I don’t know about you, but as I read through the Bible I sometimes go on autopilot—by that I mean that I read familiar passages without noticing the things around them. But then there will be that moment that the light bulb goes on and I’ll think—wait, what did that just say?
I had one of those moments last week. A connection of context I’ve never made before. I was reading in Matthew, in the jam-packed chapters of the Sermon on the Mount. I’d been through the Beatitudes then on through chapters 5 and 6 where we hear about things like forgiveness, inward sin, fasting, prayer, worry, the inability to serve two masters.
And then chapter 7 begins with “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Another familiar passage for most of us. Except the discussion of not judging others, of removing the log in your eye before the splinter in another’s, and not throwing your pearls before swine is followed by this is verse 7:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Huh. In most other places, I would just assume a change of topic. But this is a sermon, Jesus’s longest recorded discourse. Likely He wouldn’t jump randomly from one topic to another. In fact, throughout this sermon, his topics follow somewhat logically.
I always thought of Matthew 7:7 as asking, seeking, and knocking in terms of “getting” things—a place to live, food on the table, healing, a new car. The things we tend to ask for in prayer. But in context of this chapter and the entire sermon, I’m suddenly not sure that’s exactly what is meant here.
What if Jesus was talking about asking, seeking, knocking in terms of getting the log out of my eye? Because I’m guessing when Jesus says to “first take the log out of your own eye” that isn’t exactly doable by myself. What if the “good gifts” He goes on to explain in verses 8-11 is the gift of being able to see ourselves in truth—to recognize our flaws and faults, judge our own shortcomings instead of others’?
It seems plausible, especially given that verse 12 then follows with the Golden Rule: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Yes, He adds “in everything,” but doesn’t that also include what he was talking about earlier? We don’t want others to judge us, so we shouldn’t judge them.
And wouldn’t not judging others, letting the Lord reveal and remove the logs in our eyes, and treating others as we want to be treated in everything be the narrow gate way to life as Jesus talks about in verses 13 and 14? And in the context of the entire Sermon on the Mount, all those things are things of the heart—the mercy to not judge, the humility to let the Lord expose our hearts to us, the grace to treat others well always.
Interestingly, the next few verses turn the chapter on its head and tell us who to judge and how to judge them. We are to judge prophets (leaders) by their fruit. False prophets bear bad fruit. The thing is, often we can’t see bad fruit until it has grown over time. And even then we sometimes don’t know fruit is bad until we bite into it. In other words, it takes time and attention to judge leaders by their fruit. Which is different from the judgement mentioned at the beginning of chapter which is a judging by our own standards.
I’m still pondering all of these passages I’m familiar with on their own as following on the heels of each other. I continue to talk to the Lord about what it might mean. But just the fact that I can see some new connection in God’s Word makes me know I’m listening to the Holy Spirit. And ultimately, that’s the place I want to be.
What about you? Have you even made the connections in this chapter before? What connections in Scripture has the Lord shown you recently?