Treating Others the ‘Jesus Way’

In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus taught us how to treat others: Don’t judge, don’t be hypocritical, and use discernment. This theme of treating others rightly continues to verse 12, the foundational verse for the section.

“Do not judge lest you be judged,” Jesus said in verse 1. The word “judge” in this context carries the idea of not having an attitude of condemnation or a disposition of criticism. It could be understood as, “Don’t be judgmental.” We know we will stand before God one day, but others are also constantly evaluating us as well. The idea in verse 1 seems to be that if we are judgmental, people will be judgmental toward us.

Verse 2 enlarges on the principle stated in verse 1. If we have a self-righteous mindset, we will criticize and even condemn people. The judgment given by a self-righteous person is tainted with prejudice, condemnation, unjust criticism, negativity and spiritual blindness. We render judgments or evaluate people every day. Christ is not teaching that we should not assess people, but that we should not foster a judgmental attitude as we make assessments or evaluations. John 7:24 says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” The type of judgment being described in these verses is not righteous but self-righteous.

Verses 3-5 deal with treating others fairly and honestly. We are basically instructed, “Don’t be hypocritical.” The illustration of the speck (or mote) and the beam emphasizes the futility and even ridiculousness of self-righteous judgment. A small foreign object in our eye is a problem. It is painful. A piece of timber lodged in our eye is a bigger problem. Both are problems. The point is, we cannot help someone with the sin in his or her life if we have more or greater sin in our own life. Self-righteousness is like a beam in our eye. It is the greater sin because it contains both pride and unbelief. The large obstruction in our eye will not allow us to see clearly and underscores the blindness caused from self-righteousness. Self-righteousness moves a person to exalt self while condemning others. It is delusional, dishonest and ungodly.

If we truly want to help someone live a righteous life, we must be genuinely righteous and humble. It is important to help a fellow believer remove the speck from his or her eye. It is wrong to leave it there. But we cannot effectively help someone until we are in a spiritual position to help. When we do offer help, whether it is in the form of loving confrontation or strong counsel, we must be merciful.

The third point Jesus made was to have discernment. Sometimes it will be pointless to even attempt to speak the truth of God to someone. The context appears to point specifically to the scribes and Pharisees and generally to people who have repeatedly heard the truth and reacted with mockery, disrespect, and, in some cases, blasphemy.

The dogs referred to in the Scripture were wild and dangerous animals that roamed the streets and hillsides, attacking and destroying. Pigs were unclean animals to the Jews, but these pigs likely refer to wild boars, which were dirty and capable of violence. To throw valuable pearls before pigs would be senseless. While we are not to be judgmental, we are to be discerning. Our assessment or evaluation of someone must be based on clear biblical values.

When we try to share the gospel with people who repeatedly reject and ridicule it, we are at a dead end. D.A. Carson said, “Jesus is commanding his disciples not to share the richest parts of spiritual truth with persons who are persistently vicious, irresponsible and unappreciative.”

Verse 6 is considered one of the “hard” sayings of Jesus. William Barclay noted that it may be impossible to speak with some people about the gospel, but it will always be possible to live the truth of Jesus before them.

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