Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a series of interesting images in Matthew 7:1-11.
He warns the listener not to judge.
Matthew 7:1–5 (NRSV)
1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
Then he offers two seemingly non sequitur images.
Matthew 7:6 (NRSV)
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
Finally, he offers a promise.
Matthew 7:7–11 (NRSV)
7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Logs, Dogs, Pigs, Pearls, and Knocking on God’s Door. What is going on here? How can these things be connected?
It will be helpful to see this passage in context. (See A Cartoonist’s Guide to the Sermon on the Mount for more.)
Jesus has been talking about a new way of living in Matthew chapters 5 & 6. The kingdom of Heaven is upside down. The poor and meek are blessed. The Laws of Moses are deepened to be heart issues, not external lip service. He warns against hypocrisy in our piety. He challenges the listener that we can serve only one master: either God or money. He encourages the crowd not to worry about external things.
Then he comes to chapter 7. Here’s what I think is happening.
Jesus isn’t forbidding judgment. He’s warning against hypocrisy. Don’t be quick to judge someone else until you have done the hard work of humble self-examination. The truth is that none of us is without fault. We are all a work in progress. We all need grace and need to live according to the Kingdom Jesus is presenting.
However, not everyone wants God’s Kingdom. Not everyone who seems to be in need is ready or able to receive it. Some people are out to take advantage of kind heartedness. The warning against dogs and swine is similar to his warning to the disciples in Matthew 10:16 (NRSV)
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
It is difficult to know when someone truly needs and wants to receive the grace and kindness of God’s salt and light (from Matthew 5). It requires discernment.
That is what we need to ask for, to seek, and to knock on the door to get. This isn’t a carte blanche promise that God will give us anything we want. No good parent would make that promise. Yet, God will freely hand out discernment when we truly seek it.
The bottom line that ties all of this together is found in v. 12.
The Golden Rule.
Love everyone, and be wise about it.