Bible Passage: Matthew 7:1-12
Here we have a collection of sayings from Jesus as he draws towards the end of his sermon. There are a variety of subjects that he covers, but what holds them together is the ‘golden rule’ that is given in verse 12 – that however we would want somebody else to treat us is how we should treat them. There are versions of this statement in many different teachers, philosophers and religions, but they are almost always phrased negatively (don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you). It is only in the teaching of Jesus where the positive version is added.
The Golden Rule and Judginess: The chapter begins with one of the best known verses in the entire Bible – do not judge! The idea is that it is easy to pick apart the faults in other people, but we can often be blind to our own faults (illustrated brilliantly by the log and the speck). Just as we wouldn’t want to be dismissed or written off on the basis of the flaws that others may see in us, so we shouldn’t do that to other people. By verse 5, Jesus does talk about helping take the speck out of the neighbour’s eye, but this can only be done from a place of humility that is both aware of and dealing with your own issues and not just finding faults in other people.
The Golden Rule and Discernment: To show that the previous point about judging is not absolute, Jesus follows it in verse 6 with an instruction to discernment (these sayings do not contradict each other, but create a tension in a similar way to Proverbs 26:4-5). The idea is that sometimes we will be in situations where we continue to do good (throw pearls) but the gift is not well received (trampled under foot by swine). In this case the most loving thing for both yourself and the other person is to avoid being in this situation. There is a godly discernment of when engagement is helpful and when it will be harmful, and wisdom is required in navigating situations.
The Golden Rule and Prayer: In verses 7-11, Jesus encourages his disciples to persistent prayer. It is interesting that in verse 11 Jesus points out that God’s desire to give is so much more than ours, and this comes right before the golden rule itself! The link is that God is even more keen to keep the golden rule and bless than we are, and so as we come to him asking, seeking and knocking (the words are in a continuous tense – meaning we should keep doing them) then he will be pleased to give good gifts. The comparison is made to a child asking gifts of their father and it would be ludicrous if that father gave harmful things rather than good ones.
- There is a straightforward challenge to avoid judging others. Maybe there is a call to repentance here for those who feel convicted of doing so.
- For some the idea of being judged by others may bring to mind painful experiences and hurts. You could offer some ministry response time for any who this touches a nerve for.
- You could spend some time praying together as a congregation to put into practice the instructions to ask, seek and knock.