What does Matthew chapter 7 mean?Matthew 7 concludes Matthew's telling of Jesus' long Sermon on the Mount, begun in chapter 5 (Matthew 5:1–2). This passage is the source of phrases which have echoed through western culture. Among these are "judge not, lest you be judged," "do not cast pearls before swine," and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Jesus commands His followers not to judge each other—a statement easily and frequently taken out of context. What immediately follows, including most of the rest of this chapter, is a careful description of the right way to judge. What Christ condemns is arrogant, hypocritical condemnation (John 7:24). Those who presume to take God's place as judge will be judged in the same way. Human beings are unqualified to pronounce judgment in the same way as God because they are unable or unwilling to see their own sinfulness. Only after a person has addressed their own sin, and admitted their own condition, can they help others address their sin. Even then, the goal is to help and not to condemn (Matthew 7:1–5).
This passage also offers a warning: not all people are receptive to truth. Some are openly hostile to it. While it's important to shine as light in the world (Matthew 5:16), it's equally important not to waste precious efforts on those committed to hatred or ignorance. The warning not to "cast pearls before swine" means nothing more or less than that: it's wasteful and unwise to offer something others will hate, even if it's valuable (Matthew 7:6).
Jesus promises radical attentiveness, from God, to the prayers of His children. Every one of God's children who asks will receive. Those who seek from God will find. To those who knock, God will open the door. This applies to concepts like prayer, from a believer. It also suggests the way in which all people, in all times and all places, are obligated to seek and find God (Romans 1:18–20; Psalm 19:1). God answers sincere seekers of truth, because He is a good Father. Human beings are, by nature, sinful—and even they give their children what they need instead of what will harm them. God the Father does the same (Matthew 7:7–11).
The principle western culture refers to as the Golden Rule is rooted in God's ultimate purpose behind His law and commandments. While other philosophies frame this as a restriction—"do not" do those things you would not like done—Christ poses something more challenging. His command is positive—"you should do" those things you would want others to do. This captures the spirit of all of God's commands to His people (Matthew 7:12).
Jesus then describes two roads: one accessed by a narrow gate and one with a wide entrance. He commands His followers to enter by the narrow gate, which follows a seemingly harder path, but leads to life. He acknowledges that many will take the easier path through the wide gate, though it leads to destruction. This emphasizes the fact that Christ, alone, is the means of human salvation (John 14:6), and those who reject Him do so to their own ruin (Matthew 7:13–14).
The clearest example of a "false prophet" is someone who pretends to deliver messages from God. These liars are like hungry wolves in sheep's clothing, disguising themselves in order to take advantage of their victims. Jesus warns believers to beware of them. False teachers can be identified, mainly, by what results from their lives and teachings. Healthy trees don't bear bad fruit. Unhealthy trees will be cut down and burned. While this most directly applies to those claiming to be leaders and teachers, the idea of a false prophet can apply to anyone who promotes error or sin (Matthew 7:15–20).
The idea of liars who fool other people is only one side of spiritual deception. The other side is spiritual self-deception. There are those who will look at their supposedly great deeds and presume they deserve heaven. That may even include those who refer to Jesus as "Lord," claiming to know Him and presuming He knows them. However, only people who actually do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven—and that starts with legitimate faith in Christ (John 6:28–29). Doing great works while borrowing Jesus' reputation is not enough. Those who are not truly Christ's followers will be sent away on judgment day, rather than being welcomed in (Matthew 7:21–23).
Jesus' sermon concludes with an illustration emphasizing the difference between merely hearing Jesus' teaching and fully living by it. Those who apply His words are like a wise man who built a house on a rock. Those who don't are like a foolish man who built a house on sand. When both houses are hit by the same storm, the house on the rock will stand while the house on the sand falls hard. Life brings challenges to all people. The foundations of life, faith, and belief will be tested by those experiences. Only those with faith grounded in something true—which is Christ alone (Acts 4:12)—will endure those storms intact (Matthew 7:24–27).
The crowds were astonished by Jesus' teaching because He taught with authority. Rather than speaking in half-measures, or referring to the wisdom of others, Christ speaks as One who absolutely knows the truth, first-hand. Not only is the character of Jesus' life different from that of Israel's religious leaders (Matthew 5:20), both the style and substance of His teaching are unique, as well (Matthew 7:28–29).