“Judge not, that you be not judged. 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? 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? 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.
“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.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:1-12 ESV)
Jesus’ teaching on ethical holiness here in Matthew 7 breaks down into successively smaller circles of impact. The outermost circle we will call Civil Judgment. The over-arching rubric “judge not that you be not judged” is a kind of common sense approach that could save our court system billions of dollars. The next is Church Judgment. When Jesus refers to us taking the speck out of our brother’s eye, it doesn’t seem like he’s talking about your extended family, but rather the community of faith at large. If we applied common sense in the church where disagreements over personal liberties are concerned, there’d be a lot fewer church splits, and there certainly would be more sinners in our churches (which may well be the point of what Jesus is saying).
Next comes a bit of rabbinic commentary Jesus throws into the while discussion on judgment. “Don’t throw your pearls before swine” is a gentle rebuke, not an admonition about preaching to unbelieving audiences. What he’s saying here is, “You may think you have some wonderful corrective to share with your brother; some pearl of wisdom. But you might want to think twice before putting it out there. It just might come back to bite you.”
The third circle, moving inward, is Self Judgment (okay, so it doesn’t start with a “C”). Actually, the third circle is Judgment of Self by God, just to be clear.
“Your Father who is in heaven give(s) good things to those who ask him.” While the Civil and Church examples were framed in the negative, there is nothing negative about how God judges. If we are to take this saying (“Ask, seek, knock”) as related to the previous ones (“judge not,” “don’t take the speck…”), it seems what we are chiefly asking, and seeking, and knocking for is mercy (Matthew 5:7). It is the very thing we lack when we pronounce judgment on our brothers and sisters in the church or on the wider community around us. MY sinful judgments have separated me from a holy God as greatly as any of my sins.
God granting abundant pardon and restoration is the greatest good gift he could possibly offer. If I am to receive it fully, I need to work his model into every arena of my life and offer others what has been so freely offered to me.