The Sermon on the Mount
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

23 – The Speck of Sawdust and the Plank

Matthew 7:1-6:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  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.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 7.  We are coming to the last section in our study on the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 7 consists of a number of apparently independent paragraphs and, because of this, there are some commentators who think that Matthew 7 does not belong to the Sermon on the Mount.  But when you look at it closely, especially at the conclusion, it seems to be clear that Matthew 7 is part of the Sermon on the Mount.  On the surface it may seem that these paragraphs are not connected.  But, if you look deeper, you will notice that there is a connecting link all through the paragraphs in Matthew 7.  I would like to define that link by one word — “relationships.”

For example, let me give you a brief summary of Chapter 7.  The first five verses of Matthew 7 are dealing with how we should relate to our fellow believer who we think is going in the wrong way.  There is plenty of that problem in the Christian church.  That is a very long paragraph.  The next one, verse 6, is very short.  Here Christ is dealing with our relationship with people who despise the gospel:  How should we relate to people who treat the gospel as if it is dirt?  Then, verses 7-11 describe our relationship to our Father in heaven:  What should be our relationship to Him?

Verse 12 is a one-verse paragraph which deals with our relationship to everybody in general.  Here is where Christ gives the golden rule.  Verses 13 and 14 are dealing with our relationship to our fellow-believers who are, with us, struggling to walk that narrow road to heaven.  In verses 15 to 20, Christ tells us what our relationship should be to false prophets:  How should we treat false prophets?  The paragraph in verses 21-27 is dealing with our relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.  This, in a nutshell, is Chapter 7.

What we will do is take one or two relationships in each study and go through this Chapter.  In this study we will deal with the first two, Matthew 7:1-6.  First, let’s read verses 1-5 and see what our relationship should be to our brothers who we think are not living as they should:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  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.”

This is the first paragraph.  What is Christ saying here?  The first thing He says is, “Do not judge.”  If you take only these first three words, “Do not judge,” you can go the wrong way.  Did Christ mean that Christians should not judge at all?  Does He say that judging is excluded completely in every phase of our Christian life?  In a sense, the answer is “no.”  For example, in verse 6, He says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred.”  He, of course, is not talking about literal dogs; He is talking about people who are behaving like dogs.  How can you put that into practice unless you judge them?

Or look at verses 15 and 16 of Matthew 7:

“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?”

“Watch out for false prophets” and “By their fruit you will recognize them.”  How can we know that unless we physically examine their teaching?  So Jesus is not saying that we cannot judge in any sphere of the Christian life.  What does He mean then by “do not judge”?  We have no right to judge the eternal destiny of our fellow believers.  That is what He is saying.  That is a prerogative that belongs to God Himself.

I will give you several texts to show that this is a clear teaching.  The New Testament does not allow the believer to say to his brother, “You are not going to heaven because you are not doing this and this.”  We’ll start with Romans 2:1-3.  It is very interesting that Paul is addressing the Jews here; in Matthew 7, Christ is speaking with the Pharisees primarily in mind.  Romans 2:1-3:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”

Turn now to Romans 14:4.  Paul says the same things in this verse:

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?  To his own master he stands or falls.  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

Remember, we are all servants of God.  We have no right to judge another man’s servant.  We let God judge His own servants.  Now look down to verse 10 [of Romans 14]:

“You, then, why do you judge your brother?  Or why do you look down on your brother?  For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”

We have no right to judge our brothers, no right to tell them that they will not make it to heaven because of certain things.  That is the work of God.

Let’s turn to another text that is very familiar to us as Adventists, Colossians 2:16-17.  This text has sometimes caused us problems:

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Paul is not talking about our not doing these things; that is not the issue.  The issue is that no man should judge in respect to meat or drink, etc.  Remember, one of the problems that they faced in the time of Paul was food offered to idols.  Is it right or is it wrong?  And they were judging each other.  Some were saying, “If you eat food offered to idols, you will not make it to heaven.”  And they were fighting and so Paul says, “Please, you have no right to judge.”

Why are we not to judge?  I want to first give you another text to show you how the Pharisees and the Judaizers were judging.  If you turn back to Acts 15, you will find there recorded the first big controversy that took place in the Christian church.  Read verse 1:

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

All through there was always this kind of problem — “Unless you keep the true Sabbath you cannot be saved”; “Unless this...,” “Unless that....”  Look at verse 2:

This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

The Judaizers were telling the Gentiles that they could not make it to heaven unless they were circumcised.  We are going to read two more texts, the first of which is James 2:4-5.  James has quite a bit to say about this, but I’ll only give you this one text.  Let me give you the context before we read.  The context is that, if a rich man comes with fine clothes, you give him the front seat, but if a beggar comes in rags, you tell him to sit at the back.  In other words, if you discriminate (this has nothing to do with social distinctions), there was in those days a significant difference between the rich and the poor and the relationship to God (as far as the Jews were concerned).  According to the Jews, if you were rich, you were good.  Why?  Because they believed God only blesses good people.  And, if you are bad, you are poor.  So when the Christian church was telling the rich, “You are good, so you can sit in the front, but you are poor, so you must sit in the back,” listen now to how James responds.  James 2:4-5:

“...Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my dear brothers:  Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

In other words, “You must not despise the poor because we are not saved by whether we are rich or poor.  You have no right to judge and say this person is good and this person is not because of his outward appearance.”  One more text and then we will go back to Matthew — 1 Corinthians 4:4-5.  You will notice that all of these texts are dealing with judging in terms of eternal destiny.

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Here Paul gives us a very important clue.  Why is it that we should not judge in terms of eternal destiny?  One reason is because, in the judgment, God will not only judge us by our performance but also by our motives.  Every thought, everything that you have planned that may not have been outwardly seen, will be brought before the judgment bar of God.  Can we read motives?  No.  It is very hard to judge people in terms of their relationship to God by their outward appearance.

When we came under fire under Idi Amin in Uganda and when we faced the Marxist revolution in Ethiopia, it opened our eyes.  The people that we expected to be the first to give up Christ were the ones that remained firm.  I remember that there was a girl in our class and she was an expert at getting addresses of American people from the Review and places and writing to them saying, “Please send me a pair of stockings” and so she was the only student who wore stockings and she looked very worldly; she had these trinkets from dear souls from this country, which are a luxury in Africa, and everybody envied her.  She knew how to manipulate and most of the faculty felt that, when she would leave the school, she would go right out (of the church).  Five years later, when we were in Nairobi, the ones who had been the class monitors, etc., in the school were out and she was still coming to church faithfully.  So we cannot judge and Jesus tells us we are not to judge.

Now we are going to look at the reasons why He doesn’t want us to judge.  Look at Matthew 7:2:

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Let us get this very clear.  Are we saved by works or are we saved by faith?  Yes, we are saved by faith.  If you judge people’s eternal destiny by their works, then God will judge you also by your works.  And the Bible is clear:  “By observing the law no one will be justified.”  Are works important?  Yes.  I am not undermining works, so don’t get me wrong.  But we have no right to judge the eternal destiny of people by their works.  We cannot tell a Sunday-keeping Christian that they are lost because they are keeping the wrong day.  We have no right to do that because it is God only Who can read their hearts.

John the Baptist was the greatest prophet, according to Christ.  And he was the one who God chose to prepare the way for Christ.  Was his theology about the Messiah perfect?  No.  Or was he a victim of his culture?  Did he think, like the Jews, that the Messiah was coming to overcome the Romans and establish a literal kingdom?  Yes.  Ellen G. White makes that clear.  She says that he taught that Jesus was going to establish a kingdom on earth and when he was in prison and Christ was not doing this, he began to doubt if Jesus was the Messiah.  Jesus never rebuked him for that.  Jesus helped him.  We have no right to judge each other by performance.  In this light, turn to Galatians 2:16:

“...Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Who spoke those words?  Paul.  To whom was he speaking?  To Peter.  Why?  Look at the context, beginning with verse 11:

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?  We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

James was the first “President of the General Conference”; he was the leader.  In the Jewish culture, when you ate with somebody, you were saying that you were brothers, that you accepted each other.  He was fearing the Jewish leaders, “those who belonged to the circumcision group.” He was not acting “in line with the truth of the gospel.” What truth?  — In Christ, there is no Jew and no Gentile; all are sinners saved by grace.

He is saying, “Why are willing to mix with the Gentiles and accept them as they are without being circumcised and all that, then now you withdraw and say, No, until they are circumcised they are still unclean?”  Now verse 15:

“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ [remember that Jews look at Gentiles as sinners] know that a man is not justified by observing the law [i.e., whether he is circumcised or not], but by faith in Jesus Christ.”

So Jesus is saying, “If you judge people by their outward behavior, you will be judged by your outward behavior and you will never make it.  Because the law demands perfect obedience from beginning to end and none of us have done it.  Do you want to be judged by faith?  Then, please, judge your brother by faith.”

The question is not whether you are good or bad, it is whether you are a believer.  In other words, if you insist that people who don’t conform exactly as you see things should be condemned, then you will be judged on the same grounds.  I want to be judged by faith in Christ, because there I have hope.

Back to Matthew 7:3.  You will notice all this time that Christ has in mind those Pharisees and chief priests who have been opposing Him and who have been teaching the wrong way:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Is Jesus saying here that we should not correct each other?  No, He is not saying that.  But how should we correct our brother?  Should we correct them like those who are bad people while we are good?  Or should we say, “Brother, I am a sinner like you, but I can see that the way you are going is the wrong way.”  Do we treat those who are going the wrong way who are sinners like us who need to be helped in love, or do we look down upon them and say, “You will never make it?”  Notice that Jesus is saying:

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  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.”

It is in the context of judging.  That word “hypocrite” is a key word here.  What is a hypocrite?  One who gives the appearance of being good but inside he is pretending.  Jesus uses that word quite often in connection with the Pharisees.  I would like to repeat that Jesus is not against helping each other and correcting each other.  But what He is saying in verse 5 is, “Before you correct someone else, please realize that you are a sinner saved by grace.”

I want to give you another statement regarding correcting because there is a very good text, which tells us how we should correct our brother or sister.  James 5:19-20:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this:  Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

There is a place for helping those who are going astray.  But Jesus said, “Please don’t correct in self-righteousness.  Correct them in humility and in love.”

That concludes the first five verses.  Now I want to go to verse 6 of Matthew 7:

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

What did Jesus mean by dogs and pigs?  First of all, he is not talking literally about dogs and pigs.  He is using these two words as metaphors.  What did Christ mean by dogs?  We must not give the word “dogs” the same meaning that the Jews did.  Who did the Jews call dogs?  The Gentiles.  So Jesus is not saying that we shouldn’t give the gospel to the Gentiles.  We know that is not true; that would be contradicting the New Testament.  In fact, when Jesus gave the Commission, He said go and preach the gospel in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and in the uttermost parts of the world.  And the New Testament is full of statements that make it clear that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles.  When Jesus said He had other sheep “not of this fold” He meant the Gentiles.

I want to give you a clue as to who these dogs are.  You will discover that it is used in the New Testament as a term of reproach.  If you want to insult someone in the Middle East — both among Jews and amoung Muslims — you call him a dog.  In fact, if you take your dog for a walk and an Arab is coming and he sees you, he will cross the road.  To them, even if a dog sniffs you, it is an insult.  They are horrified at westerners who have dogs as pets.  I want to give you a text that I think will help; turn to Revelation 22:15.  I think this is what Jesus meant.  Jesus is describing, through John, those who will not be in the kingdom:

“Outside [outside the New Jerusalem] are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

Who is he referring to as dogs?  What did Jesus say in Matthew?  “Do not take something holy and give it to dogs.”  The word “dogs” and the word “pigs” here refer to people who despise, who look down upon the gospel, who treat the gospel as dirt.  What do you do with people who come to you and say, “I don’t need your gospel, I am just as good as you are?”

Jesus is saying that we should not give something holy to people who do not appreciate it.  This is a hard saying.  But let me give you another text that will help you to understand what these dogs and pigs are.  Pigs wallow in mud and, if you give them pearls, they will trample on them.  They don’t see the value of pearls.  And Jesus identified pearls as the gospel.  Remember the Pearl of Great Price.  In Hebrews 10:29 I read these words:

How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot [the way the pigs were trampling under foot], who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

What do you do with people that look at the gospel as nonsense?  Or as something that is totally incompatible with modern scientific knowledge?  The other day my wife was pointing out to me that she watched a program where the young people of this country are turning their backs to God.  It was terrible, the things some of those young people were saying about God.  What do we do with people who do not appreciate the gospel?  Give it to them at least the first time.  But they may say they don’t want it.  Jesus may have had in mind the scribes and Pharisees.  Remember Jesus said, “How many times I would have gathered you to bring you under my wings and you would not.  Therefore I leave your house desolate.”  Luke 13:34-35:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  Look, your house is left to you desolate.  I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

There comes a point where you cannot keep pleading and pleading with people who despise the gospel and keep treating it as dirt.  When people reach the point of no return, Jesus says to us not to keep on, there are other people that need the gospel.

Jesus instructed the disciples that when they went into a village that rejected the gospel and mistreated them, they were to shake the dust off their feet and go to others who were waiting to hear the gospel.  Don’t waste your time on people who despise the gospel.

In closing, I want you to look at Matthew 15:21-28.  It is one of the wonderful passages of the New Testament.  I won’t go into a lot of detail now, but it is a passage that we need to spend some time with.  Quickly, let me give you the background.  Jesus was ministering, teaching, and healing by the Sea of Galilee.  Then He tell His disciples that they should go elsewhere.  They go to Tyre and Sidon, which was about 60 miles.  It must have taken them several days of walking.  And the only thing Jesus did there was heal one woman and then walk all the way back.  What a waste of time from a human viewpoint!  Why did He go all the way to Tyre and Sidon?

There was a woman who was not a Jew; she was a Canaanite.  How did the Jews look at the Canaanites?  As dogs.  It may sound like Jesus was very hard on her, but remember that He was testing her faith.  He wanted to demonstrate to His disciples what great faith is.  He could not find it in Israel.  He had to go out of the church to the Canaanites to find it.  You will notice that, if you take all the great faith texts in the New Testament, most of them in Matthew, you will find that the majority are non-Jews (the centurion, the Syro-Pheonician woman, etc.).  Matthew 15:21-28:

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!  My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”  Jesus did not answer a word.  So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  The woman came and knelt before him.  “Lord, help me!”  she said.  He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”  “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.”  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

You will see in verse 22 that this Canaanite woman looked at Jesus as the Messiah even though she was a Canaanite.  And Christ apparently ignores her.  In verse 23, He answered her not a word.  How would you feel if you went to your pastor for help and he ignored you?  Then she does something that is typical in the Middle East even to this day.  If you want to get something from somebody, you go to him through his friends.  So she turns to the disciples; they wanted Jesus to send her away because she was a nuisance.  Then it appears in verse 24 that Jesus is telling her that He came only for the Jews (because that is what they were teaching).  In other words, “I am sorry, you don’t belong to our church so I can’t help you.”  Christ has a good reason for sounding hard here.  Verse 25:

The woman came and knelt before him.  “Lord, help me!”  she said.

Now listen to what Jesus said (verse 26):

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

Did she say, “You have insulted me, I will take you to court”?  No.  Listen (verse 27):

“Yes, Lord,” [You are right, I am a dog] she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Now the test was over.

Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

And Jesus departed back to Galilee.  There are two kinds of dogs — those who despise the gospel, those who treat the gospel as an unholy thing.  But there are those who look at Christians as dogs, as unfit.  But it is my prayer that our relationship with God will be unshakable.  We may be insulted, we may be ignored, but don’t ever give up.  You may be called all kinds of things for being a Christian and the more agitated you are, the harder it becomes, because today educated people think that it is incompatible for you to believe in a God “up there.”

We know we have a God and without Him we cannot be saved.  It is my prayer that our relationship with God will be correct so that our relationship with each other will be correct.  We will look at each other, not as inferior people.  We are all one-hundred percent sinners saved by grace.  When we see our brother erring, we will correct him, not in self-righteousness, but, as we ourselves are sinners, who realize that our hope is only in God.

If the message we teach is despised and treated like dirt, go to somebody else.  There are people everywhere who are hungry for the gospel.  We must take it to everybody.  Jesus is saying, “Please, I want you to have a right relationship with your brother.”  Don’t judge them.  That is not our job; that is the work of God.  Our job is to walk together, helping each other, correcting each other, and together growing in grace.  That is the first major paragraph of Matthew 7.

Can you see that, if we have a right understanding of ourselves, if we recognize that we are sinners saved by grace, we will not look down on others.  “There I go but for the grace of God.”  We need to have love and understanding.  We may not see eye to eye on everything.  We may not agree.  But let us try and help each other, not by condemning, but by walking in the light.  We may not see eye to eye theologically, but I cannot correct by condemning.  We need to sit down together and compare notes and see why we disagree.  We need to press together.  The enemy is Satan and Jesus said (Mark 3:25):

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Ask God to please guide us into all truth.  We cannot produce unity by fighting, by condemning, and judging, and telling each other that, “You cannot go to heaven because you are teaching error.”


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