Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Matthew 7:1-12
September 2, 2018 • Download this sermon (PDF)
Jesus is not being a racist here. He is talking about the spiritual state of unbelievers –dogs and pigs – who stubbornly refuse to repent of their sins and reject him and his gospel.
Dear Congregation of Christ: Do you know that the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” was first written by George Eliot in an 1860 book called The Mill on the Floss? This familiar saying simply means that we shouldn’t judge something based on its appearance. Fast forward to the contemporary scene, we have Selena Gomez expressing the individual lawlessness of the present culture, “I would deactivate every single comment on any social media. You should be able to post what you want, say what you want, be what you want without anybody judging you.”
In the first five verses of our text this morning, Jesus warns his disciples, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” A great number of non-Christians and even pastors and teachers misunderstand and misinterpret this verse. For example, the “eminent” pastor, Joel Osteen, once said, “I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.” They say that no one has a right to judge another person. And often, they’re correct, because we make judgments based on hearsay and using our own opinions. Even worse, our judgment of others often clouds our opinion of ourselves. So Jesus tells us to remove the log out of our eye before we remove the speck in another person’s eye.
The second part of our text, verse 6, where Jesus mentions dogs and pigs, is also a bit difficult to understand. Who are the dogs and pigs, and what are the pearls? This verse has to do with preaching the gospel. Then in the third and last part, verses 7-11, Jesus exhorts his disciples to ask humbly and trust God for their needs. If our earthly fathers give us our needs, how much more will our heavenly Father give all that is best for our body and soul?
How are these three parts related? In verse 12, Jesus summarizes these three laws for disciples who belong to his kingdom with what we call today as the “Golden Rule.” Judging others, preaching the gospel, and trusting God for our needs are three relationship laws in the kingdom of God.
Judge Not? Not in All Cases (verses 1-5)
In this command, is Jesus saying that we should never judge anyone or anything? Let me point out first what Jesus is not telling us in verse 1. First, he’s not talking about the courts of law since he’s teaching his disciples. Courts of law were established by God in Israel and even in pagan nations. As early as the wilderness wanderings, Moses appointed judges over the people. Then just before they entered Canaan, God commanded Moses to appoint judges to judge with righteous judgment, not to be partial toward the rich or accept bribes (Deu 16:18-20). A righteous judge reflects God’s perfect justice. And after they settled the Promised Land, God again appointed judges over the people such as Gideon and Samson, not only to judge, but also to redeem his people from oppressors.
Second, Jesus was not prohibiting us from forming an opinion about someone or something. He is not saying that we should wink at or turn a blind eye toward other people’s sins or errors. False teachers such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn and most other televangelists, and false churches such as Bethel Church in Redding or Hillsong must be called out so the sheep would be protected from these ravenous wolves. Many evangelicals shun this practice pointing out Jesus’ command against judging. They agree with the great novelist Leo Tolstoy when he wrote, “It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken.” This is not what Jesus is saying.
In his earthly ministry, Jesus often called out the Pharisees and the scribes for their self-righteous errors. The apostles themselves often named names. In 2 Timothy, Paul named several false teachers whom he excommunicated: Phygelus, Hermogenes, Philetus, Hymenaeus, Jannes, Jambres, Demas, and Alexander the coppersmith. John singled out the Nicolaitans and a certain Jezebel for condemnation. So when we come to verse 6 of our text, Jesus makes a frightful assessment of those who reject him as dogs and pigs. We are to do the same assessment and distinction.
This is why Jesus and the apostles commanded that church discipline be exercised in the church. If a member strays from Biblical doctrine or in his spiritual life, judgment must be exercised. In addition to the preaching of the true gospel and true administration of the sacraments, church discipline is one of the three marks of a true church. But this is carried out only after a thorough investigation and examination of the facts.
So if Jesus is not prohibiting these kinds of judgments, what then is he prohibiting? First, we may not judge too harshly or too rashly. In many cases, sins and errors have extenuating circumstances. Often, we judge based on second or third hand information, so we don’t even know the facts. We also often judge based on our preconceived opinion, usually negative, of the person. At times, our judgment is born out of a disagreement with or a grudge against the person. Other times, we judge harshly or rashly because of a selfish desire to hurt or get even.
Second, Jesus warns us in verse 2 against judging based on our own opinion or standard. By your own measure or standard, you will also be judged, he says. The Pharisees made their own laws based on their own preferences or opinions, so they were condemned by Jesus at every turn. What should be our standard? It must only be God’s holy and authoritative Word, nothing else.
If we do use our own personal opinion to judge another, we eventually fall into hypocrisy. This is what happened to the Pharisees. They made into laws their personal opinions. In so doing, they elevated themselves into a self-righteousness that they themselves fell short of. So in Matthew 23, Jesus pronounced seven woes or judgments against them as “hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, serpents, brood of vipers, murderers.” They are the prime examples of those who want to remove the speck in other people’s eyes while their eyes are blinded by logs! Therefore, if we judge others harshly, rashly, vengefully and hypocritically based on our own opinions, we become like Pharisees.
Dogs and Pigs and the Gospel (verse 6)
After prohibiting his disciples from making harsh and rash judgments, Jesus makes this headscratching statement, “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.” Isn’t this in contradiction to what he had just taught in the previous five verses? But here, he is saying that we must balance between being judgmental and discerning what is right or wrong. This balance, as we shall see, is hard to maintain.
Jesus talks about dogs, pigs and pearls. When he mentions dogs in this verse, he’s not talking about our beloved, cute, domesticated dogs kept at home. No, he was talking about those wild, dirty, scavenging dogs in Israel. I know about this kind of dogs in the Philippines. They’re all over the streets, scavenging garbage piles and spreading their filth, and scaring children. These are the dogs that Jesus was talking about here. Jews often called non-Jews “dogs.” For example, he himself called a Canaanite woman a “dog,” but afterwards, he healed her because of her faith (Matt 15:21-28). But Paul called Jewish false teachers “dogs” (Phil 3:2), and John calls all unbelievers outside the heavenly city “dogs” (Rev 22:15).
As for pigs, they belong to the class of unclean animals, according to the Law of Moses (Deut 14:8). They were contemptible in the eyes of the Jews. No one would even go near them for fear of being unclean. If someone throws pearls at pigs, they might mistake them for food, so they would be angry and spit them out and trample them. They might even attack the one who threw the pearls at them. Obviously, no one would throw pearls away, for they were of great value. Jesus tells of the parable of a merchant who saw a pearl of great value, so he sells all that he has to buy it (Matt 13:45-46). So, throwing pearls to pigs would be unimaginable to his Jewish audience, or any other, for that matter.
Jesus is not being a racist here. He is talking about the spiritual state of unbelievers –dogs and pigs – who stubbornly refuse to repent of their sins and reject him and his gospel. They are those who are unable and unwilling to believe in the eternal value of gospel, so they trample and ridicule it. They regard it as a mere myth, and not as something pure and holy from God himself. They refuse it repeatedly, obstinately and even violently. They are beyond correcting, so his disciples are not to waste time and effort and resources trying to correct them. There are many unbelievers who are in this state today. Think of all the violent “anti-fascist” crowd, the proud abortionists, and the shameless gays and lesbians.
But there are also many in the church who are in the same stubborn unbelief. After repeated calls to repent and return to the faith, there is no response from them. And if they respond, it is a response of hatred, hostility, insult and in some cases, threats. There is a stopping point beyond patience shown. They must finally be disciplined or erased from church membership.
In Matthew 10, Jesus gives instructions to the twelve disciples before they went out to the countryside to preach the gospel. Jesus tells them that they should shake the dust off their feet when they leave a house or town that rejects the gospel. This is a sign of pronouncement of judgment. He says that the fire in Sodom and Gomorrah will be more bearable than the judgment against those people who have heard the gospel but reject it (Matt 10:14-15; see also Acts 13:51).
Ask the Heavenly Father for Your Needs (verses 7-11)
After Jesus warns us against judging harshly and rashly, and after commanding us to be discerning in our judgment of others, he exhorts us to come boldly to God in prayer for the physical needs of our body and spiritual graces for our soul. So we come to this most familiar verse, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Jesus encourages us to pray in a threefold command: ask, seek, knock. There is an ascending urgency here. We are to ask like a beggar, or like a defendant pleading a case before a judge. In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Pharisee didn’t ask God for anything. But the tax collector begged God for mercy on him a sinner (Luke 18:9-14).
When asking is not enough, we are to seek, even scour for God’s answer to our prayers. We are not only to be asking humbly, but we are to be focused on our pleading to him. And if seeking is not enough, we are to knock, even pound on the door of God’s heavenly court of grace. We are to be bold and persevere in our prayers. In the Parable of the Persistent Widow, a widow came to a judge repeatedly and persistently asked him to give her justice, a favorable judgment. Because of her persistence, the judge granted her request to get rid of her for good (Luke 18:1-8). This persistence, we must have in prayer.
Do you come to God’s throne of grace humbly with a sense of great need for your body and soul? Do you pray in accordance with God’s will, always the words “If it’s your will, Lord”? But we are to pray confidently according to God’s Word, as 1 John 5:14 tells us, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” James 4:2a-3 also has this warning about prayer, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” And Jesus promises that his Father will grant our petitions.If our earthly fathers give us all good things, how much more will our heavenly Father give us all good things? God not only gives us all good things; he also withdraws from us things that will be harmful to our body and soul.
Beloved friends: Our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to refrain from judging harshly and rashly, to discern when to stop preaching the gospel to unbelievers, and to pray humbly and persistently according to God’s will. But how are we able to obey these three laws? We can, only because we are members of his heavenly kingdom.
And we are members of his kingdom only because he himself came under harsh and rash judgment by those who rejected his good news of salvation by faith alone in him alone. God judged him guilty on account of our sins – not his sins – for he committed no sin. Jesus the Judge of the Universe came under judgment for us who should be judged and punished with God’s wrath. But to those who reject him, judgment and punishment are reserved for them on Judgment Day.
Therefore, Jesus summarizes your duties as kingdom people with the “Golden Rule,” “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Judging and discerning belong to the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Praying humbly and persistent belong to the first great commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
As we partake of the Lord’s body and blood, let us give him praise and thanksgiving for his great mercy in receiving us as members of his heavenly kingdom.