(multiple references follows) “Judge not, that you be not judged….Enter by the narrow gate. (Here’s why–) For the gate is wide and the way easy that leads to destruction-and those who enter it (the wide gate) are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life-and those who find (the narrow gate) are few….” Matt 7:1; 13-14
“…the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matt 7: 17b-20.
What is Matthew 7 about? What is Jesus saying to us? If I take a step (or 10) back, I think I see that Matt 7 is really about having a good head on my shoulders and coming to grips with having good judgment about myself, others, salvation, and consequences…
Chapter 7 starts with an admonition not to judge unless I want to suffer the potential consequences-or so it seemingly reads. I have seen grown, mature men in the Lord stopped hard in their tracks with this statement, crippling their walk in the Lord. Our general assessment of Jesus’ Matt 7:1 “Don’t judge” statement couldn’t be further from the truth-and the facts are found right here in Matt 7.
There are two words in the Greek that are translated “judge” in the New Testament. The two Greek words are defined as “Condemnation” and “Evaluation”-considering the context in the sentence we can usually figure out which is used. So, if I use “condemn not, lest I be condemned” I am pretty close to the idea Jesus wants to convey.
The rest of Matthew 7 is much about discerning and/or identifying the “tells” of my (and others) behavior. Discernment and identification is implicit to the “judgement” that is evaluation in nature and purpose. Because Jesus is giving us instruction on being a trained evaluator the verse 1 statement has to be considered to follow in this context.
Ok: So what? Now I have the skinny on “judgement” what do I use it for? What are the implications?
First thing I have to think about is that this kind of evaluation/judgment starts at home i.e. the guy in the mirror. Last thing I have to think about is extending this judgement (leading to condemnation) to others. I can’t condemn without acknowledging that the condemnation line starts with the guy in the mirror.
In considering all that Jesus says in chapter 7, I evaluate me first and look to the Holy Spirit to help me walk in the Narrow Path, avoiding the Wide Road; to bear Good (and visible) Fruit and not Bad, Diseased Fruit (coming out of a Diseased Tree). The halo of all our evaluation, whether me or someone else, is the concrete realization We NEED a Savior. Whatever details I need to work on to navigate the Narrow Path in pursuit of walking worthy of the Gospel, I never deviate from the need of a Savior.
Lord God-I need a Savior; every day and in every way. I need to see and acknowledge Your daily mercies, always new, always sufficient. Please keep me in healthy, biblical self-evaluation; away from any and all self-deception. I want to keep submitting and intentionally pursuing renewing my mind, obtaining Your perspective through Your Word, so I may always prove Your Will in me. Please keep me from extending condemnation on other folks, exhibiting self-righteousness, as if I am somehow now beyond sinning. Help me to understand and continually express my need of You, my Lord and Savior. AMEN