In fact, when you pull one verse out of the Bible and read it apart from its context, it is very easy to misinterpret that passage...even making it say the exact opposite of what it was meant to say. The passage we are going to look at in a minute is a prime example of this.
Last week, God came and spoke with many of us about our issues with worry. And I think He met many of us in a way that we really needed in order to find healing for that issue. Today we look at another issue that is very applicable to our lives and to us as a church...the issue of judging.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“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, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Don’t judge me.
In a survey about Bible knowledge, people who couldn’t quote John 3:16 could quote Matthew 7:1...especially in the very popular KJV, “Judge not, lest ye be judged!”
Many have ripped this verse out of context...
“Who do you think you are to judge me? You have no right to judge me! I can do what I want. The Bible says, ‘Judge not, or you will be judged!’”
That’s a pretty popular sentiment in our day; isn’t it? People think and say this even when we are simply stating our position and offering no form of judgment whatsoever. And they rip this verse completely out of context to emphasize that you shouldn’t be making them feel bad for what they are doing!
So is this what Jesus has in mind when He said this? That we don’t make judgments about the rightness or wrongness of certain actions? That we don’t judge at all?
Taken out of context then, yes, this is what it would mean, but we won’t do that. Besides, a simple look down the page reveals that Jesus is not asking us to stop making judgments...
Matthew 7:6 says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Determining the dogs and pigs and what to put in front of them requires that we judge a person’s actions properly. Jesus is warning us about putting what we teach regarding our faith in front of certain people who will never appreciate it. There are things of the faith that we cannot talk to certain other people about because they immediately become defensive or angry or abusive. They take the pearls of God’s Kingdom and trample them under their feet...that takes judgment on our part.
Matthew 7:15-16 says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
Again...more judgment about a person and their actions. Deciding who is a false prophet or teacher requires us to compare the person’s words and actions with what the Bible says.
Again in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
More judgment concerning a person and their actions. Not everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus...not everyone who has “said the prayer” is really a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus isn’t talking about checking our brain at the door...allowing everyone to do whatever they want without making decisions about what is right and what is wrong and what behavior will be allowed for those who claim to follow Jesus.
So what does Jesus mean when He says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”? Jesus is not asking to stop making judgments about right and wrong, but rather He is challenging the spirit with which we judge others.
There are two primary ways we judge that are unacceptable for those who wish to be part of the Kingdom Jesus is building.
Jesus is challenging double standard judgments.
When we look at the very next verse, Matthew 7:2, Jesus 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.”
The same way you judge others...I will judge you. The same measuring rod you make other people stand up against...I will make you stand up against.
Jesus’ listeners would have immediately thought of the religious leaders of the day. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law sinned they gave themselves more understanding and more grace than they were willing to give to others who sinned.
Have you ever noticed that we want a lot more leniency, understanding, and forbearance than we are willing to give others? We want leniency. We want people to really understand what we meant to say and do. We want people to bear with us when we are struggling. But our tempers and judgments are a lot shorter when it comes to others.
Imagine you are going through the line to get on your favorite roller coaster, and the attendant pulls out that pole he uses to measure someone. He stands a really short pole next to the guy in front of you and says, “Great you are tall enough. Go on in!” But when you step up, he reaches behind his table and pulls out a pole that is 3 feet taller than the other pole, and says, “I’m sorry. You’re not tall enough.” He is using a double standard.
We do this so often in our lives...the person who sends us the email that we read as scathing and angry...and then find out they aren’t very good at putting their feelings on paper and meant something totally different by it. We don’t give them the same benefit of the doubt as we want given to us. The people of that group or political party that we automatically believe the worst in, but get angry when they don’t try to really understand what we are saying...when we want them to really hear what we are saying.
Jesus makes no room for a double standard when it comes to living in the Kingdom He is establishing. Those who will be part of this Kingdom will be impartial in their judgments. The standards will be fair and equal.
Those who want to be part of this Kingdom will treat the Jew and the Gentile with the same amount of respect and concern. The citizens of this Kingdom will treat the poor and the rich with the same amount of dignity and honor. They will forgive. They will give grace. They will love. All without distinction to any thing that could make that person less in their eyes.
If we want to be part of this Kingdom we are challenged to stop making judgments based on a double standard that makes it easier for us to be good and right and welcome and loved and forgiven than it is for others. We need to use the same measuring stick for others that we would like to have used on us.
Jesus is challenging a self-righteous judgments.
Jesus says, “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?”
In typical middle eastern overstatement Jesus is pointing out that when we judge others we often do so from a position of perceived superiority. What I mean by that is...we think we are better than they are so we judge them.
Can you picture what Jesus is saying. Here is a guy who has a log sticking out of his eye attempting to get a splinter out of someone else’s eye. The mental image is hilarious.
This type of judgment comes from a belief that I am better than they are because...I do this or I don’t do that.
In Jesus’ day, Jews perceived themselves as better than just about everyone else because God had chosen them and given His Law to them...so, of course, in their minds that made them better. Sometimes we as Christians carry that same idea over to our lives. We feel a sense of superiority because we are saved.
Or think about most of the -isms of our day. They are based in feelings of superiority. Sexism...feeling that one sex is better than another. Racism...feeling that one race is better than another. Elitism...feeling that education or income makes one better than others.
Name calling and derogatory terms are another example. We use words and name calling for people to demean them and because we feel we better and not part of that group. We use name calling because we feel we, in our more enlightened understanding of the situation, are better than they are.
But even beyond that....we judge those people who act like white trash or those people who are making the stupid decision...or those people who are doing what ever it is that we would not do because we are so much smarter or classier or wealthier...and we mistakenly think we are better than they are.
Most of the judgments we make about others come from this belief, and Jesus reminds us that in the things that really matter...we are no better than anyone else. When it comes to who really matters...we are all equal in God’s eyes.
We are all tainted by sinfulness.
We are all guilty and need His forgiveness.
We all need of grace.
We are all loved by the Father.
Those who want to be part of this Kingdom will not make judgements from a position of superiority. This requires a true humility. One that is fully aware of failings, sinfulness, and dependence on God...just like everyone else, but without a low self-esteem.
If we want to be part of this Kingdom we are challenged to stop making judgments based on a feelings of superiority. As the old saying goes, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Even being a Christian doesn’t make us better than anyone else. It means we are forgiven...but we are forgiven because we, like the rest of humanity, are plagued with a sinful rebellion which we can do nothing about apart from God’s intervention.
These challenges remind us of something very important: We are not God and we don’t know all the facts.
And because of this our judgments should never be considered the final word.
The problem with judging others is that it is so easy to be wrong...to make the wrong judgments about others. 1 Samuel 16:7 is an often quoted verse when making this point, but it is quoted because it is a GOOD verse to remind ourselves with. God tells the prophet Samuel to go to the house of Jesse and annoint the next King of Israel. As he looks at Jesse’s sons they are strong and handsome and outwardly they are great King material. But God doesn’t choose the son standing in front of Samuel because
“...the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”
I was moving in to my dorm at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Lori, my sister, and my grandmother took me up to drop me off. We were waiting around the lounge area for the room assignments when I struck up a conversation with a guy named Frank.
Frank was a bit rough looking. He was dressed in cut off shorts, a ratty and torn t-shirt, a do-rag with hair sticking everywhere. He had about 3 days growth on his face, and he, to be honest, he smelled funny.
We talked for a bit. He was an older student (about 10 years older than the average freshman), and was there to study music. Seemed like a nice guy.
I got my room assignment, moved my stuff into my room, and we went to lunch. Over lunch my grandmother, said, “I have a bad feeling about him. I don’t think you should hang around with him very much.”
When we got back to the college after lunch we stopped off at my room, and my new roommate was just moving in. His clothes were clean and neatly pressed. He was very polite, and his parents were wonderful people.
Of course my grandmother thought he was great! I mean look at the way he was dressed, and his parents were so nice. He was certainly okay for me to hang out with.
But after only two months in college, my roommate was expelled for drunkenness and a few other things...while Frank was a great guy who decided to come in his grungy clothes for move in day because he knew he was going to get dirty lugging boxes.
We all have been guilty of making bad judgment calls in regards to people and their actions...misunderstanding them or why they are doing what they are doing because we cannot see their hearts.
How do we apply this?
So what does this look like in action?
Remember, God isn’t asking us to stop making judgments. We have to make judgments about right and wrong. We have to make judgments about people before we allow them to assume leadership roles. We have to make judgments about motives and actions...but we have to do so from a position of humility.
For many of us that means we stop using a double standard and allow others to make mistakes without us having to say something about it...because we have made similar mistakes or would make similar mistakes if we were in their shoes. We give them the grace we would want if we were them.
As people of the Kingdom we have to work on making proper judgments about right and wrong without using a double standard. Letting some off easy and coming down on others really hard. We make the judgments of right and wrong, but hold people accountable for their actions and offer forgiveness no matter who they are.
Working this out also means we need to work on our humility. One of the best ways to gain a little perspective and humility is to serve others...especially those whom we feel we are better than. I have found that God always asks me to serve those I feel superior to, and in doing so I realize they are just like me with feelings and issues that need time and patience.
As a church we apply this passage with a simple statement: Come as you are...you will be loved. This means that when someone walks in here...people feel loved when we are around them. It doesn’t matter what their race, their background, their political affiliation, their sexual preference...we will love them and welcome them as though they are Jesus present with us.
The practical expression of this is something we have to constantly work on as a church. When people visit with us they will feel loved by how we treat them when they are with. If they walk in, are greeted with a hello at doors, but no one engages them in meaningful conversation...they don’t feel loved or welcomed.
It doesn’t mean we don’t love them or that we don’t care about them...it means we haven’t made the connection that allows them to sense our love and concern for them.
In a little over a month we will be sending out a mass mailing to everyone in the Huber Heights community inviting them to check out a service with us. And I believe that one of the best ways to share the Gospel with them is to love them the way Jesus loves them.
Some will walk in here expecting to be judged for their lifestyles and sinfulness...ready for the guilt trip. But we know we are all on the same playing field. Our desire is to live out the Kingdom of God in such a way that everyone feels welcomed and loved...not just in our church but as we encounter them in our everyday lives.
We are all in need of God. We don’t have a double standard, and we aren’t any better than anyone else. We are just fellow travelers on the road of life who have decided to do life the way Jesus wants us to, and we are inviting others to join us on this journey.
Those you work with...those who live around you...those with whom you interact...if they feel condemned by you...then this is an area you need to confess and work on with God. Because loving the people around really is the best way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.