Scripture reading – Matthew 7

Matthew 7 continues Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Moving beyond the spiritual character and attitudes of the followers of Christ (Matthew 5-6), chapter 7 presents us with a spiritual portrait of a believer’s relationship with others, and draws a contrast to the pride and sinful attitudes of the Pharisees. Matthew 7:1-5 is the focus of the devotional.

A Call for Righteous Judgment (7:1-5)

The mantra of 21st century society is, “Don’t judge me!” Under the guise of inclusivism and political correctness, sinners not only demand tolerance, but acceptance for their deviant practices and behavior. Some quote Matthew 7:1 to support their assertion to be above judgments. Yet, what judgments was Jesus condemning when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged?” (7:1)

Surely, Jesus was not condemning all judgments, after all, He reserved some of His harshest judgments for the Pharisees (for example, in Matthew 23:13-36, He pronounced eight condemnations of the Pharisees, calling them “hypocrites…false prophets…wolves in sheep’s clothing…and blind men.” Matthew 7:1-5 was not a condemnation of all judgments, but an exhortation to not be a hypocrite like the Pharisees when judging.

The Pharisees were guilty of passing judgment upon others, without first examining themselves. Jesus asked, “And why beholdest [stare; point out] thou the mote [speck; splinter] that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam [timber] that is in thine own eye?” (7:3) The Pharisees were also guilty of glossing over their sins, but being critical of others. The LORD questioned them, “How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote [speck] out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [of timber] is in thine own eye?” (7:4)

How can believers make moral judgments, and avoid being like the Pharisees?

I suggest the answer is twofold: 1) We should understand the consequences of harboring a critical spirit, lest we fall under harsh criticisms from others. Jesus warned, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete [criticize], it shall be measured [dealt] to you again” (7:2)

A second principle is an exhortation for self-examination. Before being critical of others, we should examine ourselves. Jesus admonished, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (7:5). In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul exhorted believers, “let a man examine himself…For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:28a, 31).

Closing thought – By first judging ourselves, we recognize our own sinfulness. Such self-examination will give cause for humility and meekness when we criticize others. In other words, the goal of our criticism should fulfill Galatians 6:1 – “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

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