Most everyone is acquainted with the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” and yet walk into any bookstore today and you will find the book covers are meant to be judged. They desire to entice us into picking them up with fancy fonts and pictures. Great works of arts decorate the cover depicting scenes from the novel to which they decorate and seeking above all for us to pick them up and investigate further. In addition, how many times have you picked up a book to read that on the outside seemed like it would enjoyable? The comments and description on the back portray a story that seems entertaining, and the cover art draws our attention with the promise of provoking our imaginations. Yet how often have we purchased a book and started to read only to find out that it is filled with so much drivel? The prose is lacking, the characters have no depth, and storyline does anything but engage our attention. All the work that went into producing such an enticing cover only to mask the rubbish beneath.

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.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?4 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?5 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.

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.

In Matthew 7:1-6 we as believers are being instructed in the proper conduct of the kingdom of God and here Jesus commands that we are not to judge. Now if we take this command at face value then we have a problem, for if no one is allowed to judge then how do we respond to our legal system? What would we do in light of those that commit crimes and skirt our laws? After all, if Jesus is saying that we are not to judges then such judgments are sinful in the eyes of God. Thankfully, that is not what Jesus has in mind.

The term here used for judge actually has in mind the idea of being judgmental. The command is not to judge, but rather to not be judgmental – to not be censorious. Within the kingdom of God, we are to be men and women we are not severely critical of others, and Jesus provides us with the reason we should seek to purge this attitude from our hearts “that you be not judged.” Who though is this other judge?

Some have thought that Jesus has in mind other people – we develop a non-judgmental attitude so that others will not be judgmental towards us. This is a very real possibility given that the example to follow regards brother/sister relations (as Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ), and after all the kingdom of God is composed of other people. Yet there is a very real possibility that Jesus has the Lord God in mind. God himself is the judge of all humanity and if we take up a judgmental spirit then we are putting ourselves in the place of God. Verse 2 would lend credence to this idea, after all it seems odd that we would be measured by grace and mercy from other people if we judge them with such an attitude. We cannot control what other people do or how they will respond, but Jesus can well speak to how God will respond because as a member of the Godhead he has intimate knowledge of how God will respond.

In order to illustrate the principle Jesus is trying to express he gives an example in verses 3 to 5. He begins by asking the question: how can we see the speck in another’s eye and yet miss the beam that is in our own. The speck in question here is literally a tiny sawdust particle. If you have ever been around woodcuttings are perhaps used sawdust in your garden you can see that an individual particle is very, very small. Yet we as humans are so deft at noticing the faults of others that we can see even the tiniest particle within their eye. Of course, we are naturally blind to our own conditions even though they may be vastly more significant than that of our brother. Yet notice in verse 5 that Jesus does not forbid us from pointing out a fault in our brother.

The principle that Jesus is instilling in his disciples is one that rightly perceives the faults of another with an attitude of seeking to help that person mature in their spiritual relationship. However in order to do so we must first look to our own self’s to see if we are being judgmental in an area that we are not willing to deal with in our own lives. Consider this example; let us say that we struggle with telling the truth. Many of our friends and co-workers know us to be horrible liars and while people are loathe to say anything, everyone knows it for a truth. One day we encounter another brother or sister in the faith and discover that this person has indeed lied to us in some fashion. Seeking to be the dutiful Christian that we are we meet with this person and point out the error of their ways. “Hypocrite!” We would cry out because the very fault we are seeking to rectify in the others life is something we have been unwilling to confront in our own. Another excellent biblical example of would be when Nathan came to David and confronted him over his sins with Bathsheba. We are not forbidden to judge, just from being judgmental.

How then do we understand verse 6 and what relationship does it have the previous context? First, let us remember that dogs and pigs in those days were not the same animals that we know in our own society. A dog was not man’s best friend – they roamed in packs like wolves seeking for a meal wherever it could be found. They were scavengers and as such considered an unclean animal within Jewish society. The pig we well know is also an unclean animal, but like the dogs, a wild pig was not an animal to be trifled with. The picture in mind then in verse 6 is of a person carrying precious pearls and happening upon a pack of wild dogs or a boar and attempted to save themselves, they cast the pearls before the creatures. While the animal may be distracted for a moment of course, they cannot consume the pearls and so will move to attack the person who sought to poison them with stones.

For us as believers the lesson to be learned here is that we are to be discerning. Just as in the previous section, Jesus commands us not to be judgmental, which can have the negative effect of not judging at all, this verse seeks to enlighten us with the need to be discerning in our dealings with others. Yet what practical implication does this have for us the modern disciples and readers? We have been given a great treasure in the gift of eternal life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet we must be discerning in whom we share this gift with. “Foul play!” We might hear, “The Gospel is for all mankind and should be shared freely with all!” There is a measure of truth in such words, we are indeed to share the Gospel with all men, but we need also be aware of when sharing the Gospel will be a fruitless endeavor. Perhaps we have never had the chance of knowing such a person, but there are those out there who have no care for the message of the Gospel. Instead, they seek to engage believers in a battle of wits and intellect, seeking to demolish and harm ones faith, not be converted to the Gospel. It is these types of people that we need to be cautious about. It is this message that Paul would have appealed to when he forsook going to the Jewish people any longer and instead choice to focus on the Gentiles who were open to the Gospel.

These verses teach us that we need to maintain balance in judgment. We need not go too far to one side and become judgmental of our fellow believers, but we also need to be careful and guarded, discerning in our dealings with others. The principle is not that we are not to judge, but rather that we judge correctly having examined our own lives, and knowing with whom it is that we are sharing our treasures.