Do not judge lest you be judged
“Judge Not: Don’t Pick, Don’t Be Flip” Matthew 7:1-6 Dr. Ben Sloan at LMPC 3/26/17
“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 our 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.”
There was a poor young bachelor- every time he brought a prospective girl home, his mother criticized her unmercifully; finally he came to his wits end; One friend gave him some advice, “I know what to do- find a woman just like his mother.” The bachelor did find someone who looked like his mother, walked like his mother, seemed to have the same interests as his mother. His friend asked, “How did it go?” The bachelor replied, “It went great with my mother. My mother loved her but my father couldn’t stand her at all.” (Kent R. Hughes). It is hard to get past the critics in life. Even those who love us most criticize, pick on, or judge us. In our very, very divided culture- this passage has a lot to say. You know I cannot turn on any media at all without hearing how Donald Trump did this or the media did that. Criticism and gossip that used to be kept at bay are just rampant today. This constant criticism does not help us to be united, it does not help us to love, frankly it is unlovely. Gossip and criticism eventually get old. Jesus was harsh toward the self-righteous. Ironically, it was the self-righteous hypercritical and those in power who judged Jesus. Let no one call names. We leave the judging to God and do not usurp his glory by judging others- claiming the right to judge for ourselves. Today many people hide behind anonymous social media names to hyper-criticize others- sports figures, political figures, singers, those who act, as if someone who is barely known on the surface is supposed to be a target for criticism. I remember in seminary an old professor said that we would not please our congregation. He said, “If a pastor is young he lacks experience; if gray- they are too old for the young people; if the pastor uses illustrations they will be called unbiblical; It they use few illustrations then they are not relevant; for those who only see the pastor on Sunday they will call the pastor lazy; if the pastor works all the time they will be called a workaholic; if the pastor condemns wrong- they will be called cranky; If they don’t say much about wrong they will be called compromising; if the pastor drives an old car- they are shaming the congregation; if the pastor drives a new car they are involved with things in this world.” This in part illustrates the need for balance but it also tells us that we all will be criticized- not just the pastor. If Jesus was criticized, expect criticism and even embrace it and learn from it. But here Jesus is warning us- that criticism should come only after deep self-examination and repentance and humility. How easy it is to see the sin of others and overlook the same sin in us. Perhaps you remember the story of David who stole the wife of one of his loyal soldiers and had him set up to be killed in battle. He prophet Nathan confronted him with a story. A rich man who had many sheep was having guests over. His neighbor had only one little sheep that he treated like a pet- a member of his own family. The rich man had his servants steal the sheep and bbq it. David said, “The man should be arrested and convicted for murder.” Nathan said, “You are that man.” Look for the log in your own eye before removing the speck in another’s. Jesus was a carpenter- so this is a good image- a speck of sawdust in another’s eye is easy to see- but a telephone pole in our own eye is hard to detect. He who is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees who were always overly harsh towards others. There was little mercy, little grace, no slack. Ask yourself, to whom have I been critical this week. Have I defended myself from criticism out of pride and my own judgmentalism? There are some classic misinterpretations of this:
1) Jesus didn’t really mean what he said. No, Jesus did mean- by the standard you judge others you will be judged. It is a similar thing to what he said in the way you forgive others you will be forgiven. Or forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Be poor in spirit. When a Christian sees sinners- he sees himself whether we are middle class or not. Tim Keller says when a Christian sees prostitutes, alcoholics, prisoners, drug addicts, unwed mothers, the homeless, the refugees he knows he is looking into a mirror. Perhaps the Christian spent all of his life as a respectable middle-class person. No matter. He thinks, “spiritually I am just like these people though physically and socially I never was where they are now. They are outcasts. Spiritually speaking I was an outcast.” Beneath the cross we are all on equal ground- we all need mercy and grace. Too many condemn others to hell, and in so doing, they condemn themselves. There is quite a bit of excommunication, anathema in the church that is the opposite of the love of Christ. There is nothing worst than sinners with holier than thou attitudes. We all are sinners and none of us can judge. We should be careful that if you are always easily offended and always feel people are judging you- then maybe you need to harden yourself a bit. You may be living for peoples’ applause in a negative way. But on the other hand if you are always criticizing and judging you may need to step back and hold your tongue a bit.
2) It doesn’t matter what you do- These folks quote “Judge not” but leave out “Lest Ye be judged.” there are those who use this as an excuse to say no one holds them accountable. They would say there is no judge, there Is no right or wrong. They forget that while we are not to judge, there is a judge who sees clearly and absolutely with justice, holiness, and love. Mt. 7:15 Beware of false teachers who come in sheep’s clothing. How can you beware of them if you do not use your discernment? Mt. 7:6- don’t give to dogs and pigs what is holy. If not to make any discernment why does this follow here? Pigs don’t recognize the value of pearls. Similarly there are some who think the very best Christians are those who have no moral backbone- jellyfish. Ironically, this passage is a bit harsh. It indeed speaks of judgment- not by humans, but by God. In some ways we are called to not judge others but to leave that judgment to God. I have a theory that as we pooh-pooh and push aside the idea that we are accountable to God- our tendency to judge, hate, cast off others increases. One reason, by the way, Christians are called to not seek revenge is that we have a God who will make things right. We don’t have to stand up for ourselves- Jesus didn’t. He knew God would justify Him and He didn’t care of people did.
3) Justifying bad behavior- This third misinterpretation is like the second. I remember walking in a prison yard for CROP Walk and one of the inmates quoted this passage to me. First he told me his crime. He had stolen, robbed, and was accused of battery. He said- You’re a minister right? Well, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” But this passage is not an excuse for wickedness. These would say that we are not to judge, and because of this, they can get away with wickedness. There are those who would say that to say anything is wrong- especially their actions is to judge them. Therefore they use this passage like a zipper to zip the mouths of people of good conscience who would complain of being stolen from, lied to, cheated on, betrayed, abused or even killed. Jesus is great about offering second chances- he tells the woman neither do I condemn you- but he warns her to go and sin no more. Her sin is still a sin that breaks the heart of God. Jesus does not condemn a tendency toward any sin- but he does condemn action. God does not condemn alcoholics, but drunkenness and debauchery is forbidden. Sacredness and holiness is important.
Jesus ends this section talking about not casting our pearls before pigs. What this absolutely does not mean is that some people are not worthy of hearing the gospel of Christ. The poor are not the swine- Jesus was poor. The ignorant are not the swine. The lazy are not the swine. The gnostics said that only the smart should hear the gospel. There are some who believe that today. They have a snobby view of the gospel. They would say that church is too good for some. You have to be smart to be here. That is the opposite of what Jesus teaches- the Gospel is open to all. Jesus’ whole ministry was bringing the gospel to people who were not worthy. Truth is we are all the pigs here. We all have the beautiful pearl of the gospel before us- and we have a hard time perceiving the value of it. There are people who reject God. They may reject God living for their own feelings. They would rather reject what God says and get their feelings straight than change their feelings to what God says. A pig is an animal who lives by their feelings- get out of my way- is a piggish way to live. But a pig cannot tell the difference between a pearl and a husk of corn. They might value the husk of corn a lot more. Just as belief can be for anyone- unbelief or piggishness can also be for all genders, all races, all economic and educational backgrounds. Pride can turn a person into a pig. Jesus was saying, some can’t tell the difference between pig’s mud and pearls. God discerns right from wrong. God discerns pearls from mud and wants us to be able to and to cast the pearl of the gospel where it will bear fruit. Can you tell the difference between things that are destroying your life and things that are building you up into the creature you were meant to be. Christ is for us, and He wants us to be for others. Love sometimes means restoring the straying, gently and humbly. When I was in college I had a confrontation with a guy who was trying to abandon the faith and values of his parents as quickly as possible and lead everyone else to do the same. I had talked to him earlier simply inviting him to a Bible study, he said, “Are you saying that I am wrong? The Bible says judge not lest ye be judged.” Then he walked away. Over the next few years we continued to hang out- eating in the cafeteria together with the rest of the guys on my hall. One time he was too drunk to make it to his room, I lifted him up and dragged him to his bed. He left school the next year- his grades were too poor and his father was not going to support him anymore. I really felt sorry for him. I loved him as a friend. He came to my room crying and gave me a hug to say goodbye- which he never did. He apologized for giving me a hard time. I do not know what happened to him- we lost track. I believe the Gospel is the hope of the world in the face of despair and criticism. It is our hope against judgment that we bring on ourselves. Our job is not to judge, to pick, to be flippant, but to invited people to see the pearls.