Summary: What are the attitudes that surround so much of our judging of each other?
Questions Jesus Asked:
Of Specks And Planks
Matthew 7: 1-5
CALVIN CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH
Questions, questions, questions - always, it seems, another question.
That’s how it is when you have young children in the house.
Again and again:
"Mommy, why is the sky blue?"
"Daddy, how come cows don’t fly?"
"Why does spinach have to be good for you?"
That’s how young children learn - by asking questions.
That’s also a great way to get people to learn - by asking them questions.
Make them stop and think.
That’s how it is that Jesus dispensed much wisdom and issued many challenges.
Again and again.
Including the question we wish to consider today, Matthew 7:3-4:
"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?....."
A question tossed our way surrounded by the echo, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged....", famous words that just about everyone has heard at one time or another; words that we often have at the ready as some sort of verbal fly swatter when someone challenges us on particular behaviour or thought patterns –
don’t bug me,
you can’t judge me ‘cause Jesus said so!"
Happy sounds those are in a day and age when the only politically correct response to any moral statement or lifestyle is, "Who am I to judge? If it works for them....."
So, let’s be clear that this is the farthest thing from Christ’s mind as He tosses the challenging question in the direction of His hearers. Simple fact is, the Bible is chock full of divine calls that expect judgement to take place, including just a few verses later in this chapter of Matthew:
Matt. 7:15-20 tells us that Christians are to judge prophets and teachers by the fruit that their lives bear.
Rom 13 tells us that Government agencies have a rightful judging role in society
1 Cor. 5 tells us that the Church is properly to discern and judge lifestyle patterns, naming sin for what it is and struggling against it.
In fact, what drives Jesus to ask the question in the first place, to include it in His famous Sermon on the Mount, is not the action of judging, but the attitude that lies behind so much of the activity of judging which occurs among us.
He’s not saying, "There’s no room for judgement at all in the Kingdom of Heaven."
Rather, He’s saying, "Think very carefully, count to ten, and have a long and careful look in the mirror before you entertain the idea of judging.
Stop, look and listen.....
at your own life
before you think about looking at the life of someone else.
Jesus doesn’t condemn correction; He doesn’t squash the moral arena of judgement. They remain necessary elements of human living.
What he condemns;
what he rebukes;
what he warns against in such extravagant terms is
critique and judgement of others that occurs in a context removed from a deep awareness of our own fallibility and sin-stained character.
What He desires for us is that we lay aside our hammer of judgement that is so ready to smash others, and come to them as fellow sinners, as pilgrims longing to see the other one healed where they are broken and well aware that we need healing too.
As the ancient church father, Chrysostom noted,
"Correct him, but not as a foe, nor as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing medicines."
A physician also in need of medicine.
What Jesus confronts with a question in this chapter of Matthew is precisely the same attitude that He confronts with a challenge in John 8 as He says to Pharisees who stand ready to stone the adulterous woman:
"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
What Jesus calls us to develop is the attitude he prays for:
"forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors...." (Mt 6:12)
How are we doing in this regard?
Well, consider this -
Many people are spiritually hungry and searching. Poll after poll reveals this. And yet those same research stats also paint a picture of people who discount the option provided by the Christian Church. It’s simply a non-starter with most spiritually searching people today.
Because so often we are seen as the condemning ones; judgmental ones; hateful ones; narrow ones. Church is seen as the people that are against, rather than for.
In this regard -- where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Society sees Christians as the ones who criticize the moral laxity of youth, graffitti and irresponsibility and the like..... easy to do. Much harder to lay down the time, effort and bucks to develop appropriate alternatives for them.