Matthew 7:1–12 Interacting With Other People.
Key Notes: The problem of discrimination. Pearls before swine. Ask; seek; knock. The Golden Rule in reverse.
Chapter seven has two parts. The first half of the chapter concerns our dealings with others, including those outside the community of believers. The passage is widely quoted and rich with controversy. The second half of the chapter deals with our relationship to God and will be discussed next time.
7:1–5 “Judge not that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” This sounds like a global commandment not to evaluate or criticize other people , but the illustration that follows clarifies its meaning. The verse is often misquoted as simply “Judge not.” Judgmentalism is one of the frequent complaints made against Christians.
Jesus points out a nearly universal problem The critic suffers from the same ailment (and worse!) that the guilty person who is accused. It is a psychological rule that we easily recognize in others sins that we struggle with and usually repress. In fact, we have the same traits we criticize in others.
It is a “birds of a feather” phenomenon, one that applies to all kinds of situations, including those that have no judgment involved.
For example, business-men eat with other business-men. Teenagers prefer to be with teenagers, women with women. People with disease find others with the same disease, even when it is rare. People who limp pay attention to other people who limp. They may not criticize but certainly understand.
But actions in other people that easily upset us are provoked by our own weaknesses. We are not very sensitive to sin that we do not experience. Moreover, “The heart is deceitful above all things….” (Jer.17:9) so we are much deceived when we try to think of our own sins and motives.
Here are some more recent examples.
“My boss is so selfish. He never gives me a thing!” she cried. We all looked at her and thought, “She never gives anybody anything”.
A US senator was caught sending pedophilic E-mails to underage male House pages. He had been working on child-protection laws.
A high-profile pastor who denounced homosexuality had been visiting a male prostitute for years as well as using illegal drugs.
The Jihadists were furious with the Pope for associating their Prophet with violence, and proceeded to riot for weeks, killing people and burning churches.
Paul applies the same lesson in Romans 2:1. After listing the sins of the Gentile world in Rom. 1:18–32, he confronts his readers with
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”
That is so direct and harsh that we recoil. We do not worship false gods; we do not engage in wickedness, deceit, gossip, slander, and foolishness. Really?
In case we are not persuaded, he pursues the idea again in Rom.2:17–29. “While you preach against stealing, do you steal? “
This is not to restrain the prophetic voice, crying out against injustice. We must advocate for the poor and the racially deprived but we must be careful that in crying “racist” we are not talking about ourselves. We must denounce sin, but first of all in our own lives. It is not to deny that we need family and church discipline. Jesus and the Apostle Paul have much to say on those subjects. It is just a strong warning to the critic to bite the tongue; think; introspect; confess before God; then speak.
Paul put it this way: “Brethren, if anyone is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal.6:1)
7:6 Jesus is obviously not simply saying “Judge not” because the next admonition is that we must discriminate carefully and not provoke the rage of scoffers. W are to be wary about revealing our most prized spiritual secrets to strangers. Our “pearls” are our unique spiritual lessons or experiences. “Dogs” are hostile people, usually Gentiles in those days; “pigs” are people with dirty minds. We may not wish to say words like these to strangers:
“He touched me.”
“I am led by the Holy Spirit”
“I am saved and headed for glory.”
Jesus does not tell us not to communicate with such people. He tells us not to give them what is holy and precious. If we watch Jesus, He starts in neutral territory, talking to the Woman at the Well about water, for instance. Or He will tell a parable. He gave His precious truths to the disciples in private. John 13–17
7:7 Do we not know what to do in such circumstances? ASK!
Ask and you shall receive.
Seek and you shall find.
Knock and it will be opened to you.
In the context, this is a teaching about pursuing truth, especially in prayer. Three times we are promised a response, a reward, an answer.
The words ask, seek and knock suggest an action sequence. Asking may be passive, curiosity-seeking, or even obstructing. But seeking implies a sincere wish to know, a movement toward the goal, and knocking suggests being at the door of truth.
If we want to know what to ask for, Jesus’ illustrations are of a son asking his father for bread and a fish. Bread and fish are foods, the necessities of life. When we ask for good things, God will not give us bad.
Other goods given by the Lord include the treasures of the Kingdom:
*the Bread of life .Jn.6:2.
*the Holy Spirit. Lk.11:13
* eternal life. Jn.17:2
All these are available to those who ask and seek and knock. But the implications are that something more than simple curiosity or a passing impulse is required to receive what is asked for. As we go through Matthew we will add other lessons on prayer in addition to the two lessons we have so far—how to pray Matt.6:5–15 and something about our attitudes and intentions. Matt.7:7–11.
7:12 “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” This teaching has been given by other religious leaders and philosophers, but almost always stated in the negative:
“Whatever you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others”. –Confucius.
There is a great difference between these two teachings.
Confucius’ rule is intended to deter aggression. You don’t want people to hit you? Don’t hit them.
Jesus’ rule is to do acts of love and kindness. Do you want people to love you? Love them first.
Confucius’ rule tells us not to get our car into accidents. It is self-protective.
Jesus’ rule tells us to help others who get into accidents. It is altruistic and merciful.
The Golden Rule is stated with four degrees of intensity in the Gospels.
“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” Matt.7:12
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt.19:19
“Love one another as I have loved you.” Jn.15:12
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and and with all your soul , and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Lk.10:27
That is all the Law and the Prophets—a succinct statement of the will of God. This restatement of the Golden Rule with its progressive intensity begins and ends with the disciples. They hear it first and also get the final and most challenging version. Although the Golden Rule is widely quoted as the essence of the Gospel--something anyone can do--we can see its formidable challenge, something that none of us can do in our own strength.