This post is part of the Living the Sermon on the Mount series.
[Play Sermon Intro Video, Show Title Slide]
Because we live in a broken world, we have developed the instinct to judge. To assess. There is a reasonableness to this. Jesus told His followers that they were going out as lambs among wolves so they ought to be as wise as serpents. But what cannot be true is the ability for a human being to assess the worth, intentions, pain, or promise of another’s soul.
This is a picture of me around fourteen years old. I felt lost. I was lost. Smoking pot, drinking, chasing girls. Eventually I developed a habit of self-harm in various forms. What would you see as you walked by? I remember overhearing a parent tell their son not to hang out with that Scramlin kid. I remember having to turn my shirts inside out because they were inappropriate for school. I’m thankful my football coach saw beyond my faults and saw my soul—which Christ was willing to wash, which the Holy Spirit was willing to guide, the Father willing to adopt, and the Church willing to shape in the years to come.
How good is your eyesight? Can you see and hope for the human soul the way God does?
Today we continue our series Living the Sermon on the Mount by discussing Careful Considerations. If you have your Bible or digital equivalent with you please turn to Matthew chapter seven. Again that’s Matthew 7 and if you are using a Sanctuary Bible we are on page 812. While you’re turning there, we are moving toward the end of Jesus’ famous Sermon. He has already spelled out what His Kingdom of God ought to look like here on Earth in Chapter 5. In Chapter 6 Jesus has begun giving us tips on maintaining this righteous life as it relates to giving, prayer, fasting, anxiety, and money. These tips continue into the most important area of a Believer’s life, that of relationships here in Chapter seven. Let’s read beginning at verse one.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
For some this passage seems like a no-brainer: “Don’t judge. I hear that all the time.” For others this passage is quite frustrating: “What do you mean don’t judge? Obviously you must live in Candy Land where everyone is made of sugar.” Well, like usual Jesus cuts right through our elementary categories and breaths life and wisdom from Heaven.
Let’s start with the general idea of Jesus’ command.
First, what this command does not say is to withhold all judging and assessment. How do we know that? Three ways. One, careful discrimination is viewed as essential in the personal life of the Christian throughout Scripture. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 11:31 Paul says …if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. He is calling for self-examination, of right judgement. Of course this has to do with the individual, and not others. To that point let’s look at the second way we know we are not to withhold all judging and assessment: Jesus shares show how to judge rightly. In verse five He says clearly the end result of removing the log from your own eye “…then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Why would Jesus share the process of judging well if we aren’t supposed to judge at all? And lastly we know we are not to withhold all judgement and assessment because the New Testament shows Christians have the right and responsibility to help others deal with their shortcomings. Paul again makes a great point in 1 Corinthians, this time earlier in this letter: For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? And also to his letter to the Galatians he writes, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
This Scripture is so often misquoted by the world. They say “Hey, you’ve got no right to judge me.” And if they are not a Believer they would be correct. But to say Jesus taught we are never to judge another is wrong.
What the command DOES say is to consider others carefully. What does carefully mean? I think it means two things. First, we must consider others with humility. Jesus’ harshest condemnations in all of the Bible come to the self-righteous. Those who think they are in no need of a Savior, those who think they hard it together and treated others as beneath them. Luke 18:9-14 records, “[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt…” What was the parable He told them? The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector—where the Pharisee walked right up to the Temple and stuck out his chest, thankful he wasn’t a sinner. But the Tax Collector fell to his knees far off and wept in repentance. It was the latter who was in the right. This is how we are to judge. Not as self-righteous, but in the knowledge of our unworthiness.
Secondly I believe we are to consider with certitude. In John 7:24 Jesus said “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Just because someone is different than you doesn’t make them wrong. Now, in just a few verses (v16) Jesus teaches we can judge a tree by its fruit, but we had better be very sure of a person’s heart before making a judgment.
There is great logic to Jesus’ command. Five distinct reasons Jesus gives for making careful considerations.
The first is in plain sight of verse one. We will be judged. The tense of the verb judged signified a once-for-all final judgement (Wiersbe). That means we judge others in light of our final judgement before the Throne of God.
Second, apparently, we set our own measure of judgement. This parallels Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:37-38 which says Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. In other words, we reap what we sow.
Let’s take a look at this for a second. Could I have my volunteers come up here for a moment?
[Wheel the rack out]
I’m me in this scenario. Try to use your imagination. This is my friend. Again try to use your imagination. I have here my soul lens. I am looking at this person through the lens of their appearance and the lens of their faults. I’m not looking to the value or promise of their soul.
Now that wouldn’t be so bad, except we get to the third reason Jesus wants us to make careful considerations: We aren’t without faults. See in verses three and four Jesus calls it like it is, I’m not without guilt.
[Wheel the other rack out]
So now it’s getting pretty scary seeing God look at me through that lens. But Jesus says we have control over that. By remembering we have been forgiven much… [begin wiping away sins] …and yet are capable of a hopeful future, so we must remember the same for others.
This brings up the fourth reason, or logic behind Jesus’ call for careful considerations: We cannot help others if we have a condemning spirit—a distorted lens. Notice how clear my vision is now. Having successfully removed the log from my eye, the Greek word literally means house rafter, I am able to see this person’s soul-worth again. As Bible Scholar W.W. Wiersbe says, When we do not judge ourselves, we not only hurt ourselves, but we also hurt those to whom we could minister. Oh that we would go through Soul Surgery as Loren Cunningham calls it, a real inventory of ourselves, letting God work on us so we might effectively work on each other.
And this would all be enough if Jesus left it here, but He was wise enough to share one more reason, or logic behind careful considerations. That of, not helping others who aren’t ready. Recently my wife was at a bookstore looking at Bibles. One of the saleswomen approached her offering help, letting her know that she specifically knew “a lot about Bibles” because she “really loves Bibles” Politely Jess said she was just browsing. A few minutes later the woman approached again insisting on offering advice on the various translations, study helps, and gift options. “If you’d like to get your Bible engraved, we’d better get started right away.” Smiling, my wife thanked her again and left. If someone’s heart isn’t desiring of what you have to say, even if it is good information, you might want to reconsider. Nobody wants an answer to an unasked question. Worse, if people are in pain over their sin or issues, they will lash out like when you attempt to help an injured animal.
We actually see in in Luke 23 Jesus refusing to speak with King Herod. It isn’t that Jesus didn’t love King Herod enough to die on the cross for him, but that He knew in that moment it was futile for either of them. The book of Acts also records Paul and Barnabas refusing to argue with people who resisted the Word (Acts 13:44-49).
You see, some people are quarrelsome: Proverbs 26:21 says As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. Some people are just asking for trouble. Swine in Ancient Near-Eastern Palestine were half-tamed at best. Seed-pearls resemble pease or maize which swine fed on and they wouldn’t know what to do with the precious item. They would feel offended and turn on the one who gave the pearls.
For others, it isn’t a quarrelsome spirit, but an immature one. Dogs of Jesus’ day were not domesticated whatsoever and often fed on trash and dead animals. The picture Jesus gives alludes to a priest taking the burnt sacrifice meant for God and giving it to the dog. The animal would have no way to appreciate or comprehend that which it had been given. It doesn’t have the capacity. Some people are spiritually immature. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul sees some people were not ready for “solid food” and also the writer of Hebrews explains that his recipients need again the basic principles of God before they move on to deeper things.
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus was the Archbishop of Constantinople in the 300s AD. He is one of my favorite saints and in his First Theological Oration he talks about the dangers of throwing around holy things. He writes that it is actually unsafe for those who are immature in their faith to be confronted with matters too deep for them, “…just as it is unsafe to fix weak eyes upon the sun’s rays” he says. And how can you tell if someone is immature of spirit? St. Gregory says it is “…they who make [issues of the soul] a matter of pleasant gossip, like any other thing, after the races, or the theatre, or a concert, or a dinner… To such men as these, idle jests… about these subjects are a part of their amusement. So be careful around people who you know make light of faith, sin, God, Church, and the Scriptures. You may need to help them obtain the first principles of God and offer them spiritual milk until you can hope to help remove any grievous sin from their eye.
Let’s sum all of this up. The way we move forward is this: One, assess others with the rightspirit, which comes from the right perspective (Matthew 7:1-6). And second, be as careful as a surgeon, which comes from spiritual maturity (Galatians 6:1). Think of eye surgery. You can do great damage if you are impatient or insensitive.
Band, you can come up at this time. This morning we are going to respond to God’s Word by singing the song “I Need You” It’s appropriate we sing this song as it is a prayer of confession for our sin and the abundance of His grace. As we sing, would you consider carefully yourself—the sin of your past or present, consider carefully God—the grace He has shown you, and consider carefully others—how you might help them. Let’s stand and sing together.
Amen. We are all so in need of His grace and the grace of each other. I’d like to remind you that each week we have a take-home assignment for you to complete to help you apply this week’s message. This one should be fun, I wrote it myself. Also, as you go, please drop your Connection Cards off in the baskets at the door. If you have a prayer need, please see the Prayer Team at the front of the Sanctuary.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV)