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.
Imagine that you were going to have this new laser surgery on your eyes. Your vision has needed correcting for some time and you have decided you’re tired of contacts and glasses. When you show up for your appointment the doctor gets ready to dilate your eyes. He has that special liquid they put in there that makes so you can’t see anything and are especially sensitive to light. Now imagine that he has the bottle turned around and instead of squirting the liquid in your eye, he squirts it in his eye! After dancing around for a few moments and ordering the nurse to turn off that bright light he uses for surgery, he comes back to you and gets ready to do the surgery! It’s obvious to you that he can barely see anything right in front of him, much less see well enough to make tiny cut in your eye and then beam a laser beam into just the right spot. What would you do? Would you let him do surgery on you? Absolutely not! That’s what Jesus is talking about in his illustration. Before we try to remove a speck of sawdust from our brother’s eye, we must first remove the plank from our own eye. In other words, examine yourself first! Now, it does not mean that we must be perfect before we can help out another brother or sister who is struggling, but simply that before we confront that person, we have realized our own sinfulness. It also removes any superiority complex we might have. I’m not better than you are. I am not reaching down to help you up to my level. In fact, you are only struggling with a speck of sawdust and I have an entire beam. We are to come humbly to our brothers and sisters who are struggling.
But does this mean that we should simply leave our brothers and sisters alone on their walk with God and just worry about ourselves? Read the text and tell me. First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye. No! We still are to point out sin, even in our brothers and sisters, but only after we have examined our own lives. You see, it makes a world of difference if I go to you and inform you that you are living in sin and if you don’t stop you’ll go straight to hell versus coming to you in love and acknowledging that I am not perfect but maybe we can help each other in this area. I must come in love, not in judgment.
I love Jesus’s analogy, too. You know what, if you have a speck of sawdust in your eye, I can’t remove that from a long distance. I certainly won’t help you out by writing you a letter about it or worse yet, by writing you up in some paper of mine. No, if I truly want to help you remove that speck, I will have to spend a little time with you one on one in person. And you must be willing to let me remove it, too. Imagine if I tried to get something out of your eye without your agreement. There’s no way I would even get close to your eye! And then, when the time comes to actually remove it, I need to be very gentle and realize that it would be very easy for me to do a great deal more harm than good to you if I am not careful. I wouldn’t use a hatchet or a gun to get that speck out of your eye. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Do you see what Jesus is saying? He really is telling us how to fix our judgements, not stop them all together.
There is another side to this passage, too. Many have used this as an excuse not to say anything to their brothers and sisters in sin and so have allowed good Christians to be reclaimed by Satan while they sat idly by and watched it happen! Please notice that Jesus calls us all brothers and sisters in this passage. We are family and we take care of one another.
Jesus teaches us not that we should not judge, but that we should judge as God does, never excusing sin but always judging with mercy and grace and love.
There is a razor edge in this passage that I have tried hard to walk. If I emphasize the judging too strongly, you might come away with the idea that we are always to be contending for the faith and attacking our brothers and sisters for their errors. If that happens, I will have completely misrepresented what Jesus is saying here. We need to hear that call to refrain from that condemning, harsh judgement of another person’s eternal condition.
But I also know that I can emphasize the grace and mercy so much that you may never try to restore a brother in sin. Who am I to judge? If I leave you with that impression, I will likewise have misrepresented Jesus.
This morning I want you to know some things. If you are in sin, you are in grave danger. Just like that speck in your eye, in all likelihood you know it’s there. You know what you are doing is wrong. You may not know how to fix it. But let me also say that God loves you and wants more than anything to help you get out of sin. I am not perfect and I don’t claim to be. I struggle with sin, too, and I am not always victorious, but I am not your model. Jesus Christ is. If you want out of sin, He is who you should turn to. I can only introduce you to Him, after that it is up to you. If you would like to begin a relationship with Him, you can come to Him and repent of your sins and be baptized. If you would like to come back to Him, you can come and repent of your sins and be restored to Him. That’s how you get rid of sin. You confess it before other people. John admonishes us to confess our sins one to another. You may need to do that publicly or privately, but you need to do it quickly. Sin is nothing to mess around with.