Updated: Feb 3
I remember back around 2004 or 2005. While driving around I heard a talk radio conversation, which I think was about the War on Terror. Whatever the topic, one caller had called in and quoted Jesus, saying, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” That was someone trying to defend some politician or some group that the other callers were attacking.
Then, a woman called in and made a comment about that quote, which is really what I remember best.
The lady identified herself as having been a nun for a long time, serving in a Catholic school. She said she had been taught the meaning of that quote from Jesus, which was different than how the first caller had used it. She said she read the same words as meaning (I paraphrase now), “If you do not judge [Judge not], then you will be judged by God [lest ye be judged], for not having judged when judgment was necessary.”
That new perspective made me see how it is quite possible to get that meaning from that quote. After all, how hard is it to be told by Jesus not to ever judge anyone? Her comments stuck with me; but I had not followed up on that line of thought until now.
The quote comes from the Gospel of Matthew (7:1), and it closely links with the following verse (7:2), as, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV) The literal translations says, “Not do judge, that not you should be judged. With whatever for judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured again to you.” (Greek text analysis)
When you read that instruction from Jesus, as part of his sermon on the mount, it can seem that Jesus is making a demand that is impossible to fulfill, unless one completely lies down and lets everyone take advantage of one’s religious beliefs. That is not the case, such that the nun woman who called in that radio talk show was correct in her interpretation.
Jesus said, in essence, “Do not judge for selfish reasons, or others will judge you back accordingly.” If one reads further, the judgment of others relates to standing up for one’s faith, such that, “You must judge what is evil, or you will be judged as evil through negligence.”
Verses 3-6 state, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (NIV)
Verses 3-5 are focused on the standard interpretation, where we see Jesus warning, “How dare you judge others for their sins, when you have so much sin clinging to you it makes your judgment hypocritical.” One cannot properly judge when one is unable to see; and that was often the case with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the ones who had eyes but could not see (and ears but could not hear).
The verses from Matthew use the Greek word krino, which means “to judge,” but also, “to separate; to make a distinction between; to bring to trial; to decide; to vindicate; to bring under question; and others like these. To only read “judge” misses the aspect of a proper assessment being made, which means it is hypocritical to try to help others, when one has not learned to control one’s own actions.
The obvious meaning is: “Do not attempt to vindicate your holiness by pointing out the sins of others.” That was what the Pharisees did regularly. It is what many people today do, while not seeing themselves as Pharisees. There are always times when people pretend to be God, when the reality is: If you do try to act as if your mess don’t stink like everyone’s, then it is just a matter of time before nature calls and “your holiness” is knocked down a few notches, to ground level.
It means that one’s actions that judge others comes back on you, like a boomerang. However, if you are truly pious, as was Jesus, then those judgments are truth, and you will be judged as truthful. (Verily I say.)
The key to recognizing this comes from verse 6, which is recognized as a classic statement that seems to stand alone, apart from the instructions of judgment leading to it. However, when Jesus said, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they turn around and rend you,” that is a statement about judgment.
The part of verse 6 that says, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs,” means do not judge the great unwashed masses as though they had a clue what matters concern God’s priests. Do not go quoting the Law of Moses to a non-Jew. Do not go quoting Jesus to an atheist. This is not because it is wrong. It is because “dogs” are too earthbound to ever understand spiritual matters.
On the other hand, where one has to be able to “read between the lines,” the statement, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs” means one must understand “that which is holy” and one must recognize who are “dogs.” Recognizing a “dog” is no different than seeing a speck (or a log) in the eye of another, but a “dog” is not one’s “brother,” as a “dog” is an animal, or an inhuman creature. So, just as one would not attempt to use high forms of reason and intellectual discussion while training a dog to obey commands, such as roll over and do not soil the carpet, one recognizes that limits exist that prevent a gift of holiness to certain types of people.
The part of verse 6 that says, “Do not cast your pearls before swine,” means do not throw away your beliefs in the face of pigs. The operative definition of “pig” (according to Free Dictionary) is: “A person regarded as being pig-like, greedy, or gross.” This means that the reader has moved from the first part of verse six to the second part, seeing the act of giving turn into the act of throwing or casting, while also seeing the spiritual representation of “holiness” morph into the physical representation of “pearls.” A pearl has to be seen as an object of value, but it is also a result of inner development (as sand in an oyster makes pearls).
There has been a transformation of the animal “dog” (man’s best friend) into a “swine,” which wallows in filth and devours anything within reach. Therefore, the essence is different from trying to give an animal spiritual insight. The part about a pig is not restating the same thing as a dog, in a different way, as if hurling beatitudes as harming condemnations of evil beings would be “giving it to the pig.” The implication is like casting a vote of support, where a string of pearls is placed around the neck of someone sinful, as an honor or recognition. It means, “Do not allow sinful creatures to control the things you value dearly.”
If one is told not to give that which is holy unto dogs and not to cast your pearls before swine, Jesus is saying you must make judgments as to who is a dog and who is a swine. If you do not do this, then you will bee the one hurt. You will be judged by how well you protect things holy and how careful you are with words of wisdom (pearls), especially by who you allow to stand before you as a Christian leader (supposedly versed in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit).
This becomes who you chose to follow, as well as who you chose to lead; and you will be judged, based on how well you judge those you share your life with. God will know who you call your brothers (and sisters).
If you do not judge others properly, based on your own inner wisdom leading your decisions, then you will call false shepherds your leaders and attract subversive elements to you. Those will attempt to alter your religious beliefs, while claiming to be friends and family (brothers and sisters). This closeness puts you in a position to see when these inhumane people let down their guard, so you see something clouding their eyesight.
A speck of wood in their eye is a flaw in their views on God, the Law, and Christ. To let these people in so close, by the time you point out a lie, they will point out all of your flaws, especially how blind you were to not see the true them in the first place. That means they will have led you to sins you would not have committed, had you judged correctly to begin with. That “plank” blinded you. You acted alone, and not from divine guidance.
This then leads to your demise. You are forced to judge, at which point you defend yourself with the pearls of wisdom that came upon the removal of the cataracts. You throw those at the animals charging you with sins. However, they trample all over your day-late, dollar-short Biblical arrows and tear you to pieces.
This happens because you have not defended yourself as a true priest for the One God, as ordained by Christ, through the Holy Spirit. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit you will judge, and your judgments will be based on truths. Then you can count on the judgment you get in return is blessed.
What it all boils down to is fear. Fear, like hell, is an absence of God within your heart. Fear is being without the mind of Christ, leading you through the Holy Spirit. Fear has one see this lesson from Jesus as a crutch not to judge anyone. You have to judge, in everything you do. With God’s help you make the right decisions and are vindicated.