) I have often called myself a “speck inspector.” I have a great ability to see what is wrong in other people. Sometimes, I am even right about my judgments.
What is strange is that at age 70, there are many things I still don’t know about myself. You’d think that someone who could analyze other people so well would know his own motives and reasons behind thoughts and behavior.
I’m in good company with not being able to understand my own attitudes, motives and actions. Paul wrote this about his own life: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7.15).
Jesus had excellent advice for all of us “speck inspectors.” He said, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7.5).
Note, for people like Paul and me, who still don’t understand our own actions, we must refrain from judging with intent of criticizing someone.
(3) Jesus’ third reason for not judging is contained in a strange statement. He said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you” (Matthew 7.6).
Dallas Willard helped me understand Jesus’ statement, when he pointed out that dogs and pigs don’t like to eat pearls.
I may have a correct analysis of the behavior of the person I am blaming and shaming. I may know how to take out the speck from someone’s eye, even though I still have a log in mine. However, if they are not willing to receive my expert advice, they may turn an bite me.
We can all be thankful that we are not left with a bunch of “Do Nots” at this point. In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us clear instruction when we are tempted to judge and criticize others.
(1) Jesus first asks to take a look at the log in our own eye. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves before we attempt to help a friend or family member with a speck in their eye.
— Matthew 18.6-7 – Are there any ways that I have been a stumbling block before that person?
— Matthew 18.10-14 – Am I compassionately seeking to return a “lost” person to a healthy life, or am I just trying to get someone “told” and prove to them that I am right?
(2) Jesus instructs us to have a deep involvement in the person’s life. Instead of criticism, we genuinely seek their best through mature efforts.
— Matthew 18.15 – Go to the person in such a way that they can listen to you. That will probably involve your listening before speaking. Go with the goal of gaining a friend out of the situation.
— Matthew 18.16 – If your personal visit fails, bring other people with you. This is obviously a serious situation. I think a good understanding of this verse in today’s context would be for people to seek wise counsel from a pastor or a counselor.
Many issues need an unbiased third party to help bring God’s best for situations.
— Matthew 18.17-20 – Ask mature Christians to intercede in prayer for the person.
Dr. Ed Silvoso has helped my understanding of these verses. When individual words fail, and when good counseling fails, and when the efforts of the church fail, prayer never fails.
In cases of addiction, the pleading of parents may fall on deaf ears. The instructions of a drug counselor may be ignored. The prayers of a mother, sister or friend may eventually be used to set the person free from the bondage of addiction.
Entire books have been written on Matthew 18. I have given you an outline of thoughts that could be greatly expanded and illustrated. If you will prayerfully read Matthew 18 and consider the suggestions I have written today, I think your approach will be far better than simply judging someone with the intent of criticizing them.
Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us enough to help us in a crucial area in our lives. Please help us to meditate on your teaching in both the Sermon on the Mount and in Matthew 18. Please help us to follow your direction in this area of our lives.