We saw that this passage is the central axis of the Sermon on the Mount:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Mat 7:1-5
We have previously discussed that this passage cannot mean what the wicked and the unrighteous of the world, who quote it, want it to mean: that we are to make no judgments about someone’s actions or behavior. No, because Jesus tells us in just a few more verses, TO make judgments on actions and behavior (Mat 7:16).
Consider the placement of this teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. We saw from the chiastic structure, that the famous sermon is showing us how to tell the difference between true children and false prophets (compare Mat 5:3-16 with Mat 7:13-17). True children will obey the Spirit of the Law as well as the letter; false prophets appear to obey the letter while they violate the Spirit (Mat 5:21-48). True children will not do good in order to be seen by men as the hypocrites and false prophets do (Mat 6), because doing what is good and righteous is a holy thing, and we throw what is holy to dogs when we trumpet our own holiness (Mat 7:6).
Hypocrites do good in order to get a reward from men, so they have to be sure that men see the good they are doing. They are coveting the reward, whether it be glory, fame, influence, or money. True children, however, go to God and not men for the things they need, or even want. They don’t try to figure out how to get get get, they simply obey in give give give, and trust that God will take care of their reward. True children and hypocrites alike have material needs; but true children ask their heavenly Father for the things they need, while hypocrites manipulate men.
Jesus, in other words, is expounding on what it means to obey the Ten Commandments, the heart of Torah. He is not merely preaching obedience to the Law, but showing us that true children do the will or Law of their Father, while hypocrites and false prophets do not, even while they call Him, “Lord, Lord.”
So at the heart of this teaching on discerning true children from false prophets, is Judge not lest you be judged. This is one reason, I think:
True children are concerned from the core of their being, with what pleases the Father. They desire to learn it, and do it. The number one way the enemy will try to pervert that righteous desire to make it a snare, is to turn it outward instead of inward. True children respect the plumb line that the Word of God, (which includes the Torah of God), provides for comparing their own hearts, lives, and actions to. And that is where our focus must remain: inward — what the LORD and His Word is asking of us, and our response to it.
As fallen humans, when we look through the plumb line of God’s will and adjust our focus outward to our imperfect brother, instead of inward, the temptation to condemn them for their failings is so strong. That is the snare. God’s way of looking at us, with our failings, is to encourage us to deeper and deeper relationship with Him, and out of that relationship, greater and greater alignment with His heart — which is expressed in words as His will, or Law. The enemy’s way of looking at us, with our failings, is to accuse us and condemn us for them, and that is the nature of fallen man also.
So the true children, to deliver them from the enemy’s snare, need to be exhorted to measure forgiveness for failings to our brothers, not condemnation. To measure mercy, not punishment. The self- righteous spirit of the hypocrite loves to punish others for failings; the truly righteous spirit of the true children measures forgiveness and covers over offenses.