Most everyone has heard about Jesus’ words (according to Matthew) “Judge not lest you are judged,” the plank and the splinter in the eye, and throwing pearls to pigs. You can find them in chapter 7 of Matthew. Their meanings have made many a sermon, but it seems few sermons focus on the underlying message: compassion.
Jesus tells his audience not to judge others. The criteria of your judgement will be returned to you. Judgmental people tend to have other people think little of them. They rarely measure up to their own criteria.
Forestalling judgment fits into Jesus’ scaffold of compassion; condemn is sometimes used in translations of this verse. “Condemn not that you may not be condemned.” The act of judging is to determine guilt or innocence. Most often the judgement errs on the side of guilt. The word “condemn” may be a better word for what Jesus had in mind. It is difficult to view someone compassionately when condemning them.
Jesus goes on with a little humor. Picture someone with a boat plank in their eye trying to help someone with a splinter. The lesson of the plank and splinter? We need to look after ourselves before we can help others. We all have problems and hang ups. Condemning another or meddling “helpfully” in another’s affairs is hypocritical. Worry and focus on others blind us to what we need to improve in ourselves. It can be a form of escapism.
Finally, Jesus tells us not to cast pearls to swine. Remember, swine were considered unclean in Judaism. He is saying we shouldn’t invest ourselves in “helping” people who don’t want our help. It can rebound and tear at us. It is just meddling. The most precious thing we possess is ourselves. We need to be selective with how we spend our limited time and energy. Spending ourselves on someone who won’t appreciate us isn’t want God wants us to do. We can use our time much more effectively on someone who is open and will treasure our pearls.
To sum up these verses:
- Don’t be judgmental. You make the same mistakes; be compassionate.
- Don’t blindly help. Focus on oneself until you can see and know clearly.
- Don’t invest yourself in people who don’t need or want your help. What is dear to you won’t be appreciated, and you can be taken advantage of.