Jesus on Judging | Matthew 7.1-12 (Snoh)

April 27, 2014 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew

Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 7:1–7:12


Much of Jesus Sermon is an explanation of what He meant when He said: “…unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus goes to great lengths to answer the question, “Do good people go to heaven?” Or, perhaps more accurately, “Just how good is good?” In the first two chapters, Jesus shows us that sin extends into the very thoughts of men, before they do anything, and sin even perverts what appear to be good works like prayer. And once we know what true righteousness is, our default is to look outward at others. We see all the perverts around us, but we never examine our own lustful hearts. We see all the people who break their promises, but we never consider our own lack of integrity. We see people who hate, but never consider our own bitterness. We see stingy people, materialistic people, selfish people, never thinking to ask about our own greed. You see all kinds of people “worrying”, you never ask about your own anxiety. What does Paul challenge us to do? 5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test1 2Corinthians 13.5.

It just so much easier to test others’ faith. The conclusion of Jesus Sermon’s is all about judgment. Last week, Jesus admonished men for spending all of their time worrying about themselves. Now he addresses those who spend too much time worrying about others—particularly their sinful choices. Judgmental attitudes are probably one of the most powerful relationship killers. And so, Jesus’ words in this section are some of the most misquoted in the entire New Testament. “DO NOT JUDGE” is a favorite phrase used by believers and non-believers alike. At best, it is used to protect against an unfair evaluation. At worst it is used as a means to defend sin.

We live in a culture full of compromise and devoid of certainty. I believe we are in, what the apostle Paul describes as the last days. 2Timothy 3.1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. Anyone with the courage to distinguish right from wrong and live it, will be misunderstood, hated, and deemed intolerant. Our culture celebrates the tolerant man, the progressive-man, the open-minded man, the affirming man, and the non-judgmental man. And most men and women are fleeing the land of conviction for the land of compromise because it is popular, easier, and less painful than crucifixion.

Of course, Jesus is always held up as the most tolerant and non-judgmental of all men. He loved sinners. Yes, he did. But he loved them enough to call them to repent. Jesus is not against judging. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9.39). Jesus said, 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Jesus is a judge and Jesus judges. Jesus does not want us to avoid all judgment; rather, he wants us to make a righteous judgment—He wants us to make one that is cleansing and not condemning. Our judgment must governed by His glory, not our own. Jesus is concerned about WHEN we judge, HOW we judge, and WHY we judge.

In the first verses, Jesus warns us about when we pronounce judgments. If we were to take verse one alone, it would seem that Jesus is commanding us not to judge anyone or anything. When we read further, however, we see Jesus also commands us to judge our brothers, judge false prophets, and even judge foundations men build their lives on. Jesus is not forbidding universal judgment of any kind, but he is warning us against a kind of condemning judgment driven by self-righteousness.

This is the spirit of a Pharisee who, blind to their own sin, lives with a sense of superiority over sinners worse than them. It is an OBSESSIVE spirit that delights in finding fault in others. It is a HYPERCRITICAL spirit that delights in criticism and only sees everything pessimistically, negatively, and judgmentally. It is an UNLOVING spirit that delights in believing the worst, rejoicing at the worst, and even hoping the worst. Jesus warns us not to judge like this, not only because it will effect other’s may judge you the same way, but because it effects the judgment of God on you. Jesus says, “the measure you use will be measured to you.” If you judge according to the flesh, God will judge you according to the flesh. If you do not show mercy, God will not show mercy to you. If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you—gentle loving Jesus said that! One’s judgment does not dictate God’s judgment as much as it reveals whether you believe you are saved from His. Claiming authority to judge is a dangerous thing if you are, in fact, acting on your own authority and not submitting yourself under the authority of God.

Judging Brothers
Our judgment matters. Jesus goes to great length to warn us about making judgment because of our tendency to judge sinfully. Why do even Christians tend to judge wrongly? We are self-focused and sinful—consumed by how we’ve been hurt, how you are going to hurt me, how you hurt someone else. We are not governed by how we have hurt God. This is why Jesus tells us that all judgment must begin with self-judgment. He tells us before we can address the sinful sawdust in the eye of a brother we must deal with the sinful 2x4 in our own. If nothing else, a log in our eye limits our vision. Our own sin always hinders us from perceiving the sins of others correctly; our vision is not trustworthy. And though all sin has this effect on our ability to see clearly, it is noteworthy that Jesus doesn’t instruct us to remove the log from your eye so you can deal with the sliver in your brother’s toe. I find it curious that we are usually most critical and quick to judge those things we see in others that we find in ourselves. I am convinced that much of our idolatry is revealed those things that most irritate us or struggle most to overlook.
Logs are not only obstacles to vision; they are wounds in our lives that need to be healed. We all have wounds created by different experiences in our lives whether they are addictions, abuse, betrayal, envy, bitterness, disappointment, or failure. This might be a result of sin I have committed or sins others have committed against me. Any sort of pain that we have not dealt with will invariably pervert our perceptions—especially when judging those we hold responsible for our pain. When we interpret all the behavior of others through the lens of our pain, we will judge wrongly because I’m unable to see past ourselves. And logs are not removed from eyes with a pair of pliers--wounds are not healed overnight, forcing us to be even slower with any judgments.

It’s also noteworthy that Jesus doesn’t say, “forget about the speck in the eye.’ He wants us to see clearly so that we can be helpful. In other words, godly admonishment of our brothers is necessary. It is loving to help a brother see again but only after we have dealt with our own issues. This does not mean eradicating ourselves of sin, rather, it is a means ensuring our approach to other’s sin is as one who is poor in Spirit, mournful over their sin, and merciful in judgments.

Judging the world
In verse 6, Jesus says there are times when judgment is to avoided all together—when silence is better than speaking truth Many of us are, or know, someone who celebrates being “brutally honest”. In truth, most of these people are radically insensitive and lack discernment. Jesus says do not give God’s pearls of wisdoms to pigs who love their mud. We certainly must discern when it is right to judge in our brother; but we must also be careful with the world—something that we feel a special liberty it seems. We must realize that we cannot hold the world to a standard that they cannot possibly achieve apart from God’s Spirit. Unrestrained criticism against every ungodly thing in culture or immorality in an unbeliever is a waste. In fact, Jesus says your “truthful judgment” will backfire. First, the world will TRAMPLE God’s truth—they will make an enemy out of God, Christianity, the church, etc. Second, the world will ATTACK you. And while there is an expectation we’ll be called fools for speaking words of truth, we must be careful not to be hated for truth spoken foolishly. Christians need to heed what Paul says in 2Timothy2.23-26 3 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

How can we be sure to make right judgments free from self-righteousness? The solution bad judgment is not to avoid all judgment. It is to seek right judgment. We seek right judgment by seeking His kingdom first before we judge. That is the heart of Jesus’s instruction in verses 7-10. Jesus has already taught on prayer. When we originally organized this sermon series, we added these verses to the section on the Lord’s Prayer in chapter 6. Admittedly, these verses appear to be out of place. In the gospel of Luke, portions of the Sermon on the Mount are found, including a similar section on judgment. Luke 6.37-42 37“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 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….You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly…

Matthew’s Re: arrangement
Similar to Matthew, Luke’s gospel continues to include words about false teachers and building on strong foundations. These verses are found in the gospel of Luke at the end of the Lord’s Prayer—where they most naturally belong. This leads us to believe that Matthew arranged his gospel differently. Matthew organized and designed his gospel, even this Sermon, with an intentional agenda. This passage on prayer has been often taken out of context to speak about the generosity of God and his faithfulness in answering prayer. But…if we read these verses in the context of judgment, they take on a slightly different meaning. Namely, Matthew wants us to emphasize our need for HELP in casting right judgment.

Jesus says, “Asks, and IT will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened.” What is it we are to be asking for? HIS GLORY. Informed by what we already know about the purpose of prayer, we are asking that God orient us toward His glory and away from self-glory in all of our petitions, all of our needs, all of our attitudes, and all of our judgments. Seeking God’s glory in judgment centers us on the beatitudes whereby we are hungering for His righteousness as we deny our self-righteousness. As we find God’s glory we lose ours. So BEFORE we criticize, we are asking God to help us discern our own sin. BEFORE we react, we are asking God to help us discern the sin in others. BEFORE we open our mouths, we are asking God to help us discern what to speak and what not to speak? We are asking God to restrain our flesh and help us see rightly so we can judge rightly. And God is a Father who is going to be lovingly honest with us. He is going to tell you what you need to hear. And some of the most powerful criticism is received from those who lead with their own confession. In other words, through Christ-like humility, God also gives you the power to be heard.

Finally, Jesus closes this section on judging others by saying: 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. This passage is famously known as the golden rule. Did you know there are other metal rules? It has been said that there are four rules by which we may live: (1) the iron rule, (2) the brass rule, (3) the silver rule, and (4) the golden rule.

Applied to judgment, the IRON rule is basically, “might makes right.” This is survival of the fittest; only the strong survive so the strong criticize to keep everyone down. This is contrary to the Sermon on the Mount which says if you hate your brother then you are not a Christian. The BRASS rule lives by “an eye for any eye”, meaning, I do as you do to me. You judge me, I’ll judge you just as harshly. Of course, this is also contrary to the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says to love your enemies and to bless those who persecute you. The SILVER rule states that we must not do any evil that we don’t want done to us. It is a negative rule which does not encourage good acts but simply discourages bad ones. Again, this is contrary to the Sermon on the Mount which calls us to let other see our good works which, at times, is making right judgments about sin.

The Golden Rule
If we live according to the SILVER rule, then we could end this sermon with “DON’T JUDGE.” But Jesus taught the GOLDEN rule. Jesus begins with SO (THEREFORE in some versions) suggesting that the “golden rule” as a summary of everything he taught in the previous 11 verses. The golden rule fulfills all that the Law intended for us in loving God and loving people. The Golden rule says I actively treat others as I wish to be treated. Jesus commands positive action. No one wishes to be judged wrongly, but everyone should wish to judge and be judged rightly. We need to judge others and we need others to judge us.

• Not wishing to give judgment is a desire to avoid the self-reflection that true judgment requires.
• Not wishing to receive judgment is a desire to go through life with specks in your eye.

Not wishing to judge righteously, or receive righteous judgment, is unloving to God or others. Because of our belief in the gospel, we love Jesus more than our own sin, and we love others too much to let them remain in their sin. We want them to love Jesus too. We need to judge others and we need others to judge us. Jesus loved us enough to tell us the truth about our sin.

Avoiding judging or refusing to judge is a refusal to embrace the reality of the cross that declares us to be sinners. We can judge because, in Christ, we are no longer under judgment. Romans 8.1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We judge because it preaches the gospel. We listen to the loving judgments of our brothers because that preaches the gospel. And after we judge, we repent, we forgive, and we embrace one another in all love because that preaches the gospel. The cross makes all judgment an act of love because there is no longer a fear of punishment or rejection. Therefore, judgment from brothers is not foolishly rejected; it is invited because I desire to bring more glory to God by looking more and more like Jesus. And judgment of a brother is not recklessly given to others; it is governed by humility, empathy, and grace. COMMUNION reminds us of our own judgment.