OAKRIDGE BIBLE CHAPEL

How (Really) To Win Friends and Influence People (Matthew 7:1–12)

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We worship a relational God. Being mysteriously Trinity—one God eternally existing in three distinct-but-equal Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—God has always been in perfect relationship with himself. And it’s this relational God who created humanity in his image and likeness (Gen 1:26–27).

As such, each of us has been created longing for, surrounded by, and in need of relationships. The problem is, Genesis 1 is followed by Genesis 3 and, when sin entered the world and the curse fell upon creation, everything was negatively affected, including relationships. Sin is why we annoy, envy, hate, abuse, fear, and fight one another. Sin is why some fear intimacy, being truly known, and trusting others. 

And, while we know there is a time coming when sin will be removed and we will enjoy relationships as they were meant to be enjoyed, we have to ask, what do we do in the meantime? How can we buffer against the brokenness of our relationships?

In Matthew 7, Jesus teaches how the pursuit of true righteousness can change relationships, specifically how righteousness shapes our interactions with God’s people, with God’s opponents, and with God himself. 

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We worship a relational God. Being mysteriously Trinity—one God eternally existing in three distinct-but-equal Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—God has always been in perfect relationship with himself. And it’s this relational God who created humanity in his image and likeness (Gen 1:26–27).

One theologian puts it this way:

Humans are created for community. Yet a human being is one person, not three. Whereas God as Trinity is self-sufficient [he has, in himself, all he needs relationally], humans are not. Created as individuals, people are made, so to speak, for a trinity of relationships—with self, other human beings, and the Lord God.

J. Scott Horrell, “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Toward a Trinitarian Worldview,” Bibliotheca sacra 166 (2009): 131–46.

Simply stated, each of us has been created longing for, surrounded by, and in need of relationships. We are relational beings made by a relational God. The problem is, Genesis 1 is followed by Genesis 3 and, when sin entered the world and the curse fell upon creation, everything was negatively affected, including relationships. Sin is why we annoy, envy, hate, abuse, fear, and fight one another. Sin is why some fear intimacy, being truly known, and trusting others. 

And, while we know there is a time coming when sin will be removed and we will enjoy relationships as they were meant to be enjoyed, we have to ask, what do we do in the meantime? How can we buffer against the brokenness of our relationships?

Turn to Matthew 7. You may recall the main theme of the Sermon on the Mount has been true righteousness; what it looks like, how it behaves, and what it seeks after. Now, in Matthew 7:1–12, we’re shown how it can change relationships, specifically how righteousness shapes our interactions with God’s people, with God’s opponents, and with God himself. 

Interactions with God’s People

Jesus begins this section addressing the relationships we have within the household of God, that is, how righteousness affects our interactions with God’s people.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1–5

Let’s be clear as to what Jesus is not saying because this has to be one of the most misused passages of Scripture there is.

First, when he says, “Judge not,” Jesus is not saying “ignore sin in others.” Verse 3 assumes we recognize “the speck” and verse 5 gives permission to help remove it. It’s not necessarily judgemental to warn a brother or sister of sin we see in their lives and call them to repent.

Paul writes: “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning” (1 Tim 5:20). Jesus’s not saying, “ignore sin in others.”

Second, he’s not saying “soften your convictions to avoid offending others.” Elsewhere, Paul writes: “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2 Cor 2:15–16). 

In other words, those pursuing righteousness smell—beautifully to the saved and disgustingly to the unsaved. Darkness hates light and sin hates the smell of Christ. The very presence of Christians offends non-Christians and the presence of faithful Christians offends carnal Christians sparking the defensive: “Judge not!” And, not wanting to offend, Christians may be tempted to tone-down the godliness, right? Except for the fact that Jesus said “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5:16). So, Jesus can’t mean that we’re to “soften convictions so as to avoid offending others.”

So, what does he mean when he says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (7:1)? He means relationships within the household of God should be characterized by grace and not hypocrisy. Three times Jesus uses “brother” (vv. 3, 4, 5), revealing that it’s hypocrisy within the family of God that he’s primarily addressing.

The hypocrisy being condemned here occurs when I hold another of God’s people to a standard I myself am not striving toward. Notice I didn’t say “achieved.” We don’t have to have arrived to spur one another on toward the same goal, but we have to be en route.

Jesus saw a pattern of gracelessness in first century Judaism. People were holding others to a standard of righteousness to which they weren’t holding themselves. They’d criticize others for small infractions (“specks”) while ignoring their own massive shortcomings (“logs”).

As a church family, we need each another pursue righteousness, giving one another permission to watch us, lovingly point out blindspots and missteps, and call us to repentance. To not do this is unloving. However, we also need to be a people who examine our own lives at least as much as we’re examining the lives of others. And when the time comes to point out and help with the specks in the eyes of a family member, we do so in a spirit of correction and not condemnation. Condemnation belongs only the the Lord.

Like you, I’ve been on the receiving end of many “judgements,” when fellow Christians have given me words of correction, concern, and rebuke. Some, were harsh and discouraging. Others, while they stung, I remember fondly and as God’s grace working through people for my good. The difference between those two experiences is that the latter was always done by someone I knew, loved, and were themselves pursuing godliness.

Interactions with God’s Opponents

The pursuit of righteousness as a profound effect on our interactions with God’s people. But, in verse 6, Jesus changes course and teaches how it also effect our interactions with God’s opponents.

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:6

Instead of “brothers” Jesus now talks of “dogs” and “swine.” These are derogatory terms used by Jews to denigrate Gentiles, or, those outside the family of God. Jesus isn’t name-calling but using metaphor to point to the ways these animals instinctively behave.

Jesus forbids the giving “pearls,” that which is “holy”—in the context that’s the teachings of righteousness—to unsaved people who can’t understand its beauty and worth and, because of that, will only step on it and attack the giver.

This is so important for us today. We must be careful to avoid holding unsaved people to God’s standards of righteous living. Those outside the family of God cannot know or obey the holy pearls of God’s truth.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

1 Corinthians 2:14

It’s inappropriate, cruel, frustrating, and futile to expect or demand unsaved people to understand, accept, and meet God’s standards of righteousness. We may as well take expensive pearls and give them to wild dogs and pigs. It’s a waste of time and only ends in disappointment, disillusionment, and pain.

While we should be calling one another within the household of God to conform ourselves to God’s revealed will, we should be avoiding that same strategy for those outside the family of God. They need to be brought inside the family by trusting in Jesus for eternal life and then we can worry about conformation to God’s standards. They first need to be saved. In our context, they first need the Holy Spirit. They need, like the Apostle Paul, to have the scales fall from their eyes before they can see and understand and be motivated by the beauty of God’s grace and holiness.

My old pastor used to say, “Don’t wrestle with pigs because you both end up dirty and the pig liked it.” Our world wants to pull Christians into filthy wrestling matches over matters of sexuality, ideology, and morality. We need to be very cautious about how we engage with those who are outside the family. I’m not saying we don’t engage—we do—but we do so with discernment and love, knowing that what they need first and foremost is to believe in Jesus. All the other issues are secondary and, honestly, unavailable until they come into the family.

So, let’s not wrestle with pigs. Beware holding unbelievers to a standard to which they are incapable of living. When we do this we see how our personal pursuit of righteousness effects our interactions with God’s opponents just as it does with God’s people.

Interactions with God Himself

The final relationship that Jesus addresses is vertical. Righteousness affects our interactions with God himself.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Matthew 7:7–8

Jesus is talking about prayer—an important facet of our relationship with God. He begins with three commands: “Ask, seek, knock.” In Greek these are all in the present tense, indicating ongoing action: “Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking” and, when we do that, there are promised results in verse 8: You “will receive, will find, and the door will be opened.”

Jesus here is emphasizing persistence in prayer, which demonstrates our belief in its power and effectiveness and our belief in our neediness. We keep asking, seeking, and knocking, knowing we need to receive, find, and have the door opened.

Jesus then illustrates his lesson.

Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Matthew 7:9–11

Jesus compares human fathers to their heavenly Father. While the former is instinctively evil because of their fallen nature but still gives good things to their children, how much more will our perfectly good heavenly Father give good gifts to his children on earth?

The point is this: Going to God in prayer is never in vain even if it requires persistence. When the child of God asks in faith, with consistent sincerity, God will give what is good. Notice that the promise isn’t God will give what is asked for, but that he will give what is good in response to persistence in prayer. This is how God’s people, who are pursuing righteousness, interact with God himself.

Do we understand that the way we approach God reflects the righteousness of our hearts? If we don’t pray, that should tell us something about what we believe. If we pray once and then give up, that tells us something. If we pray with persistence, dependence, trust, and desperation, that too tells us something about ourselves.

Jesus closes this section of Scripture with a summary statement which has come to be known as 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.

Matthew 7:12

All people feel the need to be treated with respect—Jew and Gentile, believer and unbeliever. God’s people are to lead the way in the treatment of other people. Jesus doesn’t say “Treat people well so that they’ll return the favour.” Instead, we’re to model the truth of the law and prophets, which as the Sermon on the Mount has been demonstrating, is a showcase of God’s true righteousness.

Righteousness Changes Relationships!

We are relational beings created by a relational God, but sin has tarnished those relationship. But, here in Matthew 7, Jesus teaches that righteousness changes relationships! 

As we pursue righteousness, that which Jesus has been teaching in the Sermon, our relationships are affected, including our interactions with God’s people, God’s opponents, and God himself. Righteousness changes relationships!

In 1936, Dale Carnegie published a book entitled “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” To date, over 30-million copies have been sold and it’s been regarded as one of the most influential books of all time.

Obviously, we hold the Bible to be slightly more influential in that it’s living and active and written by God himself. So, I want to close today by summarizing how (really) to win friends and influence people according to Jesus in Matthew 7. What must we do to effect our relationships according to Christ.

First, exhort with humility. Inside the body of Christ—among fellow believers—let’s boldly spur one another one toward righteousness, remembering to do so from a place of humility not hypocrisy. Tend to the logs and then address the specks. Exhort with humility.

Second, declare with discernment. In our relationships outside the family, remember that they need to be reconciled to a holy God through faith in Christ. They need new birth before they can live like born-again people. Don’t wrestle with pigs. Declare with discernment.

Third, pray with persistence. In our relationship with God himself, remember we have a good heavenly Father who gives good gifts to his children, gifts that we need. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Pray with persistence.

Fourth, model the message. The law and the prophets calls us to righteousness. We need to live that righteousness in this world, demonstrating, for believer and unbeliever alike, the goodness of God treating people as the image bearers they are. Model the message.