Logs and Pearls
Infatuation, Dating, Friendships, and Churches. Infatuation is that period of time when you first meet someone, and you think they’re just the greatest, before you find out who they really are. You meet someone—whether it’s a new boyfriend or girlfriend, or a manly bro-mance, a new bestie BFF girl crush—infatuation is the time between when you meet them and when you find out all the disappointing annoying things you didn’t notice at first. Sometimes that can take a year or so, and sometimes times it’s like nine seconds after you learn their name. It’s not just in dating or friendships though—it happens anytime there’s something new in our life and we’re hopeful that it’s gonna be something good. A new job, a new boss, or even a new church. Anytime there’s something new in our life and we fill in the missing information with what we want to be true. We build up the perfect idea of what we want it to be—which they’ll never live up to and we set ourselves up to be massively disappointed. We all do it.
With every new relationship—like I said, even with a church—there’s the honeymoon period followed by crushing reality. What we’re gonna find in today’s teaching of Jesus is that what we do when we’re faced with that disappointing heartbreak by a brother or sister—that’s at the center of what the Gospel’s all about.
The Scripture we’re looking at today is probably the most misquoted and misunderstood passage in the whole Bible. So this should be fun. Matthew 7:1-6. First, let me just read it, then we’ll talk about how almost everyone gets it wrong.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
“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.” Matthew 7:1–6
Prayer: Father in heaven, help us to truly understand what You’re saying to us in this bizarre teaching of Jesus. We want to get it right so we can be faithful in how we serve You by loving Your people. In Christ’s name, AMEN.
Judge not, Logs, Splinters, and Rebuking the Saints. Okay, so the first thing most people get wrong is that little memory verse everyone likes to throw around, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Except they usually just say “Judge not!” Like that’s the main thing Jesus came down here to tell us. Anything that’s brought up—”Judge not!” Pick any commandment, any “thou shalt not” and someone’s gonna be like, “Are you calling me a sinner! How dare you! Judge not!” But here’s the thing: Jesus didn’t come down to earth and die for the sin of the world because there’s no such thing as sinners. He didn’t go to the cross and save us so we could spend the rest of our lives ignoring what God wants us to do and not do. That makes no sense. Jesus died and rose from the dead so we could be saved—but sin is still sin—and we’re all still sinners. Our sin no longer defines us—we’re not condemned because of our sin, we’re saved by grace through faith and forgiven—that’s what defines us now, we’re considered saints because of our connection to Jesus. We’re Christians but we’re also still sinners. All of us. So when Jesus says “Judge not, that you be not judged,” He doesn’t mean we should all pretend like nobody’s doing anything wrong. He doesn’t mean that we don’t notice sin when it happens or that we should never speak up when they do something bad. That’s not what He means by “judge not.”
He goes on to say “for with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged.” In other words, you’re gonna be judged the same way you judge other people. You’re gonna be treated by God the way you treat other people. So I’d think we’d wanna be pretty dang slow to pounce on people, you know? And when we do, our pouncing better have restoration and forgiveness and mercy in mind. Because we’re all sinners and that’s how we want God to treat us when He judges us.
Jesus uses one of His most ridiculous images to drive this point home. He says before you try to help someone get a splinter out of their eye, you better notice the log that’s in your own. Jesus was raised by a builder, He knew all about splinters and logs. You rub your hand on a rough piece of timber and you’re gonna get a splinter. You use a hammer and a chisel you might get something in your eye. The log He’s referring to is the kind of beam they would have used to frame the roof of a house. It’s a ridiculous image—It’s not even possible to have that big of a log in your eye. The crowd would have laughed. It was funny.
Like, “You people get all worked up pointing out your friend’s eye booger and you’ve got a telephone pole in your face.” Hypocrites.
Take the log out of your own eye first, then you can help your friend with his splinter.
But He’s not really talking about eyes and splinters. He’s talking about sin and repentance. Before we go pointing our big fat finger at someone else’s sin—we better deal with our own. And this is the perspective He wants us to keep in mind: our sin is always bigger than theirs. That’s how we’re supposed to think about it. We’re to always approach our brothers and sisters with the understanding that our personal pet sins are worse than theirs.
Remember last week? The guy who said, “I thank God that I’m not as bad as those other sinners.” He’s doing it wrong. We’re to walk in humility. If we humble ourselves then God will honor us. This is the same idea. We should always consider our sins to be bigger and worse than anyone else’s. It’ll keep us humble. It’ll keep us from breaking off fellowship with people when they disappoint us. Keep us from looking down on each other with self righteous pride.
Thirty-seven years ago, back when I was an oily-faced Bible college student who mostly liked Jesus because of the way He was always walking around putting people in their place with His brilliant one-liners—I pretty much looked up to Jesus the way I looked up to Spider-Man— because of all the clever banter with His enemies. I wanted to be just like Him. I wanted to destroy people in verbal sparring matches. My mom always said that I would argue with a fence post. I joked that I had the spiritual gift of rebuking the saints—except I wasn’t really joking. I thought being a jerk was a Christian virtue. It was a long time before I noticed the words “kind and gentle” in the Bible.
Jimmy Stewart and Harvey the Rabbit In the movie Harvey, Jimmy Stewart has this amazing quote that really got in my head—he said, “"In this world you can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart... I recommend pleasant.” It seems like he might have noticed “kind” and “gentle” in the Bible. If there really is a spiritual gift of rebuking the saints, then it’s gonna have more to do with mercy and grace than arguing and putting people down and trying to prove we’re right.
So, when Jesus says “Judge not, that you be not judged.” He’s not telling us to ignore things—to stop noticing what’s right and what’s wrong—He’s telling us to find a way to be pleasant about it. To be gracious and humble.
Because—let’s be honest about this—we’re gonna judge people. Like all day everyday. We’re all a bunch of judgy McJudge Faces. We judge people by their clothes, their skin, their car, the way they drive their car, the way they laugh, the way they sneeze. We judge people for having 11 items in the “10 items or less” checkout lane. The Bible says the spiritual person judges everything—Jesus isn’t telling us to be unspiritual. There’s a difference between good spiritual judgment, though, and being judgmental. Between judgment and judgmental-ism. As we grow in our faith, we’re gonna learn what’s right and wrong, and when we see a brother or sister doing something wrong—we’re supposed to show them the same grace that Jesus shows us.
Which means, we don’t write people off because we think we’re right about something—because we think they’re wrong. Or even because they do something wrong. As Jesus’ followers we don’t get to be like, “To hell with them. I’m done. Throw em out on their rear.” We should always consider our sins to be worse than theirs. We don’t get to give up on people. That’s what Jesus is talking about in that last line. That strange little proverb “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.”
This is another Bible verse that people completely misunderstand. “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” See, this is the punchline to what Jesus has been talking about, it’s not a non sequitur. He didn’t change the subject. Matthew didn’t just randomly stick one of Jesus’ one-liners at the end of this section about judging people and nit picking them to death for no reason. He’s been saying, “Don’t judge people because of their sin and write them off unless you want me to write you off.” And then He says, “don’t cast your pearls before swine.” In other words, don’t throw your relationships away just because somebody did something bad.
But that’s not how most people understand pearls before swine. Most people think it means something like “don’t share precious important things with people who won’t appreciate them.” As if Jesus is saying, “don’t share the treasure of the kingdom of God with sinners who won’t receive it.” But that can’t really be what He’s saying because that would mean we shouldn’t share the Gospel with unbelievers. Who else are we supposed to share it with? The Bible is pretty clear that no one’s interested in the message of salvation unless the Holy Spirit stirs their heart to receive it. And the way that usually happens is by someone sharing the Gospel with them. Casting the Gospel before them like scattering seeds. These “pearls” and “what is holy” that Jesus is talking about can’t be the message of grace and forgiveness of sins—it can’t be the Gospel. He’s not telling us to ignore the Great Commission. He’s not saying, “Don’t share good things with bad people”—because that’s exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s what preaching the Gospel is — it’s sharing the best thing in the world with bad people. It’s the whole point. So, if that’s not it, what does it mean to “not cast your pearls before swine.”
Remember the parable of the pearl of great price? We read it earlier: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who finds a remarkably valuable pearl and sells everything, gives up everything so he can buy it. Well, people think the pearl is the Gospel in that one, too. They think Jesus is saying we’re supposed to give up everything in the world for the kingdom of heaven—which we are, but they think the pearl, the treasure, is the Gospel. You’ve probably heard it taught that way, right? But we don’t purchase anything when it comes to the Gospel. The man sells everything and buys the pearl. He buys the treasure. The man in the story is Jesus. He’s the one who gives everything to buy His treasure. And the treasure He gave everything for is His people, the church, you and me. We’re the pearl of great price. Jesus gave everything to purchase us. He established a good and holy relationship with us by going to the cross. That good standing between you and God—that Jesus paid for with His blood—that’s the most valuable thing in the world. He wants us to protect it. To love each other the way He loves us. To be at peace with each other. Even when we notice that we’re surrounded by sinners. Even when we’re tempted to be all judgy and write people off. He’s saying “don’t throw away the relationships you have with your brothers and sisters by judging them for their failures.” Those people are the most important thing in the world, your relationship with them is the most important thing in the world—don’t throw them to the dogs, don’t cast them before pigs.
When things go bad, when people do bad things, when they disappoint us, we’re not supposed to give up on them—Jesus always wants us to restore and forgive in whatever way possible. But this only makes sense if we remember that it’s what Jesus did for us—if we always keep the perspective that our sin is bigger than their sin.
Don’t write people off because you think you’re right about something. Jesus is right about everything but He still gave everything to make sure things are good between you and Him. You think you haven’t disappointed Him? You think you haven’t given Him a reason to write you off? To give up on you? You have, but He’s not going to. He loves you and He’s not letting go. He loves you and He wants to love other people through you. The church is the people of God—the presence of God on the earth. We gotta start getting this right—we’re supposed to love each other. The world isn’t supposed to know who we are by how goody two shoes we are or by how holier than thou we act—the world is supposed to know us by our love for each other. Do you think that’s what the church is known for? What Christians are known for? We can’t fix everyone else but we can do this: we can look around this room and try to do what Jesus says here. At NewChurch. We can take Jesus at His Word and stop judging people like we think we’re better than they are.
We’re trying to build something here, something that God will bless. That’s not gonna happen if we don’t treat each other with the same mercy and grace that Jesus has shown to us. We throw a party here every week that points people to what God has done for them, the promises of Jesus—and if this is your church home then we’re counting on you step up and help us do it. Help us set it up, help us pay for it, and most importantly show up and be part of it. Be here anytime you can and party your face off. Ever been to a party when most of the guests didn’t show up? It sucks. That’s a sad party. Let’s not do that to each other. If you’re in town, we need you to be here on Sunday. You might not feel like it but come anyway—it’ll be good for you and certainly be a blessing for the rest of us.
But here’s the deal, if your reason for not showing up is because you’re mad at someone—like maybe you’re mad at me for making some dumb joke or something I said in a sermon—or you’re mad at Kemper for being able to grow a better beard and thicker hair than you—Ladies. Or, maybe someone said something about one of your kids that rubbed you the wrong way. Or someone looked at you funny—people are so sensitive these days. Maybe when you first came here you thought it was gonna be the perfect church but now you’ve started to notice some cracks in the facade—now you realize some of the people here are sinners. Including the pastor. If you haven’t noticed that yet, you will. Because it’s all true. You are sitting here surrounded by notorious sinners. And it’s not just some of the people—everyone here’s a big, fat, log-in-the-eye sinner. I’ll give you a moment to compose yourself and get over the shock of it all.
It’s not a reason to quit. To cast your pearls to the pigs. To stop showing up. To give up on the people God has put in your life through this church. In fact, that’s exactly the reason why you need to show up—because you’re one of us. You’re one of the sinners who’s blinded by the log your own eye, especially when you’re being all judgy and noticing the splinter in someone else’s.
We’re trying to build something here that God will bless. And that starts with us confessing our personal failures and receiving the amazing forgiveness that Jesus offers us—that He purchased for us. That’s why we show up. Every week. Especially when we don’t feel like it. To be reminded of the promises of God’s mercy, to be given fresh forgiveness. And then we walk in that forgiveness by cutting each other all the slack. Showing mercy. Kindness. Something we’re only gonna be able to do by pointing each other to Jesus. All these people sitting around you—all these people that Jesus gave everything for —they’re His treasure. His pearls. He has trusted them to you. So, don’t give up on them, don’t judge them, don’t throw them to the dogs like dog-meat or cast them to the pigs like worthless garbage—”lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” It’s not gonna be good for you if you treat people like garbage.
God is not infatuated with you, He’s way beyond that. He knows everything about you and he loves you anyway. He even wants to love other people through you—sometimes that means He wants to help you get a splinter out of a friend’s eye. It always means that He wants to show them kindness through you. Man, I want us to be a church that points to Jesus and tells all the sinners that they don’t have to be condemned and defined by their sin. Can you help me do that? That Jesus gave everything for them—that they’re the most important thing to Him in the world. He gave everything for you. Let’s remember His faithfulness and mercy and walk in His love. AMEN