This is us: Discerning mind

Matthew 7:1-6

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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? 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? 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 dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.


Let me start with a few questions. How many of you believe that Christians should not judge other people? How many of you believe that Christians should judge other people? Interesting mix. I did a quick poll on Instagram and about 75% said that Christians should not judge others. And I have a holy Instagram, meaning that 99% of my followers are Christians. Matthew 7 verse 1 is also by far non-Christians favourite verse. We hear them quote this verse all the time. This verse is probably the most abused, misunderstood and misapplied verse in the Bible. For example, let’s say you meet people who practice homosexuality. You talk to them and tell them that they are wrong, and God is angry at their sin. Do you know what they would say? They would say, “Don’t judge me, bro. Who are you to tell me that I am wrong? Who are you to tell me what to do with my life? This is my life and I get to decide what to do with it. In fact, the Bible says judge not. So, stop judging me. Mind your own business.” Am I right? Almost every time we confront non-Christians of their sin, we would get a similar response. They quote the Bible to us. The premise of our culture is that we should never question other people’s lives. We should never tell other people that they are wrong. But it does not work. Let me tell you why. Because when we say that we should never tell other people that they are wrong, at that moment we are telling the person who tells us that we are wrong that they are wrong for telling us that we are wrong. This mean, we are doing the very thing we said we are not supposed to do. Are you with me?

And what makes it worse is that many Christians in the church also adopt the same stance. We have the Christianize version of it. We say things like, “Who am I to judge other people? I have a lot of mess in my own life. I am no better than them. Let me take care of my mess and they can take care of their mess. Rather than judging them, I choose to love them.” It sounds very spiritual and humble, isn’t it? Let’s do some confession. How many of you have ever said or thought that before? Raise your hand. But is this what Jesus is saying in this passage? I don’t think so. Yes, in verse 1, Jesus says “Don’t judge people.” But then in verse 6, he calls people dogs and pigs. Basically, Jesus is saying, “Don’t judge people, you dog. Don’t judge people, you pig.” Jesus judges people when he calls them dogs and pigs. What happened? Is Jesus contradicting himself? The answer is no. There are some very important lessons that Jesus is teaching us in this passage on how we relate to one another.

And these lessons are very important for us if we want to grow together as righteous sinners. We have been saying that every Christian is a righteous sinner. We do not graduate from this title as long as we are still breathing on this earth. It means that on one hand, we have been made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus. But on the other hand, we are still sinners who struggle with sins daily. Both are true about us. We are simultaneously righteous and sinful. It does not matter how long we have been Christians, we are still righteous sinners. None of us has it all together. Believing in the gospel does not mean that we are soft on sin. It is the other way around. It is because we believe that we have been made righteous that we can wage war against sin in our lives. And here is the truth about every Christian. Every Christian has sin blind spots. That is why we desperately need other people to point out our sins to us. We need one another to grow together in the gospel. But how do we do that well? This is what this passage teaches us.


I separate this sermon into three parts: A judge; A hypocrite; A brother.


A judge


Matthew 7:1-2 – “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

What does Jesus mean when he says, “Judge not, that you be not judged”? It cannot mean that we should not evaluate other people. It cannot mean that we switch off our brain and critical faculties. It cannot mean that we turn blind eyes to people’s faults. How do we know? Because Jesus himself calls some people dogs and pigs. He makes negative evaluations of other people. And also pay attention to the context in which Jesus gives this command. The command to judge not is part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. And throughout the sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches his disciple to have discernment and make an evaluation on people. For example, Jesus’ teaching on false prophets. Jesus teaches us to discern between true prophets and false prophets. And to make good discernment, we must do some kind of evaluation. There must be a standard of measurement. What standard of measurement do we use to tell the difference between true and false prophets? Their fruits. Don’t look at their gifts but their fruits. Jesus says that we will know whether a tree is healthy or not by its fruits. If the tree bears good fruit, then it is a healthy tree. If the tree bears bad fruit, then it is a diseased tree. Can you see? The command to judge not cannot mean that we should never make an evaluation on other people.

So, what does it mean? Listen to what Jesus says in John 7:24 – 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. Did you get that? Jesus does not forbid the evaluation of others. Jesus is not forbidding criticism and making a judgement. But he does want us to make the right judgement. So what Jesus is condemning in Matthew 7 is not judging other people but judgementalism. It is the attitude that seeks to find people fault for pleasure. It is to see people in their worst possible motives. It is the kind of judgement that has no concern in helping others but condemning others. Martyn Lloyd Jones puts it nicely. “The fact of the matter is that we are not really concerned helping this other person; we are interested only in condemning him. We pretend to have this great interest; we pretend that we are very distressed at finding this blemish. But in reality, as our Lord has already shown us, we are really glad to discover it.” This is what judgementalism is.

There is a story of a young bachelor who struggled to find a wife. Every time he brought a prospective wife home, his mom criticized her harshly. His mom condemned every single girl. By the way, just to be clear, I am not talking about me. Let’s move on. The young man was frustrated, and he sought advice from his friend. His friend advised him, “Why don’t you find someone like your mom?” The young man thought it was a good idea. So, he searched and searched until he found a girl just like his mom. She looked like his mom. She talked like his mom. She thought like his mom. And she even complained and criticized like his mom. The similarity was amazing. So, he took her home to meet his mom. A few days later, he met his friend who gave him the advice and his friend asked, “How did it go with your mom? Did she like her?” The young man replied, “It went great. My mom absolutely loved her. But there is one problem. My dad could not stand her.” We understand this. There are few things in life more exhausting than harsh, unloving, fault-finding criticism. This is what Jesus is against. Let’s continue.


Matthew 7:2 – For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. This is a strong warning from Jesus. I think there are two layers of meaning in this verse. First, the standard of measurement that we used toward others functions like a boomerang. The way we judged others is the way others will judge us. We should not complain when other people use our standard of measurement against us. That’s the first meaning of this verse. But the second meaning, which I am inclined to believe is the point that Jesus makes, is that the standard of measurement by which we judge others is the standard by which God will judge us. Because God is the only one who has the right to set the standard of measurement by which we judge others. So, if we try to play judge and create our own standard, then we cannot plead ignorance of the standard on which we judge others. And the fact of the matter is that we are guilty of doing the very thing we judge others.

And we do this all the time. Like for example, how many of you ever get annoyed at a car that sped right past you? We said, “That guy drives at 120 km an hour. I hope there is a cop right around the corner to stop him. He needs to learn his lesson.” But we don’t seem to mind when we are the ones in a hurry and we get away with it. How about this one. We heard a powerful sermon in the church. And we immediately thought, “This sermon is great. Too bad Bob is not here to listen to it.” Right? We are prone to judge others. Rather than applying the sermon to ourselves, we apply the sermon to others. The point that Jesus is making is that if we measure others by a standard, it shows that we accept that standard. So, God can judge us by that standard. But the truth is, we often don’t know all the facts. We should never assume the worst in others. Only God knows everything. Therefore, we should always assume the best in others. Again, this is not a command to not make a judgement. But this is a command to be generous in our evaluation of others. Whenever possible, we should give others the benefit of a doubt. This is a command for us to not play judge. God is the only one who has the right to judge. And the way we evaluate others must reflect God’s standard of measurement. That’s the first point.


A hypocrite


Matthew 7:3-4 – 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? 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?

If the first warning is a warning against playing judge, this warning is a warning against hypocrisy. Look at the image Jesus gives us. It is comical. Jesus says that we see a friend who has a splinter in his eye. When we have a splinter in our eyes, it destroys our ability to see. It hurts. Our eyes become watery, and it is painful. This is a picture of sin in our life. Sin destroys our ability to see clearly. For example, let’s say a girl is badly hurt by her dad in the past and she is bitter because of it. What the girl often can’t see is how that bitterness affects the way she sees men in general. So, she is bitter toward men and she can’t see clearly. She has a distorted view of men and her relationship with men are distorted. She can’t see it, but others can. Someone needs to tell her about it and help her. But it won’t be easy. How do we get the splinter out? We say, “Well, it’s easy. Just get a mirror and do it yourself.” The problem is, only the super-rich people have mirrors in those days. And even if she has a mirror, it is very hard for her to get the splinter out of her eyes because she can’t see clearly in the first place. In other words, Jesus is saying that in order for her to get the splinter out, it is impossible for her to do it on her own. She needs someone else to help her get it out.

And the same is true about all of us. We need other people to get the splinter out of our eyes. We need other people to point out our sin blind spot and help us. Sin has affected our ability to see clearly. We cannot do it on our own. We need other people to make an evaluation of us and tell us where we are wrong. But we also need those people to do it very gently. How do we remove a speck from people’s eyes? We don’t get a hammer and start to chisel it out, right? No. We need to do it very gently and slowly. This is the image Jesus gives us on how we should tell other people of their sins. Not harshly, but gently. But Jesus tells us to do something else first before we do that. And this is where it gets comical.


Matthew 7:3 – 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? So, we see a splinter in our friend’s eye, and we say, “Excuse me brother, I see a splinter in your eyes. Let me help you with it. Oh, I am sorry, I just hit you with a tree on my eye.” It sounds dumb right? But that’s what we often do. In this verse, Jesus is rebuking people who are far more aware of other people’s sins than they are of their own. Isn’t that true about us? We are experts at finding other people’s faults, but we are very slow in dealing with our own. We exaggerate the fault of others, but we minimize our own fault. We view others in the worst light possible, but we want others to view us in the best light possible. And there is a word that describes us: Hypocrite. And Jesus is telling us to stop being a hypocrite. Before we help others with their speck, we must first recognise the log in our own eyes.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable of a pharisee and a tax collector. Both of them went up to the temple to pray. The pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you I am not like Bob. Did you see what happened with Bob? Just for your information, I think he is cheating on his wife. I saw him with another girl at the bar last week. But I am not like him. I am faithful to my wife. I am honest with my work. While everyone else watches YouTube at work, I refuse to use my work hours to entertain myself. I always drive under the speed limit, and I don’t text and drive like other people. I don’t lie and I don’t get drunk. And I am especially not like this tax collector next to me. He is the worst of all sinners. He is Bob times a million.” While the tax collector simply prayed, “God. Be merciful to me, a sinner.” That’s it. And look at what Jesus said. Luke 18:14 – I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. This is shocking. Jesus says that it is the person who has more sins than goes home justified. Do you know what is the problem with this pharisee? Despite all his goodness, he is blind to his own sin. He does not realise how self-righteous he is. While on the other hand, the tax collector recognises his sin. The pharisee is too focused on other people’s sin that he is blind to his own sin. And this is what Jesus is getting at.

We often see our sin as a speck and other people’s sin as a log. We are very lenient toward our sins, and we are very harsh toward other people’s sins. But Jesus teaches the opposite. We should consider our sins to be large and others’ sins to be small. We should be far more concerned with sins in our life than we are with sins in others. And this is very crucial. Because unless we see our sins as greater than others, we are not going to be able to help others deal with their sin gently. Instead, we will treat them from a place of superiority, and we will play judge instead of helping them. Jesus wants to awaken us to the fact that we are more proud, more self-centred, more petty than we dare to acknowledge. And until we acknowledge the log in our own eyes, we are no good to others. Until we are humbled by our own sinfulness, we won’t be able to help others with their sins.


Pastor Tony Evans made a very interesting observation on these verses. Do you know why it is very easy for us to recognize the splinter in other people’s eyes while we have a log in our own eyes? He said it was because both the splinter and the log came from the same source. When we see someone criticizing the same thing over and over again in someone else, that’s because what they are looking at is right in front of their own eyes. They are very familiar with it. The reason we are very good at spotting particular sins in other people’s lives is because we are very familiar with those sins in our own lives. He went on to say, “We tend to criticize most of our own deepest weaknesses. Because when we see it in others, even it’s only a splinter of wood, it reminds us of the log we are dealing with every day.” Ouch.

Remember what happened to King David. David slept with another man’s wife, killed her husband, and tried to hide it from everyone. Then one day Nathan came to him and said, “King David, I have a problem and I need your help. Two men were living in the same town. One was very rich and the other was poor. The rich man had many lambs while the poor man only had one single little lamb that he cherished. He cuddled with the little lamb every night. It was like a daughter to him. Then one day, the rich guy had a friend coming from out of town and he wanted to throw his friend a feast. But instead of taking one of his many lambs, he took the poor man’s little lamb and made lamb chops out of it. What should we do with the rich man?” David got angry and said, “Kill him.” Nathan replied, “Are you sure? Because you are that man. You had many wives, but you took another man’s wife and killed her husband. If you think the rich man should die for what he did, what about you? What you did was far worse than stealing a little lamb.” Can you see why David was so angered by it? The law of Moses only required the rich man to pay what he took from the poor man, plus interest. It did not require the death penalty. But David wanted to kill the rich man. Why? Because he saw his own reflection in that story. He saw the speck because he had the log. So, what is the solution? We are not to be a judge. We are not to be a hypocrite. So, what do we do? Let’s move on to the third point.


A brother


Matthew 7:5-6 – 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 dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

The solution is not for us to mind our own business. The answer is not for us to deal with our own sins and not worry about other people’s sins. That is not the solution Jesus offers. According to Jesus, the solution is for us to be a brother. A brother cares for the well-being of his siblings. A brother cares about the speck in the eyes of his siblings. A brother knows he has the responsibility to help his siblings. But to do so, he must first acknowledge the log in his own eye and remove it. Until he removes the log in his own eye, he would not be able to see clearly and he would not be able to help his siblings. And this is what Jesus is teaching us. He is not telling us to never judge others. He tells us to deal with our own eye trouble first before we help them. What Jesus condemns in this passage is not the act of judging others but when we judge others without first correcting ourselves. Because we can’t help others with their speck until we removed the log out of our own eyes.

We understand this. When we get on a plane, before the plane takes off, they give us some instructions. And one instruction that used to confuse me was the instruction on the oxygen mask. They always say that in the case of emergency and the mask falls down, we must put it over our face first before we help others, including little children. I used to think, “That’s selfish. Why would I prioritize helping myself over little children?” But how many of you know that I was dumb? We understand that the most loving thing we can do for people around us is to put on our oxygen mask first. Because if we don’t, we might be the ones who need help from others in the next few minutes. In trying to fix everyone but ourselves, we won’t have oxygen left to help others. But if we fix ourselves first, then we will be able to help others. This is what it means to be a brother. A brother is someone with the humility to acknowledge his own sinfulness and deal with it. And because of it, he can help remove the speck on other people’ eyes with kindness and gentleness. Are you with me? But what Jesus says next is very puzzling.


Matthew 7:6 – “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. When I first read it, I had no idea what it meant. And when I read commentaries, I found out that this verse is highly debated. First, Jesus just breaks our social norm. He calls some people dogs and pigs. A word of advice, unless you are Jesus Christ the Son of the living God, do not call anyone dogs or pigs. It won’t go well with you. Second, who are these dogs and pigs? There are few interpretations. But look at the image that Jesus describes first. So we are holding a bag of precious pearls and we are surrounded by hungry dogs and pigs. As the animals glare hungrily, we take out our pearls and sprinkle them on the ground. Thinking that we sprinkle some food, the animals start to eat them. But when they try to eat them, they find that the pearls are too hard to chew and have no taste. So, the animals get angry, spit out the pearls, turn on us and attack us. They think, “I can’t eat this junk but at least I can eat this person.” So that’s the image Jesus gives. So, who are the dogs and pigs?

Some commentators suggest that these animals refer to people who cant accept criticism. They say that we should not waste our time with people who can’t accept criticism. But I have a hard time accepting this interpretation. Because the rest of the Bible seems to suggest the opposite. We should never give up on helping others deal with their sins. We are to sacrifice ourselves for their good. Another interpretation, and this is the most popular one, is that the pearls represent the gospel. Because in Matthew 13, Jesus does tell another parable about pearls and the pearls in that parable refer to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, in Matthew 7, the dogs and pigs refer to unbelievers who consistently and persistently reject the gospel. They say that the meaning of the verse is not that we should not share the gospel with unbelievers but some unbelievers are just beyond help and we should not waste our time with them. Once again, I have a hard time accepting this interpretation. The Bible tells us that there is no heart too hard that the grace of God cannot break. We should never give up on anyone’s salvation to their very last breath. So, I was in limbo for quite some time. Until I received help. I wish I can say that I meditated and prayed on this verse and suddenly the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to understand the meaning of this passage. But that’s not true. Yes, it was the Holy Spirit who helped me understand this passage, but it was not through my own meditation. The Holy Spirit helped me through my Gospel Yoda, Timothy Keller.

Keller said that what Jesus is trying to teach us in this verse is to have discernment. First, we must have discernment on how to speak the gospel truth to others. Think about it. Who is at fault in this metaphor? Is it the dogs and the pigs? Or is it the person who throws pearls at them? The dogs and pigs do not know better. It is in their nature to eat whatever is thrown at them. But the person should have known better. Why would you throw expensive precious items to dogs and pigs? It does not make any sense. The animals do not have the sense to perceive the value of the pearls. They don’t have the capacity for it. And Keller said that the gospel truth does not make any sense unless God is helping us on the inside. It is only when God works in the heart of the people that they can perceive the true value of the gospel. So, if we try to push the gospel truth down into people’s throats and say, “This is the gospel. This is the truth. You must accept it. How can you be so dumb not to see it?” And they are angry at us, it is not their fault. It is our fault. Why? Because we are trying to make dead people come alive on our own. It is impossible. Dogs and pigs cannot perceive the value of the pearls. That’s the first one.

And second, we need to honour the pace of God in people’s lives. Everyone is on their own journey. And it is our job to be as sensitive as we can to where they are on the journey. We can’t push the gospel truth into people when they can’t digest it. There was one older minister who shared how he came to understand the gospel. This minister was raised in a church and never seemed to get the gospel. In fact, he even went to graduate school and took courses in religion and theology. But he did not understand the gospel. And then he went to the Air Force and the Air Force chaplain led him to faith in Christ. The chaplain told him the gospel, how Jesus the holy Son of God died for his sin. And because of Jesus, he can be saved by grace through faith. And the moment he put his faith in Jesus, he was forgiven of all his sins, and he was made righteous once for all. He was moved and amazed by these truths. All his life he thought, “I have to live as good as I can and maybe God will let me in into heaven.” He never realised that salvation is by grace alone. He embraced the gospel and his life changed forever. So, for the next few weeks, he was very eager to read everything he can about the gospel and discuss it with the chaplain. And at one point he said to the chaplain, “You know, all my life I grew up in church. I took courses on theology. But no one ever told me the gospel like you did. None of the preachers, none of the professors, none of the books.” Then he continued, “What I want to know is why Martin Luther did not know anything about the gospel?” The chaplain looked at him and said, “Why would you say that?” He said, “Well, a year ago I took a course on the Reformation, and I read a book by Martin Luther, and he never said anything about the gospel in his book.” The chaplain said, “You might want to reread that book.” So, he did. And he found out that on almost every page, he had underlined and highlighted the gospel and he did not see it. His eyes weren’t open to it. It was like those dogs and pigs who cannot appreciate the value and the beauty of the pearls even though it was in front of their eyes.

Do you see what happened? And this is not only that minister story. A few months ago, someone who used to attend and served at RYI many years ago messaged me to share how the gospel transformed his life in the last few years. I was very happy, and I celebrated with him. Then he said to me, “I heard that you recently started to preach the gospel as well. It is awesome. I am very excited for the future of RSI.” And I thought to myself, “Wait. What? What does he mean by I started preaching the gospel recently? Yo bro. I have been preaching the gospel since 2011.” And when I read Matthew 7:6, it makes perfect sense to me. He is on a journey. And when he was with us, he was not there yet. So, we need to discern where people are in life. And we can’t treat two people the same. Everyone is on their own journey, and we must be sensitive to that.


So let’s summarise what Jesus is teaching us in this passage. First, we must evaluate people based on God’s standard of measurement. It is right for us to do so. Second, we must speak the truth and help other people deal with their sins. But we must do so with kindness and gentleness. And to do that we must first be aware of our own sinfulness. We must be humbled by it and only then we can help others deal with their sin. Third, we must have discernment in administering the gospel truth to other people. Yes, we must tell people the truth, but we must do so with gentleness, kindness, and sensitivity to where they are on the journey. We need to be patient with them. We can’t force people to swallow the truth when they are not ready. We need to remember that our faith is a miracle. The fact that we can embrace the gospel and perceive its beauty is because God has done supernatural work inside of us.

Now, do you see how difficult this is? How do we get the heart to do it? The heart to continue to love people and correct them with gentleness and kindness even though they might attack us again and again? Here is how. We must look at the ultimate pearl of the universe. Colossians 2 tells us that in Jesus is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Jesus Christ is the treasure of all treasures. He is the pearl of all pearls. Jesus is the embodiment of the ultimate pearl of the universe. And he was offered to us. God the Father gave him to us. Jesus knew that if he came to earth, we would trample on him. We have no sense to perceive his value and beauty. We are like the dogs and pigs who trample on pearls. We turned on Jesus and attacked Jesus. And yet Jesus willingly gave his life for us. Why did he do that? Because he knew that the only way he can turn dogs and pigs into sons and daughters of God is by letting us trample on him. There is no other way. Jesus offered himself because he had to pay the penalty of our sins. He needed to do that so that God can forgive us of our sins, and we can be accepted in God’s presence.

If we see him do that for us, as we gaze upon what he has done for us, we are melted by his beauty, and it transforms us from pigs and dogs into children. And the more we gaze on his beauty, the more aware we are of our own sinfulness and the more amazed we are of his grace. And this is what enables us to gently help others deal with their sins. To the degree we are captivated by what Jesus has done for us at the cross, to that degree we can help others see the beauty of the gospel. So church, let us be a community of righteous sinners who continue to gaze on Jesus and help one another to do the same. Let’s pray.



Discussion questions:


  1. What does Jesus means by “Judge not”? Why is it impossible for us to not exercise judgement?
  2. Can you see the tendency in you to judge yourself and others by a different standard? Give examples.
  3. What happens when we try to remove the speck in other people’s eyes without removing the log in our own eyes first? Have you experienced being on the giving or receiving end of it? Share your story.
  4. Using the examples in question 3, what would a “brother” do differently?
  5. Explain why discernment is very important in administering the gospel truth.
  6. How does the gospel enable us to be a better “brother” to our brothers and sisters in MC? 
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