January 30, 1999
Thrust Statement: God does not want His people to be hypocritical in their judgment.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:1
In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord warns His people about judging others: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1); on the other hand, Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (7:6). How does one account for this apparent discrepancy? How can one determine that another person is a “dog” or “pig” if there is no judgment on the part of the person making the decision. Can one form an opinion on those who do not abide in the ethical teachings of Jesus? Is it proper to pass judgment on those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? Can one rightly criticize someone who does not have flawless comprehension of God’s Word, especially if that person’s reading does not coincide with his or her explanation of the Scriptures?
This essay is concerned about those reviews of Matthew 7:1 which are in conflict with the totality of God’s Word. This paper is not examining the myth that one is never to judge one’s beliefs or moral course of action, but rather, the focus of this article investigates the violation practiced by many Christians in their excommunicating other believers who disagree with their exposition of Scripture. Within the Churches of Christ, perfection in understanding is often the criteria by which judgment is made as to whether a person is or is not in fellowship with a particular congregation. If one is not in communion with a certain “interpretive community,” that is to say, if one is not identified with a group that has a “shared understanding,” then, that person is out of friendly intercourse with God and his fellow believers. If one gives credence to individual cups, Sunday school, instrumental music in the morning worship service (Sunday 11a.m.), “bread-breaking” versus “bread pinching” (during the communion), wine only or grape juice only, and so on, then Matthew 7: 6 and 15 are cited to nullify 7:1.
Matthew 7:1 is frequently violated by many God-fearing followers of Jesus by entering into a spirit of censoriousness, that is to say, picking apart or pulling down any believer who does not reach an agreement with their particular brand of orthodoxy. On the other hand, this counsel of Jesus does not preclude one from making judgements on every occasion. For example, Jesus also speaks of “righteous judgments”: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24).” Following His renunciation of judgment in Matthew 7:1, Jesus says, “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” (7:5). Again, Jesus encourages the disciples to exercise caution against those who violate His teachings:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them (7:15-20).
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
 All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.
 The Sermon on the Mount addresses beliefs and ethical behavior that is not in keeping with the commandments of God. Everyone must stress holiness as a way of life—there is no middle of the road. Having said this, it is imperative that Christians do not identify the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount with their particular brand of orthodoxy, depending on which of the twenty-five divisions within the Churches of Christ, that they are pigeonholed with. It is not uncommon for sincere Christians to describe their “interpretive community” as bearer of all truth.
 John C. Condon, Semantics and Communication (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1966 ), 17.
 Thomas Campbell, Declaration and Address in C. A. Young, Historical Documents Advocating Christian Union (Joplin, Missouri, 1985), 110.
 Ibid., 110, 111.
 Ibid., 111.