INTRODUCTION: Most people in this world know at least some of the Ten Commandments; even non-Christians can quote at least a few of them. And the favorite and most-often quoted out of all of them is “Thou Shall Not Judge.” Oh wait that’s not on the list? Strange, because to hear our society and even some in the church one would swear that it came down directly to Moses from God Himself!
BACKGROUND: “Judge Not,” if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that statement from someone who was trying to justify some sort of bad behavior on the part of another, I would be retired on some beach in southern Florida and we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
Now we can rest assured that those two words are most definitely in the Bible, they were indeed said by Jesus, the problem arises out of the fact that the verse in question (Matthew 7:1), like many of the others we’ve looked at in this series doesn’t say what we think it says, and doesn’t mean what we think it means… and therein lay the problem, one that is quite detrimental to our faith.
THE CONCEPT OF JUDGING
• This passage of scripture (specifically vs. 1-11) are a loosely connected series of admonitions focusing on relationships; Christian Community (1-5) The Outsider (6) God (7-11) The basic thrust is “right relationships” with everyone around us, believers as well as non-believers
• Jesus’ previous sermon set some pretty high standards on things like anger, divorce, lust, oaths, retaliation etc. and it’s thought (D.A. Carson) that this teaching was meant to clarify any miss-understandings in our reaction to such issues
• Depending on the context the word “judge” (krino) in the Greek, denotes either evaluation and analysis or condemnation and punishment, in this context it’s the first not the second
• The statement… “that you be not judged” doesn’t imply that by not judging we’ll avoid judgment
THE “SPECK” AND “LOG”
• Jesus brings this point home to his audience by using a pair of rhetorical questions that humorously present an absurd situation… but in that absurdity lay a deadly serious concept
• The two questions stress the perverse tendency of humans to critique in others what they excuse in themselves – speck = grain of sand metaphorically speaking of some “insignificant” shortcoming
• It’s possible here that Jesus is selection a fault common to the Pharisaic professors of righteousness, such as he did elsewhere (Matthew 6:19-24)
• If we refuse to judge we miss out on truth; if we judge inappropriately we pile extra judgments upon ourselves, both extremes are wrong, and both are truly dangerous…
• At its heart this passage isn’t a requirement to be blind, but rather a plea to be generous!
WHY WE THINK IT’S WRONG TO JUDGE
• There is a sure-fire way to get our non-Christian friends to quote the Bible; drop the “S” word and by that I mean “Sin” call something a sin and in less than 10 seconds, people who have little use for the Bible will be quoting Matthew 7:1 as if their Bible Scholars… when in reality they’re eisegesis pros! – eisegesis = forcing a text to say what we want it to say instead of what it actually says
• Ironically they probably don’t even know where it comes from, or that their taking it out of context
• So why do we (society) and we (the church) think that it’s wrong to judge?
• (1) Failure to follow the insight of the Rabbis, to read the “rest of the story” and in this case the very next verse!
• (2) Our natural tendency to interpret ancient words through the filter of our modern day culture especially that “high-valued” much sought after trait known as “tolerance”
• In our culture “tolerance” is the buzz-word, the “clarion-call” of our politically correctness [PC] charged society – today it means that everyone is right, no one is wrong no matter what they believe or what they do, this is known as “moral relativism”
• This all boils down to what is “right” and what is “wrong” in our world
• Our society teaches that in areas of spirituality and morals, there are no universal standards. i.e. “your truth is your truth” and “my truth is my truth” and we’re both right!
• This is the only area of life where we buy into such nonsense!
• Let’s go back to the “blueprint” – imagine an architect arguing that his calculations don’t matter as long as they “work for him” – I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t drive across any of his bridges!
• Think about it… if we were forbidden to make moral and spiritual judgments, we would have no objective way to distinguish between truth and error.
• But what does the word actually mean? “tolerance” actually means… “granting others the freedom to be wrong.” it sought to offer evaluation in a spirit of grace and humility
• That’s a long way from today’s view of tolerance
KEYS TO RIGHT JUDGING
• (1) The standard we use to judge others God will use to judge us
• (2) We need to worry about our own sin before we look at the sins of others
• This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect, if that was the case then even Peter, Paul, and the others would have to zip-it when it comes to sin
• They exposed sin for what it was, and we can too, save for if we’re struggling with the same issue!
• (3) Make sure that our judgments match God’s – in other words, don’t judge what God is silent on
• If we focus on things God doesn’t have a problem with we chance slipping into that nasty little mindset called “legalism” or “phariseeism”
• Where we hold our “cultural standards” as high as we hold “scripture” – and Jesus has some particularly harsh words for those who do that – (Matthew 23:15)
• Dancing, Tattoos, Smoking, Drinking, Playing Cards etc… all have been vigorously condemned over the years. I even have a copy of a sermon about these things entitled “How Merrily We Go To Hell”
• While they may not necessarily be good for us, scripture doesn’t call them “sin” and neither should we! We also should remember that we can’t judge non-Christians by Christian standards!
CONCLUSION: This passage is at the heart of relationships within the community of faith, and may be regarded as one of the prime expressions of the “ethic of Love” that is the summary of the Law and the Prophets. Though disciples have to make judgment calls, all should be made with grace, charity, and love in mind (Galatians 6:1-2) when we focus on the “slight” failures in other we violate this commandment we shouldn’t and don’t minimize sin, but we can and should maximize grace! This is the way Jesus looks at us! Do you know Jesus today?
NOTE: The idea for this series, and some content was gleaned from the excellent book "10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe" by Larry Osborn.