Text:Matthew 7:1-5 — “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 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? 4 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? 5 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.
Introduction:Before we start, I first want to apologize for my voice. I’ve had a cold and been coughing incessantly all week. As a matter of fact, I went to the doctor to see if he could help me. He said, “You’re coughing very badly.” I said, “That’s disappointing. I’ve been practicing all week.” So, he wrote me a prescription which was nothing more than a bunch of scribble on a piece of paper. I took it to the drug store. Of course, they couldn’t read it and gave it back to me. Don’t worry, because it still worked out for my benefit.While I couldn’t get my medicine, twice I was able to use it to get on the train and once into the movies. I left it on my bed, and my son picked it up, played it on his guitar and won a record contract. I guess prescriptions really do help after all. If none of you are laughing right now, I’m glad I’m not there to see it.
I would like to give a special welcome to the Moody Chorale and family and friends who are here this morning in support of them. We’re humbled and blessed that you would start your spring tour by blessing our church family. Thank you for helping lead us in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A couple of weeks ago, I began a new preaching series called “Hot Topics.” The idea is to provide some biblical input regarding key moral issues that Christians are being confronted with in our post-modern world. For centuries many of these were not even open for public debate. Because of our Judeo-Christian heritage, there were clear lines that separated right from wrong and most people knew and lived by them. However, as moral boundaries have shifted here in America and around the world, believers in Christ are now being accused of the worst sin of all … intolerance. This we commit when we dare to say that certain behaviors embraced by popular culture are immoral. So, I thought I’d try to address a number of these topics over the next three months and share what the Bible has to say either directly or by inference to each one. My hope is to provide you with a biblical framework to engage in discussion around these topics in a loving and non-defensive way. I don’t know about your experience, but I have found that while people may not care what I have to say about these matters, many still care what God has to say about them in His Word.
Before we actually get down to tackling some of these topics, today I want to address what I believe is the most misquoted verse in the Bible. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” These are the words of our Lord delivered in the sermon on the mount and next to John 3:16are probably quoted more than any other verse in the Bible. Now here’s why I want to talk about it with you. When believers share what Scripture teaches on subjects such as gender identity, marriage, abortion and other hot topics, people often accuse us of doing something that Christ prohibits … and that would be… judging others. And they would be right if indeed that is what the Lord was addressing in these verses, but He’s not. Over the next several minutes I want to unpack this passage with you so that we can gain some understanding about the sin that Christ is actually addressing here in the beginning of Matthew 7. Then we’ll close with how to set the table to have a meaningful discussion involving these hotly contested issues.
Context:In Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus has been addressing the love of money and the damaging effects it can have on those who worry about it. Now in Matthew 7:1-5He wants to make sure that those who do not struggle with these matters do not look down their noses at those who do. So first He issues a warning, then gives a reason for the warning and finishes with some instruction that we would do well to heed.
Jesus’warning (Matthew 7:1 – Judge not, that you be not judged). Let’s start with this:Whatever these words are saying, they can’t be telling us never to pass judgment in any sense at any time. Just a little further down in this chapter Jesus Himself called certain people pigs, dogs and ravenous wolves(Matthew 7:6, 15). Later in Matthew 23, He called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs.” I don’t think there’s a way to construe these as anything but harsh and judgmental words. And in case you’re thinking that only Jesus had the right to speak this way, the Apostle Paul judged a man who was having a sexual affair with his father’s wife in 1 Corinthians 5 and told the church not even to eat with such a man. Obviously, there are times when believers have to judge the moral behavior of others. But the word“judge” as it’s used here in Matthew 7:1is not about demonstrating discernment with regard to what’s right and wrong, but adopting a critical, condemning attitude toward others. This kind of judgment flows out of someone’s own sense of self-righteousness and Jesus says there is no place for it in the Kingdom of Heaven. Notice that His warning is clear to those who are filled with this kind of pride: if we judge others in this way, we can expect to be judged similarly. This brings us to verse two and Jesus’ reason for His warning about harboring a critical spirit.
Jesus’reason (Matthew 7:2 – For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you). There are two ways to look at this. The firstis that Jesus is saying the measure we use to judge others will be the measure they use to judge us.The idea being that the critical person is inviting a lot of criticism upon himself from others. The second, however, is that the measure we use on others will be the measure that God uses on us! This interpretation makes the most sense here. Jesus is not warning us to be kind in judging others or they won’t be kind in judging us. There is much more at stake here than that. Our Lord is admonishing us to put to death this kind of self-righteous judgment of others lest we someday stand utterly condemned before God and face eternal death! In the same sermon, Jesus said something very similar, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall see mercy.” He wasn’t teaching that people who show mercy to others earn the mercy of God for themselves. Mercy, by definition, cannot be earned. Jesus was saying that people who have already received the mercy of God are transformed from being prideful and self-righteous to being, in His words, poor in spirit. As I’ve already said, this does not mean that Christ’s followers can never speak a word against sin. While these verses attack critical attitudes, they do not deny the presence of real sin in our world. And Christians have a moral obligation to speak to it. This leads us to verses three through five and how our Lord directs us to confront immorality in others.
Jesus’instruction (Matthew 7:3-5 – 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). It’s always easier to see the minor fault in someone else, than the major fault in ourselves. I guess it turns out that love is not the only thing that’s blind. So is pride.Certainly, this was true of King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-7. After he had an affair with Bathsheba, discovered she was pregnant with his child and orchestrated her husband’s death to coverup his sin, he was confronted by the prophet Nathan who told the king a story. It was about a poor man who had only one lamb he loved with all his heart. But when the friend of a rich neighbor came to visit, rather than take one of his own sheep and harvest it, he took the lamb that belonged to the poor man. The Bible says that when David heard the story he was enraged and said, “As surely as I live, that man deserves to die!” And that’s when Nathan dropped the hammer and said, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ Somehow King David had become incredibly blind to the log in his own eye, while still managing to judge the speck in another’s man eye out of his own sense of self-righteousness. We, Christians, do this when we focus on other more public sins and denouncing them with real gusto, while ignoring our own faults. That’s why Jesus says here that before we’re ready to address sin in others, we must first use every viable resource to address it in ourselves. I’m talking about earnest prayer, the counsel of others and the convicting Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, are we ready to help another person consider the rightness of their own actions.
This brings me back to the premise of our preaching series called “Hot Topics.” As we look at what the Scripture say about these issues, we’re going to be tempted to let our pride get the best of us and in the process injure the people we’re actually trying to help by sharing the Word. This can be avoided, however, if we’re just willing to remember a few things:
- Weare not the final authority on right and wrong. God is. That’s why we have to study His Word and let it speak to the moral issues of our day. We don’t possess the kind of authority that the Bible does, and to pretend otherwise, is absolutely sinful.
- Weare not to judge the motives of others, only what they do. There are two passages inLuke (9:50 and 11:23) that help us to see this. In the first, the disciples complain to Jesus that someone was casting out demons by the power and authority of His name. What did Jesus have to say about it?“Don’t stop him. Whoever isn’t against you is for you.” The second occurred as Jesus addressed some people who believed He was casting out demons by the ruler of demons. To them He said,“He who is not with me is against me.” Notice the difference. To those who would judge others, Jesus taught that we should assume the best. If they’re not against Him, then they’re for Him. But when if came to judging oneself, our Lord taught that if we were not for Him, we were against Him.Why take this approach? Because we cannot judge the motives of others, but we can most certainly judge our own.
- Weare not to be faultfinders who thrive on the sins of others. David, for all his faults, got it right inPsalm 139:23-24. He prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Better to ask God to point out our shortcomings than to make it our ambition to search out everyone else’s.
- Weare to show gentleness, humility, patience, and discretion when judging others. These are the characteristics of love and there is no better environment in which to speak truth than that.
Conclusion: One of my favorite descriptions of Christians is “redeemed screw-ups trying to screw up a little less.” Yes, we’ve been forgiven by God because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. And yes, we have the Holy Spirit who gives us new life. But if we’re honest with ourselves, though we’re new creatures, we still sin way too much and repent way too little. But when we turn from our sin back to the Lord, well, that’s when we get a little better. It helps me to think about believers this way because it keeps me from becoming prideful and self-righteous…the very thing Jesus warns against in Matthew 7. And it also fills me with a little more compassion for those who struggle with their own moral failures, whether they’re redeemed or not. When I remember that the only difference between us is that one of us has received God’s grace and mercy, and one of us has not, it takes away many of the harsh criticisms I might otherwise have for the “sinners” of the world.. I believe this would help all of us if we could just remember that Christians are merely redeemed screw-ups trying to screw up a little less.