As we again cover quite a bit of text, I’m sure some of you were struck with the often-quoted snapshots within this passage.
This is basically a wind-down of teaching by Jesus. He certainly still has more to say, but the after this passage His focus shifts slightly. One of the things you might be thinking is what biblical scholars have debated for centuries — How does all this go together? Matthew records Jesus as going from the log imagery to dogs and pearls, to asking, and finally to the golden rule and the path in which it lies. Let’s be honest it feels a little disjointed.
But rather — Jesus again comes back to a deeper more heart based approach in our relationships outside of us. This passage is getting to the point that as Kingdom Citizens we are to interact with God in a certain way and other people likewise.
It seems to me that the main question we seek from this passage is this:
How do we live wisely in God’s world with others?
First there is wisdom in this passage that we will see.
Further it is God’s world — He made it — He controls it — We relate to Him.
Lastly, there are others we have to interact with — so we must interact as a Kingdom Citizen—
Like I said last week — “This is the way.”
So as we walk through this passage keep in mind — who and how we are relating to in Jesus’s teaching.
Jesus begins with an often quoted passage both in the Church and in the World at large—
Do Not Judge Unfairly
This is a quick defense for us all — both Christian and non-Christian: “Jesus says don’t judge”. How could we ever tell someone they were wrong in anything? Let me live my life as I see fit…
We Christians even take this teaching further, when we are legitimately concerned for someone’s behavior— we say: “Well, it’s not for me to judge…” This is engrained into us. But sadly, when we think of judgment we are really thinking of condemnation. That is what the scope of that word has come to be understood in our common usage.
Think about that word though, it really has had a much greater range than we commonly associate it with. But this word judge — the root — κρινω — in Greek means to form an opinion.
Let’s think about the act of forming an opinion — valuation is done — discernment — So the imperative action that Jesus is telling us, is not to discern anything? That seems antithetical to much of Jesus’ teaching throughout scripture.
Rather — judge not — is command to be fair in the assessment — Instant condemnation is what Jesus is teaching against.
I like how Jonathan Pennington said it:
“A better translation is ‘Do not judge unfairly.’ The point is not that all evaluations of others and situation must be avoided but rather that disciples must evaluate and discern properly and fairly.”
Jesus says — look if you’re unfair in your judgment — that is how you will be judged as well — that will be the measure — Jesus is not standing up for people to have complete autonomy or license to do however they please.
No, we are to live and thrive and flourish in community. We have to relate to each other.
So often when I have done something wrong, made a poor choice — sinned. I think, well they can’t judge me — this is not a defense for sin — but we often at least I often want to attempt to make it one.
Look at the imagery that Jesus uses next — a speck of dust and a log. The log conveys the idea that we can’t see clearly.
Again remember just last week — the eyes are like the heart — what guides — and I you cannot see clearly can you judge rightly? Can you discern well? Can you evaluate well? Jesus says NO! YOU CAN’T!
Don’t be a hypocrite — don’t be someone that is judging unfairly. Don’t be someone who does not have clarity to discern. You must seriously and intentionally look at your own life. Look at the logs in your eye. Determine the sinfulness in your own life that will force unclarity. Take care of that — rectify the things that would give you an unfair assessment of the situation your brother is in.
One thing that should give us all hope — we do this with the real presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. That’s how we are able to take the log out of our own eye. Yet — this is why we can understand well from Jesus that this is not a comprehensive prohibition on judging — evaluating someone else. Because He clearly teaches that we are then take the speck out of our brother’s eye, we are able to clearly assess the situation to help them battle sin.
Look also at the comparison — we must see our own faults and their greatness compared to the small nature of others. But then we come to this hard verse — how does it relate to this first passage?
Again there have been centuries of scholars — even back to the early church that struggled over the right interpretation of this passage. The early church rendered this a command that unbaptized people should not be able to take communion within the church — That is what the Didache — or The teaching— from the 1st Century that outlines practices of the Church. But most scholars agree that it doesn’t just apply in that sense, but rather can certainly have many applications.
Whatever Jesus is intending to apply this to, it is clear that we are to have good discernment. Kingdom citizens must have clarity — to understand rightly who not to cast their treasure to.
Many of the commentators that I read, settled on the idea that we as Christians are to be wise in determining if someone that is so vile and anti the Gospel message — that we are to not “waste” our pearls on them. This could easily be heard as — giving up on someone — but rather, we don’t give up praying for people to have the Holy Spirit begin to give them ears and eyes to hear and see the truth.
Please don’t hear this as an opportunity to not share the Gospel! That is not what Jesus is saying — but be discerning — find the right opportunity. When their heart is tender — when their eyes are open. This is what leads us to our first point:
A Kingdom Citizen has clear vision of their own faults and failures and discerns wisely.
Evaluate your own Log — Be able to discern well — in all matters, for brothers, or for those vehemently against Christ.
Now we come to Jesus again speaking to the way we commune with God —
Pursue Good Gifts from the Father
These are imperatives — DO — they are in the 2nd person plural — so He is addressing the crowd — “ya’ll” ask, seek, and knock. Pursuit! Make requests — Find answers — approach Him!
These are the commands — when we are actively pursuing God’s provision, His truth, and Him — we will find. These are good things — making requests for His provision. Searching for truth in His Word. Knocking on the door — is engaging in relationship with Him who will open the door. Jesus returns to the familial relationship of us as God’s children asking, seeking, and knocking.
Because He now uses the human example — Do you give a rock or a serpent? No! And remember, you are depraved — you have sinful tendencies — And even you wouldn’t do that to the child you love. Maybe Cinderella’s step-mom would.
Maybe this hits home for you, because you haven’t had a parent to relate to that would give “good gifts”. To you I say — hear this — God sees you — God weeps with you — God wants to be the good Father you haven’t experienced. The Father that is Holy— righteous—just—merciful—and above all loving.
The fallen nature of man and the evil it produces affects all of us in various ways and situations.
But again — look who God Himself says He is —
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
And this is after the Golden Calf incident. This is not a blanket promise to have whatever — Jesus is not making God into a Genie. But He wants us to know that God is for His people! For His citizens! God the Father — the Good Father is for His children. Just like He was for the same sinful people of Israel.
So — if even depraved humans CAN give good gifts — how much better the Father in Heaven? Expect it — this is not prosperity gospel — but faith that God will provide the things you need — He even delights in your joy in that provision.
It is crucial that are actively pursuing and requesting these things. That’s what Jesus tells us to pray that God’s will be done, here on earth. We want to ask for things according to His will — and you say, How am I to know God’s will for everything?
A Kingdom Citizen has the Holy Spirit directing their prayers. As He transforms us, so too our requests, our path, and our communing with God.
So our second point is this:
A Kingdom Citizen expectantly pursues and requests good gifts from our good Father.
That is something we should hope for! That is something we can trust — wisely discern that HE IS OUR GOOD FATHER! You need to see and discern that clearly.
The Golden Rule
Again this is such a statement that engrained into our culture as a normative understanding of being a good person in society.
One of the commentators even said that their DMV had it printed in relation to driving — Drive how you would want others to drive….
This is a type of summation of Jesus’s teaching in relationship to others—
If you are being led by the Spirit — then you will treat others how you would want and desire to be treated — to be judged fairly — not harshly or improper. To have someone able to see rightly their own faults before they attempt to help you — To expect good gifts from God — not exorbitant demands.
We must relate to others in this manner — as we would desire from others. It was quite common to hear this same wise phrase but in the negative — As in: “Do not do to others what is hateful to you” attributed to one of the great Rabbis of Jesus’s day — Hillel.
But Jesus as so often He does — He inverses this teaching. Speaking of it in the positive— as in an action to initiate. Very different than a begrudging avoidance as it is stated in the negative. And Jesus adds to this little statement that this is the sum of the law and the prophets — yet He did not say the “whole—Law”
Augustine comments about this very fact:
“By omitting the word whole in the present instance, he seems to reserve a place for the other precept—the precept that pertains to the love of God.”
Other places Jesus speaks of the two focused loves — God and neighbor.
This is very good summation of how Jesus displays God’s people are supposed to relate to the rest of the world — believer or otherwise.
The Narrow Gate
But our passage continues into a transitional statement to Jesus’s closing of the sermon — He gives us this imagery that we can easily understand as our Christian life.
The narrow gate — our theme for the entirety of the Sermon. Kingdom citizens are the only ones that will enter the narrow gate. This has an eschatological feel to it — it is at the end of time — upon Jesus’s return that we will fully realize who has entered by the narrow gate.
In these verses, I am continually reminded of the puritan writer John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan ingeniously creates an image from this very idea — the narrow road that leads to the narrow gate. It’s not easy — Christian (the character) has pitfall time and time again — Vanity Fair attempts to seduce him with various pleasures. His own pride gets in his way. He is tricked to take deviations from the way.
This is what Jesus is saying right now to us! His Kingdom Citizens they follow the narrow way — but that doesn’t mean its smooth and easy going. No, its work — its dangerous— its hard. If it were easy — if it was simple — then everyone would be on it.
The danger is that more and more in our day we combat the false teaching of “all roads lead to eternal life”. That is utterly false— there is one way — the narrow way— through the narrow gate.
The narrow gate is Christ Himself!
But as we as Kingdom Citizens enter that narrow gate — look at the promise — life — true life. Life in God’s place, with God’s people, under God’s eternal rule!
That is the goal!
A Kingdom Citizen confidently finds life by the narrow and difficult way of Christ.
Again — I say, “this is the way”. The only way. Christ Jesus.
To wrap up:
Take away – 1
We must take seriously our own sin.
Take away – 2
We must ask our Father for good gifts.
Take away – 3
We must actively follow Christ through all difficulties.
There is one way — it is through the narrow gate — Christ Jesus. If you haven’t yet — enter through Him — follow the narrow way — He lived, died, and rose so that He could be that gate! By His glorious victory over sin and death we can look forward to true life. True life with God. Won’t you join us as Kingdom Citizens?
1 Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing (Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Academic, 2017), 256
2 Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing (Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Academic, 2017)
3 John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 191.
4 Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 151.