August 2, 2001
If You Only Knew the Father – Part 2
ILLUS – At the start of the 20th Century, the world’s most distinguished astronomer was a man named Sir Percival Lowell. He had a particular fascination with the planet Mars – largely because he was sure through his telescope, that he could see canals on the surface of the Red Planet. He spent the last many years of his life squinting into the eyepiece of his giant telescope in Arizona, mapping the channels and canals that he saw. He was convinced the canals were proof of intelligent life on Mars, possibly an older and wiser race than humanity.
Lowell’s observations gained wide acceptance. In fact, he was so widely respected, no one dared to contradict him.
Now, of course, things are different. Space probes have orbited Mars and landed on its surface. The entire planet has been mapped, and no one has ever seen a canal. How could Sir Percival Lowell have seen so much that wasn’t there?
1) He wanted to see canals so badly that he imagined he did, over and over again.
2) We now know that Lowell suffered from a rare eye disease that made him see the blood vessels in his own eyes. The Martian canals he saw through his telescope were nothing more than the bulging veins of his eyeballs.
In Matthew 7, Jesus refers to something similar. Judging others. Over and over we see faults in others perhaps because we don’t want to believe anything better about them. And so often we think we have a firsthand view of their shortcomings, when in fact our vision is distorted by our own disease.
Judging is not my business.
Big Idea: Because God alone does the judging, I am freed up to encourage others in their spiritual journey.
After talking about a Christian’s character, influence, righteousness and ambition, it seems quite logical that Jesus should concentrate on relationships.
TRANSITION: This is made evident when we apply Jesus’ words by examining three truths in Matthew 7:1-6. #1…
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Well known, but often misunderstood. I read somewhere not too long ago that outside the church, Matthew 7:1 is the most often quoted verse of the Bible. Don’t judge – in other words who are you to tell me this or that is wrong.
But Jesus isn’t telling us to put our critical faculties on hold and turn a blind eye to sin. If we did that, we’d fall for just about anything. That’s why the message of the Sermon on the Mount is be different – do not be like them.
The word Jesus uses and the context reveal the meaning…
I. I MUST NOT BE JUDGMENTAL (v. 1)
Verse one reads like this in The Message:
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults
Being judgemental means….to be pick people apart harshly. It means being a fault-finder who forms critical opinions, is negative and destructive toward people, and enjoys actively seeking out their failings.
Someone who is judgmental makes quick interpretations of a person’s motives, questions their sincerity, and is ungenerous toward their mistakes.
A judgmental person reads between the lines, assumes the worst and jumps to inaccurate conclusions.
I don’t know about you, but unfortunately, at times that sounds a lot like me. It’s easy to make unwarranted assumptions, simple to look at the externals and make hasty judgments.
Someone once said, “Nothing is easier than faultfinding: no talent, no self-denial, no brains, and no character are required to set up in the judging business.”
But Jesus says, “Stop it! It’s wrong.”
ILLUS - When I was a boy I enjoyed climbing onto the driver’s seat of our family car and pretending to drive. I’d sit behind the steering wheel of that 1970 Forest Green Ford LTD and act out what it would be like to drive. Waving to my friends, and of course, occasionally honking the horn. It was fun.
Now my parents only let me do this when the car was parked and the keys were out of the ignition. Could you imagine what might have occurred if I had actually attempted to drive?
For one, I wasn’t qualified. I didn’t have a license and didn’t have the slightest idea how to operate a car. For another, I wasn’t able. I was so little that my feet wouldn’t reach the pedals. I couldn’t even see over the dashboard. And also, if the car started up and began moving down the street it would have been very dangerous for everyone else on the road. Here would be this out of control car driven by a kid who couldn’t see where he was going – other cars would be heading for the ditches, pedestrians would be diving out of the way. Mailboxes would be flying. It would be a mess.
For many of the same reasons a child has no sitting behind a wheel of a moving car, you and I have no business sitting in the seat of judgment.
Why shouldn’t I judge?
1. I’m not qualified
I have no license to judge.
That’s God’s job and I’m not God. When I judge, I climb up on to a seat where I do not belong. A place where I am not qualified to sit. When we judge we take God’s place.
“There are few things stressed more strongly in the Bible than the reality of God’s work as Judge.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 125)
Coming on the heels of Jesus’ instruction on worry, we see that this is very similar. When we worry, we think maybe we need to jump in and take control b/c God may not be taking care of things. In judgment we jump in to a role belonging only to God. When we stop worrying and stop judging – it means we agree to let God be God.
Romans 14:4 – Who are you to judge God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. (NLT)
I shouldn’t judge b/c I’m not qualified. Also…
2. I’m not able
A small child doesn’t have the ability to maneuver an automobile. And no person has the absolute ability to judge another.
I don’t know everything about anyone. I’ll never know all the facts. I am unable to flawlessly read another person’s motives.
ILLUS - Swindoll story about the turkey
On the West Coast several years ago, there was a company who gave each of their employees a turkey at Thanksgiving. One guy didn’t like turkey. His friends wrapped up some rocks.
On the bus home, he encountered a man down on his luck. Wanted to help, but didn’t want to insult him. So he offered to tell him the turkey for a couple bucks. Wow! Thanks! Now we can have Thanksgiving dinner.
The man on the bus didn’t know the guys intentions or motives, yet you can be sure of one thing. When he opened up that fake turkey he made a judgement about him. What kind of guy would sell a bunch of rocks to a guy down on his luck?
It has been said, “Drawing unwarranted conclusions is like looking through a keyhole. The trouble is, you don’t always see enough to warrant a conclusion, but once you’ve seen a little, it’s difficult to resist trying.”
Are you familiar with the statement, “Perception is reality?” It means that how a person perceives us becomes who we really are to them. If they perceive us to be kind, to them we really are kind. If they perceive us to be dishonest, to them we really are dishonest. Perception is reality. This often is said to remind us to give great consideration to the impression we make on people if we want to be trusted or respected. And as far as conventional wisdom goes, there is a lot of truth to that.
However the wide acceptance of the statement, “Perception is reality,” should serve as undeniable proof that the human tendency is to judge others. To whom is perception reality? The person who allows reality to be dictated solely by how they perceive someone else is someone who judges – someone who isn’t entirely following Matthew 7:1.
In Christian community, perception is not to be what shapes reality. Reality about a person is to be reality. And when not all the facts about another individual are known, grace is to fill in the gaps, so that we can say, “I don’t know everything about my brother or sister. But I know God knows, and I trust him to speaking clearly to that person if growth needs to occur. The reality is, this person is on the journey with me. And I love them.”
I shouldn’t judge b/c I’m not able. And…
3. It’s dangerous
A child behind the wheel of a car puts others at risk. A person who judges is equally as dangerous.
When I judge it endangers Christian community.
During my time in the ministry, I’ve develop a little axiom. I’ve never shared it with anyone, but it goes like this…
When community gets neglected, suspicion begins.
When people stop talking to each other, stop interacting as Christian brothers and sisters, if there’s a rift that causes them to avoid each other - that’s when motives begin to be questioned, that’s when the worst is assumed, that’s when ill-informed opinions start to abound. We see it again and again.
Suspicion sometimes sounds like this:
“I’ll bet this is what he’s thinking,” or…
“They’re probably talking about me right now,” perhaps…
“She’s been plotting against me for a long time.”
Suspicions also comes in the form of comments like…
“Yes, I heard the announcement, but read between the lines, this is what he really meant,” or…
“It may have looked like Christian service, but I assure you it wasn’t genuine.”
A clouded perception becomes our clouded reality
When we live in suspicion of each other we might as well just reject Christ and take our chances in the world. Because we’ve already ruined what Jesus intended the church to be. That’s why judging is so dangerous.
Jesus makes it very simple – he just says don’t do it. I must not be judgmental. I’m not qualified, I’m not able, and it’s very, very dangerous.
TRANSITION: Second truth Jesus tells us…
II. I MUST NOT BE HYPOCRITICAL (v. 2-4)
No one likes a hypocrite. And least of all, no one likes a hypocritical judge. Jesus reminds us…
The attitude we demonstrate will be the one that returns to us
In verse 2 he says…
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
If we are good at verdicts and sentences against others, the same will return to us. That’s true in an everyday sense. If we quickly point out that someone shouldn’t use drugs, they may fire back to us, well you drink coffee, or you smoke, or you drink alcohol. And if none of those are true, it may be pointed out that we’re addicted to food, or to work.
But Jesus’ words are also true in another sense. A judgmental attitude excludes us from God’s pardon, because it displays a heart that hasn’t been broken before God. The measure we use will be applied to us. For example…
If we encounter someone who lies all the time – if we measure him by justice alone, we will be very critical and condemning. But then that measure will be turned on us. How truthful are we? How often do we slant our stories to make a point?
Or if we encounter an unfaithful spouse or even a prostitute – the measure of justice alone would tell us to be very harsh. But how well do we fare when the same standard is applied to us? Especially in light of the fact that Jesus says, “Whoever lusts has already committed adultery in his or her heart.”
Or maybe we are disgusted with wealthy people who exploit the poor. We can measure out a healthy cup of justice against them. But how often have we been greedy ourselves? How often have we hoarded the resources of world here in North America while much of the rest of the planet lives with far less?
Do we really want the standard of God’s justice to be applied to ourselves the way we apply it to others? If not, then we’re kind of hypocritical.
That’s why Jesus also reminds us that…
Judging implies we are free of similar (or even the same!) faults
And here he uses his famous example of the speck and the log.
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!”
What’s hypocritical is to point out the faults of others while ignoring what needs to be changed in our own lives.
Illus – John Killinger tells about the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun – until it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye.
Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted, “You idiot! You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!”
Faults are like headlights of a car: those of others seem more glaring than your own.
Probably the best example of a plank in someone’s eye comes from life of King David in 2 Samuel 12. David had enjoyed a one night stand with a married woman named Bathsheba, and now she was pregnant. So to cover up his actions, he had Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle then married her. No one in the loop had bothered to confront David until one day when the prophet Nathan came for a visit. He told David this story…
Two men live in this certain town. One is rich and the other is poor. The rich man owns a lot of cattle and sheep. All the poor man had was one little lamb that he worked hard to buy. He raised the lamb with his children – so tame that it ate from his own plate – he cuddled it in his arms like it was his baby daugther. He loved that lamb. But you know what happened? One day the rich man was entertaining a guest in his house. Instead of taking one of his many lambs from his own flock, he came and took the poor man’s lamb and killed it to serve for a fancy dinner.
David was furious. He said, “This man deserves to die!”
You see David was ready to pass judgment on Nathan’s story. Big time planks of deception, adultery and murder were in his eyes. So he spoke with arrogant zeal and false pride.
Nathan said, “David, you are that man! You stole Bathsheba and murdered her husband.”
Then the tears rushed from David’s eyes – washing out those planks so he could see clearly. He had been a hypocrite because he overlooked his own sin to point out that of another.
The speck and the plank is a funny example until we realize it’s not an exaggeration. We do this. We get furious with others over their actions and demand justice while we struggle with similar or even worse sins ourselves.
So to follow Jesus, I must not be hypocritical.
TRANSITION: There is a third truth we learn from Jesus in these verses. No, I’m not to be judgmental nor hypocritical. Instead…
III. I MUST HUMBLY ENCOURAGE (v. 5-6)
The interesting thing about the speck of sawdust in the eye of another is that it does in fact require removal. The speck needs to be taken out. But not by a surgeon with a plank in his own eye.
That’s why Jesus says in verse 5,
First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
You see, we are not to be hypocritically judgmental fault finders. But we are also not to turn a blind eye to sin. In some instances Jesus actually commands us to correct our brothers and sisters.
Verse 6 is somewhat confusing on the surface, but it is an example of this. It is a proverb – Don’t 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.
Jesus is condemning judgment, but He’s also requiring discernment. Just like you’d have enough discernment not to throw valuable jewelry at animals, have enough discernment not to force the Christian message on someone who continually refuses it.
He’s warning us of going to the opposite extreme – don’t go overboard on noticing specks in the eyes of others – that’s judgment - but at the same time don’t overlook sin either. And if it’s sin in the life of someone who is totally resistant to the Gospel message, don’t force eye surgery on them.
We’re not allowed to prejudge who will receive the message, nor are we to continually force it on someone who refuses to accept it. We must pray for them, and we must model the Christian life for them – but we can’t force them to accept Jesus.
So it sometimes, we will see sin in our brothers and sisters. And specks in the eyes of our brothers and sisters requires special treatment.
Instructions on removing specks from an eye:
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
1. Don’t begin unless you are sure it’s there
Action is taken when someone is caught. When it’s public and exposed and hinders the church’s witness for Jesus Christ. Not when it’s perceived.
2. Not just anyone is can do this
The verse says, “You who are spiritual.” The spiritual leaders of the church – the Elders are best suited to approach the person.
3. Remember the goal is restoration
The intention is not to “straighten them out” or punish them. The goal is to restore the person to a place of service in the Kingdom.
4. Be gentle
Remember we’re talking about specks in the eye. That’s different than a splinter in the thumb. The eye is delicate and requires a gentle approach.
5. Do it without superiority
The verse says, “Watch yourself” – i.e. those doing the correcting should remember they are capable of the same sin. Be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Remove the plank from your own eye.
TRANSITION: Because God alone does the judging, I am freed up to encourage others in their spiritual journey. My job is not to find fault. My job is to encourage my brothers and sisters to keep pursuing the things of Jesus. And God will sort out what needs to be corrected along the way.
J. Mack Stiles has written a book called, 17 Things My Kids Taught Me About God. His son, David, was born out of a rather traumatic delivery in which his skull was fractured. Because of that David has displayed mild learning disabilities in school. In fact David had to repeat second grade.
After the first day of this second time in second grade Mack and David were sitting on the back porch having an ice cream cone. Mack asked him, “Did you make any new friends?”
David took a bite of his ice cream and rather unenthusiastically said, “Well this one boy on the playground at recess asked me if I wanted to be friends, and I said, ‘Sure!’ But after we talked some he ran over to the other kids and started shouting, “He did fail, he did fail, he did fail!”
Then David said, “He doesn’t really want to be my friend, does he, Daddy?”
Mack was ripped apart on the inside, but had enough composure to reply, “I don’t think so, David.”
When David’s birthday party rolled around in the spring, he invited everyone. Absolutely everyone from the second grade, including those from his special classes. After all, David knew what it felt like to be left out, so he wanted to make sure no one was excluded. Mack had promised to foot the bill at Laser Tag. And the kids poured in – all shapes and sizes, all colors and genders, all abilities and disabilities.
Kristin’s mom said David was the only boy in their class that was nice to her. Carl looked up at Mack and gave him a big hug. Carl has Downs syndrome, and he said this was the first birthday party he’d ever been invited to. Guess who else was there – the kid who judgmentally teased David about repeating second grade. Big hearts keep short accounts.
Think about how God accepts us – He is the Judge – yet after all we’ve done wrong – he shows us mercy. He shows us grace. He invites us to the party in Heaven. That’s the measure we ought to use. Because it’s the measure we want shown to us.