Summary: Lesson 13 in a series on the Sermon on the Mount. This one focuses on judging others and what it means and does not mean. We can still be fruit inspectors, just not judges of another’s heart.
Fix your Judgements
This morning we continue our series on the Sermon on the Mount. We’ve been talking about making permanent fixes in our lives. We are rapidly coming to the close of this series and we have examined several areas of our lives where Jesus tells us we need to make permanent changes if we want to be a Christian. The passage we address today is probably one of the most misunderstood and yet most valuable for us in our study. Let’s read it and then we’ll spend some time talking about it. We are in the beginning of Matthew chapter 7
1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ’Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.
I remember one time that Heather bought some Turkish Apricots when we were still in college. She took them back and shared them with her roommate. Sometime later her roommate saw her eating some more of them and was absolutely disgusted. How can you eat those she asked? I didn’t know what they were, but while you were gone I read the bag. Do you know what those things are? It says product of Turkey on there! I didn’t know that turkeys had an apricot and I sure don’t know where it is, but that is just disgusting!” Heather calmly explained the difference between the country of Turkey where they grow apricots on trees and the large Thanksgiving bird. Sometimes when we make quick judgements and only read a little bit of information we can be just like that. That is certainly the case with the passage we will study this morning. Many people can quote Matthew 7:1 faster than any other verse in the Bible. “Don’t judge me! The Bible says not to judge!” Did Jesus mean for us to be tolerant of everything. Are we to be forces for good that simply look for the good in everyone and try to encourage that while not pointing out the bad? That’s part of our job, certainly, but there is more. We are to actively oppose evil. We are to stand for truth, but also against sin. It is certainly true that when I call an action sin I have passed judgement on it, but that is not in conflict with the message here in Matthew 7. Jesus Himself spoke out against sin. In fact, if you read the entire passage here, you will see that this passage has nothing to do with condemning sin, anymore than Turkish apricots come from birds. What is Jesus talking about then? It certainly looks like he is condemning speaking out against evil. But read on. "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. Do you see that Jesus speaks of how we are to judge other people based on how we ourselves will be judged? One preacher I heard said that the point of this passage is that your yardstick will become a boomerang. Jesus is not saying don’t pass judgement on other people, he is speaking out against two things: 1) hypocritical judgements and 2) ungodly judgements.
He is first saying that we must use the same criteria for other people that we use for the man in mirror with us. If we are being harsh on other people but easy on ourselves, than we need to hear this. That takes it out of the realm of theory and moves it right into your living room, doesn’t it? Jesus says that we must hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold other people. Let me give you an example.
I am driving down the interstate doing my usual five over the speed limit - because that’s as fast as I will go - when some idiot comes flying by me doing 85 or 90 in a 70. I make sure and point out to Heather how fast this crazed driver is going and how stupid he is for speeding. If you should happen to point out to me that I am speeding, too, then I will be quick to justify my speed by the fact that I am obeying “my” speed limit at least and I am only going 5 over, not 20 over like that guy! Do you see the hypocrisy there? If that makes perfect sense to you, look out! You see, that is the way we often think. That is the way the Pharisees thought. And that is what Jesus is condemning. The Pharisees looked at themselves through eyes of grace, but when they looked at other people they saw only the law and many ways those people had broken the law. The other thing that Jesus is saying is that God’s standard is the only one by which we should judge. God has promised to judge us fairly and with justice, but also with grace, mercy, and love. Do you extend grace to yourself that you are unwilling to give to other people? Think before you answer and listen to the story Jesus tells.