Summary: Because of our tendency to pass quick and critical judgment on others, our Lord has chosen to address this issue. Chapter 7 verses 1-12 addresses an issue plaguing the religion of Jesus’ day and of ours, that of misdirected effort.
What You See May Not Be The Truth
A while back, I read the very distressing account of an incident in the life of a young bachelor. He worked in an office where every year the boss gave each employee a turkey as a bonus for the holiday season. Of course, the bachelor could never figure out what to do with his ‘turkey.’ One year the other fellows in the office decided to play a little practical joke on their friend. They exchanged the genuine item for one made of plaster. They could hardly wait to hear his report after the holidays.
On the way home on the bus that evening the young man was contemplating how he could dispose of his turkey. About this time a man in tattered clothing, obviously ‘down in his luck,’ sat in the seat beside him. In the course of their conversation, the young man began to perceive the solution to his problem—he would give this poor fellow his turkey. It would meet a real need for this fellow and his family, and it would solve his problem, too.
In order to avoid humiliating the man he decided that rather than give the turkey to him as charity, he would sell it to him for whatever he could pay. The man gladly produced the last of his money and the exchange was made. Both men parted rejoicing. However, when the bachelor returned to the office, he was horrified to learn of the trick which had been played on him, and the terrible deed unknowingly done to the poor man on the bus. For days, the young attorney and his friends rode that same bus to rectify their error, but no one ever saw the man again.
This story illustrates the principle laid down by Jesus that we are not qualified to pass judgment on the deeds of others. If we were to judge this young bachelor by the act itself, we would conclude that he was a scoundrel. If we were to judge him by his motives, we would have to regard him as a benevolent individual.
Because of our tendency to pass quick and critical judgment on others, our Lord has chosen to address this issue. Chapter 7 verses 1-12 addresses an issue plaguing the religion of Jesus’ day and of ours, that of misdirected effort. Much of what is done in the name of Christianity is unprofitable and detrimental because it is misdirected and misguided. Verses 1-5 warn us of one type of misguided effort, criticism. Verse 6 cautions us not to carry this to the opposite extreme by insisting that we discriminate between receptive listeners and hardened rejecters. Verses 7-11 instruct us to redirect our efforts in the practice of persistent prayer. Verse 12 concludes with a principle that ties together the entire section and guides us in our relationships with our fellow man.
Jesus told the disciples, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1). This is one of the most quoted sayings on Jesus and one of the most misunderstood and misapplied. For this reason, we must begin by dealing with what our Lord did not mean by this warning.
Jesus did not mean that it is wrong to have law enforcement and courts. In his letter to the Christians in Rome the apostle Paul told them, that government is a divinely appointed instrument to mete out punishment (Romans 13:1-7). In his second letter to the first century Christian the apostle Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Jesus did not dispute Pilate’s authority to execute capital punishment. Indeed, He stated that this authority came from God (John 19:10-11).
There are Christians who would have us believe that godliness is closely similar to gullibility. They claim we should accept every statement of men on its face value, and in no way should we ponder or weigh it as to its truthfulness. That is not the teaching of Scripture. Luke tells us there were “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica” in Berea, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), they were comparing what they were taught with what was written in the Scriptures. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
So often whenever a Christian takes what might be regarded as a negative position, the response is, “Judge not.” However, the context of Matthew 7:1-12 indicate that we must make decisions and take a stand. Paul took a public stand on the issue of immorality within the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). Timothy was instructed to take a stand in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3-7). We are to refuse to invite false teachers into our homes (2 John 8-11). We are instructed to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).