Summary: Judgment is a common problem that divides people, destroys relationships. Jesus warns us not to judge based on external appearances, while insisting that we are capable of discernment.
Sermon on the Mount - # 10
Judgment and Discernment
Text: Matthew 7: 1-6
What does Jesus mean when He says “Do not judge?”
To begin to answer those questions one must look closely at the entire content of the Sermon on the Mount.
What is the central theme of this discourse? The authentic life of the follower of Jesus.
To what has He spoken?
∙ Don’t major on external righteousness.
∙ Seek a transformed heart which will lead to changed behavior.
∙ Be aware of the tendency to live a superficially religious life instead of deeply spiritual one.
∙ Aim to please God, not other people.
It becomes clear that primarily Jesus is warning us about making judgements based on externals. What seems so obvious, at first glance or even from all appearances, may not necessarily be the truth. It is quite natural, but also completely un-Christian, to jump to conclusions about people based on first impressions. To pigeonhole people based on their race, their clothing, the style of their hair, their sex, or their national origin is to fall into this trap of wrong judgment. Thus, Jesus teaches us to be careful of superficial judgements of others for it will earn you the same kind of treatment. “Judge not, or you too will be judged!”
Secondarily, I believe that Jesus is warning about insisting on justice over mercy.
A ‘law and order’ attitude can creep into our Christian lives and into the church. When we see someone struggling with sin, making the same wrong choices again and again, we might be tempted to conclude they are worthless, or that we don’t need them, or that they just need to ‘get right with God!’
And then, it our own teenage daughter, that gets pregnant;
or our son that is arrested for drunk driving;
or our husband that confesses he has spent $1000’s for online pornography;
or our wife that admits to being a closet alcoholic and suddenly - we cry for mercy over ‘justice!’
Jesus calls on us to reject self-righteousness that condemns actions as sin without offering forgiveness and restoration.
In John 8 there is the well-known story about some men who dragged a woman before Jesus. “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” (John 8:4-5, The Message)
They weren’t really seeking justice. They cared nothing for her dignity nor were they acting to help her find a better way of life. They only wanted to exploit her sins to entrap Jesus and to make themselves look good! They were trying to use her to show the religious people that Jesus was really soft on sin; a destroyer of good, moral order. Jesus would not join them in their hypocritical howl for justice. Instead he pointed out the hypocrisy of the accusers. His famous words still challenge us; "If anyone is without sin in his own life, let him be the one to throw the first stone." Soon there were no more accusers standing around.
PLEASE NOTE – Jesus did not excuse her adultery and tell her to be more discrete the next time!
He offered forgiveness and encouragement. "Neither do I condemn you. Go now and sin no more," were His words. He was able to judge because his judgement was based on forgiveness, redemption, and restoration.
Thirdly, Jesus warned us about self-righteous judgement that flows from an unexamined life.
To help us to understand that we are all sinners Jesus used a crazy illustration about a man with a plank in his eye trying to get a speck of sawdust out the eye of another man. I think his audience was laughing as they pictured this person with a plank lodged in his eye, worrying about sawdust in the eye of another. But is it really so silly?
Nathan, the prophet of God, went before King David to tell him about a man who stole his neighbor’s pet lamb. David went ballistic and was ready to condemn the man to death, forgetting that just 12 months before he had stolen another’s man wife and had the man killed on the field of battle to cover up his adultery. Imagine David’s shock when the prophet turned the king’s pronouncement of judgment back on him with these words, “You are the man!”
Have you ever been totally unaware of the plank in your eye while you were intent on going after the sawdust in the other guy’s eye?
Only after we have been humbled by our own sense of sinfulness, can we possibly help another sinner find redemption.
Do you frequently find yourself condemning others?
Do you look at others and make snap judgments about their character without really knowing them?