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Matthew 7:1-6

You will be judged in the same way you judge others.

Tom Faletti

June 7, 2024

Matthew 7:1-6 Judge not, lest you be judged

What is Jesus saying in this passage?


What does v. 2 mean, in speaking about the “measure” you get?

A “measure” is the method used to weigh or count the portions of something.  In the supermarket, if you buy potatoes by the pound, a “pound” is the measure.  If you buy mangos by the number of mangos, then the number of units (mangos) is the “measure.”  Lettuce might be sold using either measure – by weight or by the number of heads.  Jesus says that the measure you use for judgment is the measure that will be used to judge you.


What are some of the things about which we tend to judge others, and what measure do we use to judge their guilt or innocence, or how good or bad their actions are?


If we will be judged in the same way that we judge others (i.e., using the same measure we use), what does this tell us about making judgments about other people?


What do you think is an appropriate measure for judging other people, or an appropriate way of approaching your judgments, if you know that you will face the same standard of judgment?


Consider Galatians 6:7, which tells us that whatever we sow we will also reap.  Although Paul is making a different point in that passage, how does the concept of sowing and reaping illuminate verse 2’s discussion of judging?

God has built linkages into the natural world that provide useful analogies for the linkages he has built into the spiritual fabric of life.  Just as we can’t sow grass seed and reap vegetables, so too we can’t sow judgmental attitudes and reap mercy.  In many aspects of our lives, you get back what you give out.


What is the meaning of Jesus’s image of the speck (or splinter) and the log (or beam) in verse 3?


What might be some examples of the logs or beams in our own eyes that might make it hard for us to make sound judgments about what others do?


What biases make it hard for people to judge other people accurately?


How do you know when you have a “log” in your eye?  How do you know when you have a blind spot that makes it hard to accurately judge what is going on around you?

Someone else can tell you; you can try to put yourself in others’ shoes; you can immerse yourself in God’s Word and check your actions against God’s Word.


One of my Bible Study members, Phyllis Hegstrom, told us that she asks her boss: What are my blind spots? How might that approach to our own behavior make us more effective followers of Jesus?


Jesus tells us to take the log (or beam) out of our own eye first.  How can we do that?  How can we remove the things that make it hard for us to see clearly?


In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus tells us not to resist those who seek to do evil to us but to turn the other cheek, go two miles, etc.  What are the traits of Christian character that Jesus is trying to foster both in that passage and here in Matthew 7:1-6?



Verse 6 uses some metaphors that need to be unpacked: for example, what does a “pearl” stand for and what does a “dog” or “swine” stand for?


Note: Dogs were mostly undomesticated scavengers in Jesus’s time.  According to the Law, swine were unclean, so Jews were prohibited from eating or handling them.


When you put it all together, what does verse 6 mean?


What are the “pearls” we should be preserving?


One interpretation of verse 6 is that the pearls are the deeper truths of our faith.  If we follow that interpretation, what is Jesus saying about not giving the pearls to those who will trample them?

Don’t try to convince others of the deeper truths of the faith if they have not accepted the more basic truths.


In order to follow verse 6, we would need to make judgments about who falls into the metaphorical category of the “dogs” or “swine.”  Doesn’t that require judging?  Explain.


Do you  conclude from this passage that we should never judge, or only judge certain kinds of things (and if so, what)?  Explain.


How can we apply in our lives the principles Jesus is teaching us here about judging?



Take a step back and consider this:


Social psychologists working in the field of attribution theory explore how we decide why people do what they do.  If someone does something we think is wrong (fails to show up for a meeting, says something unkind, etc.), how do we decide what the causes of their behavior might be?


We might attribute their behavior to situational causes – to external factors that might explain their behavior.  For example, we might say to ourselves: He must have had an unexpected crisis that kept him from coming; maybe someone in his family got sick.  She must be having a bad day; maybe her boss chewed her out or her child did something wrong – that’s why she said what she said.


Alternatively, we might attribute their behavior to dispositional causes – to internal factors in their personality or character.  In this case, we might say to ourselves: He is unreliable; he doesn’t respect other people’s time and effort.  She is a mean person and doesn’t appreciate the effect of her words on other people.


We don’t usually know the whole story behind people’s actions.  To be honest, we never know the whole story. But we make judgments.


And arguably, judgments are sometimes necessary.  If George routinely fails to show up for meetings that have been arranged with him, we need to recognize that and not assign essential tasks to him where a no-show would cause harm.


The interesting thing is that we have attribution biases that distort our assessments.  If we already have a positive view of a person, we are more likely to explain a false step as being caused by situational factors rather than signaling a flaw in their personality.  If we think a person is similar to us, we are more likely to give them a pass rather than deciding that they have a bad character trait.


The bias that is most relevant to Jesus’s words about judging others is the fundamental attribution error: the tendency to think that if we have done something wrong, it is because of something external that caused the problem; but if someone else has done something wrong, it is because of their own internal dispositions (Robert S. Feldman, Understanding Psychology, 14th edition, McGraw Hill Education, 2019, pp. 563-564).


In other words, people have a tendency to think that the speck or log in the other person’s eye is caused by flaws in the other person’s character, while any speck in our own eye is only due to the external circumstances we face.


This fundamental attribution error may be the biggest log of all in our eyes, because it signals an unconscious belief that we are better or less flawed than other people, and that other people are choosing to be bad while we are with good intentions just trying to make the best of a difficult world.


Jesus calls us to stop thinking that we are better, or that we are doing better, than others.  That is the fundamental log in our eyes.


When someone does something that you perceive to be a slight or that hurts you in some way, are you more likely to attribute it to a flaw in their personality/character or to attribute it to external circumstances that made it difficult for them to do what you wanted them to do?  Can you describe a time (or times) when you did that?


When you do something that someone else perceives to be a slight or that hurts someone else in some way, are you more likely to make justifications for your action based on external circumstances or to do some soul-searching about whether this shows you need to work on your character?  Can you describe a time (or times) when you did that?


If you were talking with Jesus right now, what would he say to you about whether you treat others the way you treat yourself in terms of how you attribute motives to your behavior and others’ behavior?


What steps can you take to adjust your thinking about other people, so that you are more merciful in the judgments you make about other people?



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Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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