“Masquerading in Holiness”

“Masquerading in Holiness”

Matthew 7:1-6

On March 22 last year I took time during two Sundays to answer a series of questions submitted towards the end of my sermon series, Christians Say the Darndest Things.  One of the questions that was asked was the following: “What did Jesus mean when he said, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’?  Are Christians allowed to judge others?  Are we allowed to speak against immoral behaviors?”  When I received the question, I was so thankful that someone asked it, for it was something I should have included in my sermon series, bud did not.  In fact, aside from John 3:16 that continues to be one of the most familiar Bible verses in America, Matthew 7:1 may be the current most quoted Bible verse in the United States: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  The New American Standard Bible translates Mathew 7:1 this way: “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged.”  The NIV translates Jesus words slightly different: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” 

So, what do we do with Jesus’ words?  Is it the moral high ground to not judge others?  Is the moral high ground to be totally accepting of all ideas, lifestyles, and behaviors?  It would seem that is the new acceptable creed to live by.  Kent Hughes makes the following observation: “…when it comes to matters of individual morality, the world abhors opinionated people, especially if they represent conventional morality. In these matters it adores the nonjudgmental person. The ideal Christian, and especially the ideal clergyman, is an undiscerning, flabby, indulgent, all-accepting jellyfish who lives out the misinterpretation of ‘judge not.’”[1] 

D.A. Carson, one of the great New Testament scholars of our day, wrote a book titled, The Intolerance of Tolerance.  The book was first published and released in 2012; he assessed where culture was going, he wrote in his book something I hoped would not come to pass but is now the dominate voice of our culture: “Neither the old tolerance nor the new is an intellectual position; rather, each is a social response. The old tolerance is the willingness to put up with, allow, or endure people and ideas with whom we disagree; in its purest form, the new tolerance is the social commitment to treat all ideas and people as equally right, save for those people who disagree with this view of tolerance.”[2]

So, how are we to understand what Jesus means when he said, “Judge not, that you be not judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  Let us now consider what our Lord has said.

The Kind of Judging that Jesus Prohibits (vv. 1-2)

So, what are we to do with Matthew 7:1-6?  Let me ask you some questions to help you grasp what kind of judging Jesus is prohibiting in these verses:

  1. If the Christian is a person who only became a Christian because he was fully aware of his sin and helplessness before a holy God, then how would such a person see other people? 
  • If the Christian is a person who grieves over his own sin, how will he feel about those living in sin?
  • If the Christian is a person who surrendered his pride before the cross of Christ for the purpose of dying to himself so that Christ might live through him, how will he respond to those who are still slaves to their sin?
  • If the Christian is a person who has discovered that the righteousness he hungers for, is a righteousness that only Jesus provides, then what do you think his posture will be before those who continually seek their satisfaction in things, places, and people that do not satisfy?
  • If the Christian is a person who understands God as his father, the kingdom of God as his inheritance, the sufficiency of God as his satisfaction, the mercy of God as his only hope, and the love of God as his only security, then what response do you think he will have to those still caught in sin?   

Now, I would like for you to take a step forward to see the thread Jesus weaves through his sermon.  I already highlighted the first four beatitudes in Jesus’ sermon but think about the three beatitudes that follow: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:7–9).

The Christian is mindful of the great mercy of God he experienced; therefore, his posture ought to be one of mercy.  The Christian is a person whose hunger and thirst for righteousness is satisfied in Jesus, so he ought to view himself as one beggar telling another where to find food.  The Christian is a person who has the peace of God (shalom) because he has the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in him, so everywhere he goes, so does the presence and peace of God. 

Christian, do you know what the only difference is between you and the rest of humanity that does not know the God that you now call “Father”?  The only difference between the true Christian and the un-Christian is that you experienced a mercy you could not work hard enough for, nor did you earn, but was provided for you on a cross through the sinless Lamb of God.    

Do you see why reading a verse or scripture passage in the context of what was said before and after it is so important?  If Jesus is prohibiting all forms of judgment, then what he says in the same sermon three paragraphs later makes no sense: 

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15–20)

How are you to look and avoid false prophets without judging a person based on what you see and hear from that person?  Jesus says in the same sermon: “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”  There are many other scripture passages in the Bible that seem to indicate that there is a need for judging others.[3] 

The type of judgment that Jesus prohibits is the hypocritical kind that condemns instead of restores.  “Where do I see that in the text?”, you may be asking.  Look at verses two and three; Jesus tells us, “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?

Let me ask you again Christian, since it is you that Jesus is preaching to: “What kind of judgment did you receive from a holy and perfect God?”  Oh, do not forget that you deserved the judgment of God that justifiably demanded his wrath upon your head due to your sin.  But on whom did the wrath of God the Father fall?  It fell upon Jesus, His Son, in your place!  Remember, for your sin to be forgiven you had to come to terms with the serious nature of your sin; not for one moment did God nor Jesus ever minimalize the serious nature of your sin.  What Jesus is condemning is the kind of judgment that would place yourself as better than the person you are judging.  What does such judgment look like?  It looks like a judgment that demeans a person and leaves no room for the kind of redemption you received. 

The Kind of Judgment that Condemns (vv. 3-5)

What is worse is not the person who judges a person as though he or she were better than that person, but the nature of that kind of judgment is hypocritical at its root.  For starters, the person who judges another in a condemning way does so out of pride.  Jesus uses hyperbole in a comedic way: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”  Literally, Jesus is asking: “Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not contemplate the plank in your own eye?”  Out of a sense of pride, the person judges the sin of another while blind to the great evil of his own sins, or as Sinclair Ferguson observes: “So deeply has his sin conquered him that he has become blind to it.  Sensitive to sin in others, he has been desensitized to the sin in his own heart.” 

Jesus continues is a way that further exposes the foolishness of the person who judges others while ignoring his own sin: “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” (v. 4)?  The kind of judgment that Jesus condemns is not only the one motivated by pride and blinded by hypocrisy but seeks to fix others, when you are in no place to do so, like a blind eye surgeon who assures you of his ability to remove cataracts from your eyes.

Jesus is not condemning the kind of judgment that seeks to restore and heal, but the kind of judgment that does more to destroy a person by looking for faults and failures while making the one judging feel better about himself.  My guess is that you may have encountered this kind of person Jesus is describing in the Church; you may know of such a person in your own household, or you may be that person. 

Think for a moment of what is involved in recognizing the plank in your eye regarding the splinter in your brother’s eye.  What is involved is humility, as well as the kind of grieving over your own sin that is necessary in addressing it.  Only when you see your sin for what it truly is, will you be able to help those who are caught in sin, or as Kent Hughes observes: “Jesus does want us to discern the sins and shortcomings in others, but he wants us to see them through clear, self-judged eyes—eyes that are tender and compassionate.”[4]


The kind of judgment that seeks to restore and heal is the kind of judgment that comes from one who is discerning and motivated by love and humility instead of pride (see Matt. 18:15-20; Eph. 4:15-16).  It is the kind of judgment the apostle Paul described and encouraged: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1–2).

After addressing our own sin, and with clear, self-judged eyes, and motivated by compassion and love, what do we do when we seek to help and restore those caught in sin who have no desire to change?  Here is where what Jesus says in verse 6 is so helpful; here is what our Lord tells us to do: “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.” 

What do you do?  Remember that life is too short and that your time is limited, so wisely discern the character of a person and his or her willingness to embrace the truth of the Gospel and God’s call upon his people to pursue holiness.  A wise friend once gave me sage advice when it comes to helping others: “You cannot work harder than the person you are trying to help.”

Wild dogs will not be satisfied by a righteousness only Jesus can give and will most likely seek to devour the one offering the gospel.  Pigs will not appreciate the treasures of the gospel and will most likely remain oblivious to the value of the Gospel.  The Christian is to have his/her affections set on Jesus and by doing so is singular in his focus where his treasures are in heaven and while on earth he seeks, “first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (6:19-20, 33).  While we follow Jesus on this side of eternity, the Christian life is one that involves the ongoing effort to remove planks from our own eyes so that we can see clearly as we engage the mission he has given us. 

[1] Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 228). Crossway Books.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2013). The Intolerance of Tolerance (p. 98). Eerdmans.

[3] See: Ezek. 3:18-19; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; Jas. 5:19-20; Eph. 5:4-11; Titus 1:9.

[4] Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 232). Crossway Books.