Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 40: “Judging Others” 10.04.2018

Matthew 7:1-6 (NIV) 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

In almost four decades of church work, I heard this comment many times: “I need to find a church that is not judgmental!” It’s a common thought these days in our post-modern world. Many people argue that there are no fixed moral standards. They say nothing is right or wrong … that all things are relative. Thus, it’s very popular to say that “Judging is bad and, since there are very few permanent truths in our universe, who are we to judge anyway? Even Jesus said do not judge …  right?” Well … not really. One hardly knows where to begin with all of this. It sounds nice and generous to be non-judgmental, but can we really live that way? Of course not. If we do not judge, then how do we decide whom to vote for? How do we decide which car to buy and which school to go to? We use judgement all the time. And yes, we do judge other people. Are they honest? Trustworthy? Someone with whom we would want a friendship? So, what was Jesus driving at in this statement? Consider these simple words:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Here is the sentence in literal form and in several other translations: “Judge not that you not be judged” … judge meaning “decide” “assess” “condemn” “esteem” “determine” … thus we see a whole range of meanings for these words. In the NLT, it says: Matthew 7:1 (NLT2) “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” I think that misses the point. In the ESV, it says: Matthew 7:1 (ESV) “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The problem is in reading just that verse. In order to see what Jesus was saying, we clearly need what follows:

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Our Lord is telling us we must remember to judge ourselves by the same standards as we judge others. If we see the sin of gossip in others, do we gossip? If we see the sin of impurity in others, are we impure? What Jesus is really driving at for his true disciples, in my opinion, is again, the need for humility. Examine self first! Thus, he goes on to say:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It is so much easier for me to see your faults than to see my own. Actually, Jesus tells us that we CAN help one another with faults but only after we have dealt with our own shortcomings. And when we judge, we should be careful that our faults are not far worse than those of other people. In other words, before I am a spec inspector I must be a board inspector.

Just to develop this point a little further, Jesus then gives a very practical teaching about the real need to judge and discern. It seems that he added in a portion that did not quite follow, but it does. Here it is:

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

This is not about dogs. It is a word picture of untrustworthy people. We would need to judge them that way from observation. Let’s think about it. If you bend down towards a pig, with something in your hand, that pig will expect food. A handful of grain or something. And when you give them uneatable pearls (very valuable … notice the reference to the Gospel) what will be their response? Fury and rage! They wanted food! Then they will, in their fury, attack you and try to kill you!

In summary: as Christians we must use our judgement and discernment. Before we do so, we must double check to see if we are guilty of the same error or sin. We must be careful with other people because very often they will not appreciate our thoughts and may even attack us. This is particularly true when we try to share the Gospel with those who hate it. All of this amounts to: “Be careful when you judge. Judge yourself first. Then be thoughtful about what that other person may be willing to hear from you.”

One last thought. When King David sinned against Bathsheba and her husband, a Godly man, who had no such sin in his life, came to see him. His name was Nathan and he told David the whole story of his sin. And David replied: “I have sinned against the Lord…” 2 Samuel 12:13. (Also see Psalm 51). God sent a man of sound judgment and moral uprightness to speak to David. It was just and right and for David’s own good. No doubt, Nathan prayed for himself and about himself before he went to David. “Do not judge unless you are prepared to be judged by the same standards!”

Next: “Asking, Seeking and Knocking”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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