Don’t judge dogs?

So we wonder, how do we understand Matthew 7:1, often quoted at someone else who seems overly rigid in their denunciations of others?  “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  It is memorable and pointed.

Notice in verses 1-6 there are some judgments made – v. 5 says “You hypocrites” and v. 6 says, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or cast your pearls before pigs.”  So do not “dogs”, “pigs”, “holy” and “pearls” involve judgments?

We think that the structure of the passage is like this

A  – v.1  Proverb

B – v. 2 Judgment is reciprocal

C – v. 3  Start with yourself

C’ – v. 4 Start with yourself

B’ – v.5 Removal is reciprocal

C’ – v. 6 Proverb

If this is fair, then verses 1 and 6 are proverbial sayings that together make a balanced teaching.  Do not judge in the sense of declaring a final condemnation.  but do discern the reality of a situation.  The line between judgment and discernment is a fine one. 

There is a lot that is reciprocal – that is what is good for the other is good for me.  Before I judge others, I should be judged.  When I judge, I will be judged.

Like the Hebrew wisdom teachings these are not Laws but proverbial in nature, require considerable care and wisdom in their application.  A wooden “do not judge in any manner at all” would not capture the teaching.  Since there are situations where judgments need to be made about teachers as is seen in the remainder of chapter 7.

If we follow the chiastic structure to its logical end, the point of the passage is much more about starting with yourself, than it is in not judging at all.


Lords Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount

U. Luz, in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Bible, is cited as saying that the Sermon on the Mount has been built around the Lord’s Prayer as its centerpiece.  Not having his work, this week our intrepid adult class will use the text, some scissors and tape to attempt to correlate sections of the Sermon to the 7 phrases of the Prayer.

Do you want to play? 

The phrases of the Prayer: 1.  Our Father in heaven 2.  hallowed be your name 3. your kingdom come  4.  your will be done… 5. give us ….bread 6.  Forgive us…as we forgive 7.  Lead us not…but deliver.

The units, based on NIV divisions:

(5:1-12; 5:13-16; 5:17-20; 5:21-26; 5:27-30; 5:31-32; 5:33-37; 5:38-42; 5:43-48; 6:1-4; 6:5-8; 6:9-15; 6:16-18; 6:19-24; 6:25-34; 7:1-6; 7:7-12; 7:13-14; 7:15-23; 7:24-29)

Have fun, I will post my results next week.

Matthew 5 Sandwich

Verse 17 and verse 48 form an inclusio in Jesus’ teaching on the law.

Matthew 5:17
    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

 Matthew 5:48
    You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The ideas are that Jesus did not come to overthrow the OT law and that the standard of the law is not the minimum standard, but the absolute maximum standard – the perfection of God.

Six examples are marked off with the expression, “you have heard it said….but I say to you.”  These examples cover the topics of murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, non-resistance and treating your enemies.

Is it fair to say, “you have heard it said” set a traditional standard?  And that the “but I say to you” elevates the law to a different, new and more complete level?  We think so.

The attitudes of the heart are as important as the actions we can see.  For the sources of evil and good are internal and spiritual by nature.

 As you read through these examples, it seems best to take the examples not as regulations, but illustrations of the fulfilled and perfect moral requirement for a disciple.  It is easy to get hung up on such questions as how many times can you turn the other cheek?  However it is better to ask, “”what point is being made?” and “how could I follow this teaching?”


Matthew 5 – Salt and Light

    We have been exploring interpreters and found these varying interpretations.

            St. Augustine wrote a book on Matthew 5-7 between the year 393 and 396 AD.  It was Augustine who first called this the Sermon on the Mount.  St. Augustine says that the salt and the light refers to the fearless attitude Christians should have who face persecution.  Rather than cover ourselves with the comforts of this life, we ought to risk everything to identify with Jesus before a hostile world. 

Augustine wrote in a time where the persecutions of the early church were a living memory.


            About the year 1528, Martin Luther took over the pulpit of another pastor in the city of Wittenberg, Germany.  The text was Matthew 5-7.  So in his weekly Wednesday messages, Luther preached from these two chapters.  You should be happy that I will take a mere 3 months to do what Martin Luther took 18 months to do.

            Luther’s message was that the preachers of the Gospel need to be committed to both the kind and the rough parts of the Gospel.  He said we ought to preach against sin as though we rub salt in a wound.  We ought to preach Christ as the Light of the world.  Luther preached in a time when the Gospel had been forgotten by the Church in its love of tradition, ritual and political power.


            About 25 Years ago, the British pastor and author John Stott wrote a very good book on the Sermon.  He says that the Sermon on the Mount contains the most complete description of how Christians ought to live.  That in fact we are a Christian Counter-Culture.  John Stott said that Salt represents the social involvement we should have in the world.  Just as salt is used to stop the corruption of meat, when we make pork into ham, so Christians should do good works to help preserve the culture we live in from sliding further into decay.  He said that the Light represents the message of Jesus.  We should balance our social concern with a strong commitment to preaching the Gospel of Jesus.  This is exactly the kind of thing that Christians were talking about 25 years ago.


            So Augustine said fearlessness before persecution.  Luther saw boldness in preaching and Stott sees social involvement and gospel preaching in these verses.  Each man faithfully sought to apply these verses in his own time.  The truth of the verses is not changing, but how they apply does change.

Fast or Slow?

So, while in the shower (many good ideas come there) Fresh Read concluded that the year 2008 was a rapid read.  We touched upon texts across the Old and New Testament.  It is time now for a slower pace.  The current plan, subject to change due to showering, is to spend some time in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) from January to Easter.  And then to spend time with either the 10 Commandments or more likely the beginning chapters of Proverbs.

The rapid pace of 2008 is good, for it is nice to get the big picture.  However, for us it seems a bit like eating at a buffet restaurant.  The broad reach is nice, but we would really rather at times just have a good soup and some bread.

So the Soup is “The Spiritual Wisdom of Jesus” and the bread is “The Practical Wisdom of Solomon”.