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Good Judgment vs. Bad Judgment | Matthew 7:1-6

September 11, 2016 Preacher: Ryan Gilbert Series: Sermon on the Mount

Topic: Judging Scripture: Matthew 7:1–6

Excerpt

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Preface

Good morning, Raintree. Thank you, Shoebergs, for updating us on your ministry. I trust that you all will be praying for the Shoebergs, that they would remain so faithful, and also that God would use them as he pleases. At this time children, ages Preschool-2nd grade can be dismissed out the back doors to Children’s Church. Parents, if you have not checked them in yet and received a nametag for them, please go back with them and check them.

 

Introduction

There is this trend that sometimes happens in Christians: It starts with a desire for truth, a desire to please and obey God, which is a major part of what it means to be a Christian. BUT sometimes, we can take a turn toward feeling proud of ourselves for obeying God. In fact, sometimes we can develop this self-righteous attitude, thinking of ourselves as better than others because we obey God and they don’t. And because of this, it’s easy to become overly critical of others, and start perhaps ignoring our own faults!

When we start down this path of becoming overly critical and judgmental of the people around us, what has happened is that we’ve forgotten about God’s grace. We have forgotten that, even if we may be in a different place than someone else (which often isn’t the case, we just think that, but even if it’s true), we’ve forgotten that the only reason we’re in a different place is because of the grace of God, and because of the Holy Spirit’s continued work in our lives.

In today’s text, Jesus is addressing, yet again, the attitude of the Pharisees. They thought they were better than others. They even had crowned themselves a sort of superior morality police. The problem is that they were not seeking the good of the people around them. They weren’t trying to help people understand what it meant to glorify God witht heir lives; They had in mind their superiority, and so they were unmerciful, arrogant, and did not reflect even the tiniest bit of God’s grace. Because of this, Jesus says what he says in Matthew 7:1-6 (pg 4). Let’s read that together.

“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.”

 

So Jesus is in the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, speaking so much against this sort of false Christianity which focused on external things and on merely looking a certain way, and instead he’s promoting true faith, which is first and foremost a faith of the heart. The question we’re asking today is, “What place does judgment have in the life of the Christian?” You might be a bit surprised by the answer. The way I’ve organized this so we can best understand it and remember it is with the Principle that Jesus gives, the Picture of that Principle, and then the Purpose of the Principle. So, the Principle, the Picture and the Purpose. So first:

 

The Principle: There’s only one ultimate Judge (vv. 1-2).

Look at verses 1-2 again: He says “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.” Now the word for judge has different shades of meaning at times in the New Testament, but in this context, it carries with it this connotation of “condemnation.” In fact, if you want to write that down, that might be helpful for understanding what Jesus is saying. Condemn not, that you not be condemned! Jesus is absolutely forbidding acting like WE ourselves can pronounce someone guilty before God.

We are not the ultimate Judge, because there is only ONE ultimate judge. James 4:11-12 says this: Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” Again, that’s James 4:11-12.

By pronouncing condemnation on someone else, even just in our minds (we don’t have to say it, we can just think it), by doing that we actually bring judgment upon ourselves. That’s what he’s getting at in verse 2: “By the same judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the same measure you use you will be measured.” Jesus is saying that this attitude that finds faults with others and then conveniently ignores one’s own faults, what should this kind of person expect?

To be judged according to the same judgment! From other men as well as from God! If we’re going to judge other people, and put ourselves in this position that only God truly has, it makes sense that we’re held to the same harsh and exacting standards, both from men and from the True Judge. Why? Well, because we can’t claim ignorance! We can’t! If we’re condemning others, we’re claiming to know God’s Law well enough to do that! When God judges us, we can’t say, well, I didn’t know that! He’d just respond, “Then why did you place yourself as the Judge?” The point here: there’s only True Judge, and it’s not any of us.

 

So, the next question I want to answer: What does this mean for us?

It means, as Christians, we’re not to be self-righteous or judgmental. That’s what Jesus is speaking to here: A self-righteous, judgmental spirit. We’re not to be like that. Why? Because the very nature of the Gospel is that we are all absolutely depraved on our own. We had no righteousness of our own. Romans 3:10 makes clear, “There is no one righteous; not even one!” When we act self-righteous, we forget that the only righteousness we have is due to Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Let me put it this way, and I think it’s appropriate to speak this strongly: Ultimately, acting self-righteous toward others is like looking at the Cross and saying, “I didn’t need this! I have my own righteousness!”

When we judge people’s motives, “Oh, I know why she’s really doing that,” as if we can really know anyone’s heart, when we judge others because they’re doing something in a way different from the way we think it should be done, what are we doing, ultimately? We’re playing God. That’s all there is to it. As Christians, we’re not to think of ourselves as better or higher than anyone else. Why? Because we’re not. Even if we do look different, and even if we are farther down this path toward Godliness, it is only by God’s grace. We can’t claim credit for that, and then look down on others because they’re just not as good as us.

The Pharisees had gone to the extreme. They had created their own standard of morality, their own version of God’s Word. Not only were they looking down on those around them who weren’t as holy as them, or quote-unquote “holy”, but they weren’t even judging based on God’s standard! They had made up their own version of what it meant to be following God, and were judging people based on that standard! If you think about it, most people who are self-righteous and quick to criticize others—most of the time, they don’t even use God’s standard to judge! They have made up their own.

I have to be honest with you and say, I don’t think most of us even realize how often WE do this. We evaluate people according to our standard as opposed to God’s. I just want to list some ways that we do this, some things that we maybe add to God’s law, just to give us some specific things to think about, though this list could be endless.

  • Tattoos and earrings. We judge, instead of study. The only prohibition against tattoos and earrings in the Bible was in Old Testament Levitical Law, specifically for the Israelites. It’s not part of God’s moral law in the OT which is still to be followed today.
  • Inter-racial relationships. I wish this was an issue of the past, but it’s not. Again, some judge, instead of study. The only prohibition against interracial relationships in the Bible was not about race, but about faith! God didn’t want the Israelites mixing with people of different faiths. Usually, different races of people followed different gods. It was about faith, not race.
  • We judge people who are asking for help! We try and judge their motives.
  • Drinking: we think we have THE answer on whether or not Christians should drink, even though the only clear thing in the Bible is against drunkenness.
  • Politics! Oh, how we silently judge each other. “You’re voting for TRUMP? How ungodly.” Or, “You’re not voting for TRUMP. How ungodly.”
  • Even just trivial things, like whether or not someone dresses up for church. Or just clothing in general, whether or not someone wears in-style clothing.
  • Where people shop!
  • Parenting: She doesn’t mother exactly how I mother. This is a HUGE one.
  • The version of Bible someone reads: He reads the NIV, the nearly…

The list is endless, how we look down on people. Now there’s nothing wrong with conviction. I’m not saying don’t have an opinion. In fact, quite the opposite! As believers, we ARE people of conviction. And we should study some of these things and discern for ourselves what seems best according to the Word. I’m not saying we aren’t to try to discern what is best—I’m saying we cannot treat our personal convictions as God’s convictions! We cannot set our own standard for right and wrong, and pretend that it’s God’s standard! We must not do this. Because when we do, we’re acting like the Pharisees. God is the ultimate Judge. No one else.

Now before we get to the picture that Jesus gives for us and then the purpose, I want to spend a little bit of time on what these verses, particularly verse 1, do NOT mean. And I know we’re spending most of our time just on this first part, the principle. But it really summarizes the whole passage, and I think it’s so important with where we’re at in 21st century American culture.

 

What this does NOT mean.

Some say that Matthew 7:1 has become the new most-quoted verse in the Bible. Historically, John 3:16 has been probably the most-quoted verse in the Bible. But now, it kind-of makes sense Matthew 7:1 has taken over!

The problem here is that it also is likely the most misused verse in the entire Bible. Most commonly this verse is used to oppose any moral judgments at all: “Don’t judge me; the Bible says not to judge!” But here’s something you may not know: The Bible also tells us to judge! That may sound a bit curious to us, but it does. Even Jesus himself, John 7:24: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” So how does that work? Matthew 7: don’t judge. John 7: judge, but with right judgment?

I mentioned earlier that the word “judge” has a few different shades of meaning in the Bible, and the context makes clear what shade is being used. Jesus here is speaking, specifically, about the overly critical and condemnatory attitude of the Pharisees. You see, the problem was not that they were criticizing sin, no no no. They were criticizing people for not meeting their standards! They were criticizing motives and even personalities. They criticized people that didn’t look the way THEY thought they should look! That’s the problem here that Jesus is addressing, and that’s what he means by judge- to condemn, as if we’re God.

But he’s not forbidding every kind of judging. In fact, if you think about it, part of being a human being is making judgment calls. We judge which parenting strategy we think is best; we judge which company to use for our cell phones; and yes, we even make judgment calls about people, which is to be expected. If you’re an employer, you judge whether or not this person is the best person for the job. For a parent, you judge whether or not to trust another parent enough to let your child spend the night. We are constantly making judgments, and yes, even about people. We discern, we evaluate, we measure. That’s what Jesus means when he tells us to judge with right judgment.

When we hear these words in Matthew 7, “Don’t judge, lest you be judged”, he doesn’t mean we aren’t ever to evaluate and even confront people. In fact, in verses 3-5 of this very passage, it tells us to make sure and remove the log in our own eye. That’s important, we aren’t to ignore our own faults. Very important. But then what does it say? “Then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!”

Jesus is not banning that we ever hold each other accountable or even correct even other when needed; He’s saying that we are not to correct arrogantly, and especially not according to our own standards, but God’s. In fact, it’s clear in the Bible that we’re called to lovingly confront each other in order to help each other follow Christ. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” You can keep reading there in Matthew 18 and see the other steps that Jesus Himself lays out for even church discipline. But the main point is that we must help each other follow Christ, including by helping each other see sin that we may not see in ourselves! Sin is deceitful! We need each other’s help.

When Paul heard that the Corinthians were allowing sin to just run rampant in their church, he wrote to them and said this: “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? But is it not those inside the church that we are to judge?” That’s 1 Corinthians 5. That doesn’t mean we confront for every little tiny thing, and constantly just correct everyone, but it does mean that demonstrative, visible sin cannot go unchecked by believers.

Think about it: Jesus is constantly judging people, in this sense. The Sermon on the Mount is full of Jesus making moral judgments upon the Pharisees and their false religion! In the same way, there is a sense in which we are to judge each other, and I know how odd that sounds. But it’s an important point to make. Nowhere in the Bible are we told not to evaluate and even criticize, though lovingly, the actions of another person. BUT, we are told to do it as people who’ve been humbled by the Gospel, and who’ve completely given up on any kind of self-righteousness. We go to each other with concerns not because we want to feel better about ourselves or puff ourselves up, but because we need accountability from each other to truly be able to represent Jesus in the world, to give the world an accurate picture of who Jesus is.

In our world, saying anything against almost anything is considered judgmental and condemning. But when it’s God’s Word that we’re communicating, if you think about it, we’re not the ones ultimately judging. Instead, we’re the ones spreading the news of God’s judgment upon sin, and the subsequent grace and redemption to be found in Christ. The question, “Who are you to judge?” is very appropriate. Because I am no one. God is the only judge, but we can know His judgment against sin from His Word, and we need not be ashamed of that. Instead, we should lovingly, yet boldly proclaim it.

Jesus, and maybe primarily because of this verse, is often painted as someone who loved and never criticized or judged, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Jesus’s life and ministry was full of moral judgments and often blunt truth, and yes, it was also full of love and grace and mercy, particularly for those who humbled themselves before God. That’s the key here. 2 questions for us, in figuring out whether or not we’re being self-rightous: First, have we examined ourselves first, to make sure there’s nothing clouding our judgment (removed the log)? Secondly, why is it that we are confronting? What’s our goal? Is it because you genuinely desire to help your brother or sister? If so, praise God. Continue. If it’s for any other reason that for their good and for God’s glory, then stop it.

This may not fit a bumper sticker very well, or be something that goes up on your mirror to encourage you, but in a very real sense, the attitude that we should have among the Body of Christ is an attitude that says to one another, “Please judge me.” I know that sounds weird, but bear with me: “Please help me see sin that I don’t see. Please help me to live within the joyful endeavor of glorifying God with my life. Please examine my life, judge me! No, not in an arrogant way; no, not thinking that you’re better than me, and no, not in a condemning sort-of attitude. But, in love, for my good and for God’s glory, please help me by being honest with me about my sin.” That’s the kind of attitude we’re to have toward one another.

I know that sounds crazy. This does not seem to fit even within mainstream Christianity, but MAN, does it fit Jesus and His Word, that we put our egos aside, and not only be willing to accept correction, but even seek it out! I mean, I gotta share this: The biggest turning points in my life were due to individuals who were willing to lovingly call me out. A friend in high school, my college minister in particular, and even my wife. Some of the biggest times that God molded my heart into the likeness of His Son were when people were willing to say something to me that I did not want to hear! Judge not does not prohibit accountability or confrontation. It prohibits an attitude of self-righteousness and condemnation, as if we’re the ultimate Judge. That is the principle that explains this entire text. There is only one ultimate Judge. Now, briefly, the picture and the purpose:

 

The Picture: Don’t miss the LOG! (vv. 3-5).

We talked some about this already, but look at verses 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.” A “speck” is like a tiny splinter of wood and a “log” is literally like a raftor, HUGE thing! Jesus seems to be drawing from his background as a carpenter, and even for those of us in here that are NOT handy, like myself, we can understood this pretty clearly.

Before we go to a brother to show him his fault, we must examine ourselves! A sin as serious as a log in the eye (which obviously is hyberbole, it’s exaggeration), but a sin as serious as that clouds the judgment! How can you see ANYTHING, especially someone else’s sin, if there’s this massive lingering sin in your own life that’s just sitting there? You can’t! So Jesus tells us to remove that sin, repent and give that over to God, and then we’ll be able to see well enough to help our brother.

It’s worth noting, again, that this doesn’t mean we never go to our brother. Another seemingly common thing that we use as an excuse is the statement, “Well, we’re all sinners.” We use that as an excuse to never confront. Jesus is NOT saying here that, “Well, we all got logs, so we need to just focus on ourselves and not worry about anyone else.” That’s an easy thing to do as a Christian. Never confront a brother, just pray that God would show them their sin and hope for the best. Here’s the problem: that’s not humility. That’s not mercy! That’s disobedience. Matthew 18:15 among others is pretty clear. We often think that confrontation is not loving, but exactly the opposite is true. It is because we love our brothers and sisters that we confront.

Ignoring demonstrative, obvious sin is not being merciful. It’s being selfish, because the reason we’re not confronting them is probably because we want them to like us more than we desire them to grow in their faith. Jesus loved us enough to confront! And we see throughout the Bible that we’re to love each other enough to confront! Do not think that ignoring sin is mercy. It is not. The WAY that you deal with it can be merciful, but ignoring it is not mercy. Dealing openly and lovingly with sin is one of the most loving things we can do.

We can lovingly help each other and stay humble by remembering that we are saved by the blood of Christ and nothing else. I’m no better than any of you, and no one in this room is better than anyone else. Don’t forget the log that is in your own eye. Examine yourself consistently, and then, yes, when the time comes, you will see clearly enough to be able to help your brother with his speck. That’s the picture that Jesus gave, and it’s such a good one. I hope you will really think through this and maybe memorize a few of these verses. But now, briefly, the purpose.

Why find this biblical balance between bad judgment, which is in arrogance and just cutting others down, and good judgment, which really is for the good of the people around us? The purpose: why find this balance:

 

The Purpose: Don’t waste the pearls (vs. 6).

Verse 6: “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.” “What is holy” here refers probably to consecrated food, which was food only for priests and their families to eat. To give consecrated foods to dogs was ludicrous. Dogs were unclean animals. They were not like they are nowadays, our pets, and the best animals on earth. Back then, they were unclean, they were scavengers.

He says don’t give dogs what is holy, and don’t “throw your pearls before pigs.” Yet again, it doesn’t make any sense to give something as valuable as pearls to swine, which was yet ANOTHER unclean animal. The point here is that valuable and holy things must be given only to those who actually might see them as valuable and holy. Jesus giving us the balance between judgment and discernment in this verse. No, we’re not to be condemnatory and hypocritical, yet we are to discern the dogs and the pigs! So that we don’t throw our pearls before them!

He’s using this picture of dogs and pigs for those that would not only reject, but mock the gospel when they hear it, or even mock confrontation when they receive it. What he’s saying here is that there is a time when we must move on from sharing the Gospel to the same person. Repeatedly sharing the truth of the Gospel, hoping that someone will respond, but only getting mocked in return, or constantly rejected, that’s like casting pearls before swine. One of the biggest purposes of this discernment we’re to have, this good judgment that’s not hypocritical or arrogant, is to not waste our pearls. We use discernment, which God gives to all Christians at least to some degree, to determine how best to use our time and energy sharing the Gospel and even confronting sin.

We don’t give up sharing the Gospel at all, just because our culture becomes hostile; that’s not what he’s saying. But when someone repeatedly rejects the gospel, we move on to more fertile ground. What Jesus is getting at here is similar to what he says in Matthew 10:14, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” We share the gospel anywhere and everywhere, but then when it becomes clear that the gospel is not welcome, we move on!

This is a very important thing to have in mind when we are trying to reach the people around us. We can’t force people to believe. I know sometimes we wish we could, especially friends and family members who may not know Jesus, or may know Him but aren’t walking with Him. We may wish we could just grab them and force them to follow Jesus, because it’s just better, but we can’t. Our job is to love and share the truth with people; it’s God’s job to draw people to Himself. There are likely others in your life who will welcome hearing the Gospel, or even if they won’t quite welcome it, they’re ready to hear it.

Our desire should be to find people who will see the value of this great pearl of the Gospel, or the great pearl of confrontation. I know that’s an odd way to describe, but it too is a great pearl. That’s one of the most important purposes of good judgment and discernment that recognizes that there is only one ultimate Judge.

 

Conclusion

Promise number 8 in our Church Covenant, which those that covenant with this local body agree to, it says this: “We will keep each other accountable by watching over each other, and lovingly admonishing each other when needed.” I hope you don’t see that as something that’s creepy (“watching over and admonishing”, you know), but as something that’s incredible valuable.

We are to confront each other in the church, in a very real sense, we’re to make judgments, and discern, and address sin in the church. BUT that does not make any of us God’s special policemen. We’re not to walk around constantly noticing everyone else’s faults. Instead, we’re to have a profound humility that is constantly examining our own hearts! Our attitudes, even in helping each other see things we don’t always see, are to be constantly shaped by the truth that there is one ultimate Judge, and our own personal standards are pointless next to His. Yes, let’s help each other, yes, at times, let’s confront each other. But let’s always do it not as people desiring to cut others down and lift ourselves up, but instead as those who desire to see the reputation of Jesus upheld and showcased in the Church.