Um, You've got Something in your Eye
Jesus gives some counter-cultural words on judging this week.
Morning. HAPPY 4th of JULY! David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
You ever notice how judgmental people are?
Sometimes I think in our world today…we would see less of it.
But that thought of utopia is quickly shot down if you go to any number of websites where they have a comments section at the bottom.
Actually becoming fairly common.
See, it used to be that journalists could just write what they wanted and you kind of had to live with it.
I mean you could read their article in the newspaper, and I guess maybe call them an idiot? Or crumble up your paper in disgust. Show them how you feel by using them as fuel for your next bonfire.
Or, if you were really mad, you could get out a piece of paper, write them a letter about how mad you were, put it an envelope, find a stamp, go to a mailbox, and mail it in to the editor.
But now, you go to any news website: Star Tribune, Fox News, or CNN. OR, even any sports website like ESPN, and what you find at the bottom of almost any article now is a comments section.
Where I think they should have a disclaimer that says: Warning, only proceed to read these if you have a strong stomach for conflict.
Because now, you don’t have to write a letter, find a stamp, and mail it to the editor. You can tell everyone how wrong they are while typing in all capital letters under the alias of ANGRYHUMAN123.
And all it takes is a quick perusal through a few comments to realize that our world is still obsessed with judging other people and the way they live and think.
We are continuing today in our verse by verse study of the Sermon on the Mount.
Today we are moving into chapter 7 where Jesus speaks quite strongly on the issue of judging. Here’s what he says:
(Matthew 7:1-6) – NIV
1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"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 ?4How 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? 5You 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.
6"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 then turn and tear you to pieces.
DO NOT JUDGE
So Jesus tells us: DO not judge.
Well, first of all. What kind of judging? Because, if you think about it, there are a lot of different types of judging.
I make judgments when I walk (I think it’s safer for me to not step in that puddle)
I make judgments about what I’ll eat for lunch (pizza for 3rd day in a row)
We can make judgments about if something is true or not (for instance you will be JUDGING in your mind whether Jesus’ words are true or not)
We can make judgments about other people’s sin (they’re guilty for this…they’re bad because of A, B, and C)
And I suppose the strongest judgment a person can make is to say, “That person is going to hell.”
So there really are a wide variety of judgments.
When Jesus says, “Do not judge,” he’s referring to the latter sort of judgments I referenced.
He’s talking about looking at someone’s life and from a place of self-righteousness and saying, “They’re bad. They’re not a good person. They did this wrong. They did that wrong. I bet they’re walking away from God right now. I bet God’s disappointed. They don’t even know what they’re doing. They’re terrible parents. She’s a bad mom. He’s messed up his life and so on and so forth.
And lots of times these are judgments we just make in our minds, but unfortunately, we all too often love to share these judgments with other people.
And usually our reasons for doing so are the same reasons that were explained to us when you were in elementary school.
They’re just saying mean things about you (or we’re just saying mean things about them) so we can feel better about ourselves by lowering them.
And by the way, when we judge, we always seem to conveniently pick categories of life that we happen to do quite well in
Think about it.
We don’t seem to judge people really harshly in the aspects of life that we’re not so good at
Yet, this life of constant judging is not the life that Jesus calls his followers to.
IN fact, he warns us that the measure in which we judge others will be the measure in which we are judged ourselves (from other people and from God himself).
And that doesn’t mean that if you are a Christian and have accepted his forgiveness on the cross that you are now going to lose your salvation and go to hell, but we can have judgment from God on earth too.
It’s called discipline.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way… He says, “The critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.”
They once did a study and gave students in classrooms 30 seconds to jot down the initials of all the people they disliked.
Some could only think of one person. Others listed as many as 14 in just 30 seconds.
But one of the things they found in this study is that the people who disliked the most amount of people were often themselves also the most widely disliked.
GET THE PLANK OUT OF YOUR EYE
Jesus mentions in the passage that part of our obsession with judging other people is tied into our underestimating of our own failures.
Let’s look at verses 3-4 again.
(Matthew 7:3-4) – NIV
3"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 ?4How 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?
So Jesus brilliantly points out that we LOVE to point out other people’s sins while conveniently ignoring our own.
We spend a lot of our time thinking or even gossiping about her failures as a wife, or his anger problems, or her relationship problems, or his inability to get a job and on and on…
While CONVENIENTLY forgetting that our list of sins also happens to be quite long.
It’s quite silly really. We live our lives like people who just played in the mud, but yet still walk up their friends and insist that they take a shower because of how gross they are.
It’s baffling that we do it so much. We know we’re not perfect right? RIGHT?
Yet, we’re so quick to jump on other people and judge them like we’re judge judy herself.
So why are we SO stupid?
Well, let’s run with Jesus’ metaphor about the plank in your eye. Part of the problem about having a plank in your eye is that it impairs your vision.
You can’t see very well. And thus you make improper assertions about what’s really going on.
If you really had a plank in your eye…you probably could only see out of one eye.
And if you are blind in one eye, one of things you lose is true depth perception.
And I think that’s what’s neat about Jesus’ illustration: When we’re blinded by our own sin, we really only see enough of another person’s sin to make foolish judgments.
We can’t see the situation with enough DEPTH to know what’s really going on
A theologian once brilliantly pointed out that when someone else is sinning, there are always at least TWO things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried NOT to sin. Secondly, we do not know the power of the forces that tempted that person into sin in the first place. Meaning, we also don’t know if we would have then done the same in similar circumstances.
Because really, we often don’t know what’s going on. That’s why judging someone is often such a foolish act. We don’t know…so we make our own assumptions.
“A man was once having difficulty communicating with his wife, so he decided to conduct an experiment” (story of man saying “Can you hear me?” “For the 4th time, YES!”
Sometimes we make judgments, but due to our own “stuff” we can’t judge correctly. Thus the danger of judging.
Plus, you just never know what’s going on in other people’s lives
There’s a guy in our church who told me once that a year or two ago, he stopped doing what most of us still probably do, and that is getting mad at other drivers… Road rage if you will
And his reason for doing so was that he just realized that…you know…you never know what’s going on with the other person’s life.
And it’s true. There’s been a few times in my life where I’ve driven crazy:
And a lot of those times, something was happening: Somebody was hurt, I was late to a meeting (it happens), I just had a terrible day and wasn’t even thinking
And the reality is, you just don’t know. But we also just make quick judgments: You idiot! Where’d you learn how to drive?!? Get off your cell phone!
And for all you know, they just got a call that their mom died.
The reality is: You just don’t know.
And the deeper meaning of these 2 verses is this: True followers of Jesus who have received his mercy, will have mercy to pour out on others.
When we understand just HOW MUCH Jesus forgave us for when he died on the cross for us, when we remember how many times we’ve fallen SO far short of his standards, and yet he passed on judging us as guilty, and forgave us. In fact, declared us to be NOT guilty.
When we remember that, it’s hard to then come at someone else and say, “You terrible sinner!”
It’s like one of Jesus’ parables we studied during our grace series this January: Where a man was forgiven a massive debt (like 9 billion dollars) he owed his master, but then went right out and demanded that someone pay him back $16,000.
It just doesn’t make sense. If you’ve been forgiven 9 billion in debt, you should have enough grace to forgive those who’ve sinned against you.
And thus, our ability to NOT JUDGE others is reflective of our understanding of God’s forgiveness in our own life.
I think each of us has different measurements in our lives for how we’re doing with God, and this is one of them for me.
Before I was a Christian, I was terribly judgmental. Very critical.
But over the last decade as I’ve walked with Jesus, and realized how much he forgave someone like me, I’ve really been able to be incredibly more forgiving and a lot less judgmental.
Yet, there are seasons in my life, where I start to feel judgmental again. I get wrapped up in “This person did this.” “I can’t believe they think that.” “They didn’t come through for me on this…it must because of this.”
And I’ve learned over time, that my judgmental spirit, is an indicator, it’s a symptom that my faith in God, my understanding of his grace, isn’t where it should be.
And it’s time to refocus on how much he really forgave David Sorn.
IT’S OKAY TO MAKE SOME JUDGMENTS
Jesus goes on to say in verses 5 and 6
(Matthew 7:5-6) – NIV
5You 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.
6"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 then turn and tear you to pieces.
Let’s actually start with verse 6. The one about the dogs and pigs.
Scholars say that this is actually one of the hardest sayings of Jesus in all of the Bible to interpret.
And each one of them says something entirely different.
Some say that he’s saying not to tell the Gospel to people who could kill you
Others say he’s saying not to do religious things for people who won’t take them seriously.
Others say he’s talking about not letting outsiders judge leaders in the church.
And honestly, I don’t know what Jesus is saying. And I know I’m probably not supposed to say that as a pastor. But I don’t really know. I would it guess that it does have something to do with judging, but it’s just one of those one or two sayings that I’m going to have to ask him about in heaven.
I do know what he’s saying in verse 5 though.
And I believe verse 5 (the part about first taking your plank out and then helping your friend with the speck in his or her eye) is the most important verse in this passage for today’s Americans.
We are living in a postmodern society where to say that someone else’s beliefs are wrong, to say that someone’s actions or lifestyle is wrong, is simply the worst thing imaginable.
It is to break one of the cornerstones of the postmodern world: Which is to have “tolerance” (which now means 100% acceptance) in whatever people do
I once heard Josh McDowell, who is a Christian author and defender of the faith once say that Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge or you will be judged” is the most misinterpreted passage in the Bible by today’s American’s.
And he could be right.
You hear people say it all the time… Some Christian takes a stand on something, or says something is wrong, or challenges a friend on their actions, and people automatically respond with: “Doesn’t the Bible say ‘Do not JUDGE!’”
“Do not judge!” “It’s wrong to judge!” In any classroom in America, any student or teacher can quickly end any debate by saying, “You’re being judgmental of someone else’s beliefs.” (which by the way is ironically a judgmental statement in itself).
And that’s why reading this full passage is important. You can’t just take one verse out of the Bible. We need CONTEXT.
Because sometimes, we should make judgments.
The postmodern philosophy that judgments are inappropriate because all belief systems and actions are right in their own way, eventually breaks down.
Because if we took that to its natural end, you wouldn’t be able to make decisions on even the slightest things in your life because one way would be right.
Let me say this though: I would still venture to say that the vast, vast, majority of “judging” we do is still probably sinful and critical.
Yet, there are times when the Bible calls us to step in, make a judgment, and do something about it.
But we can only do so, when we, as Jesus says, “first remove our own planks of self-righteousness, and look at our neighbor’s speck through a healthy dose of humility.”
Because we are called to help each other.
If you see your good Christian friend throwing their marriage away because they are making some dumb decisions, don’t just sit there and say, “Well, I can’t make any judgments.”
If you see your good Christian friend slipping in their faith because, well, they just don’t read their Bible or pray any more, don’t just sit there and watch them slowly fade away from God because you, “Can’t make any judgments.”
That’s not what the Bible says. That’s what our world says. Not the Bible.
In fact, later on in the book of Matthew, Jesus says this:
(Matthew 18:15-18) – NLT
15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
If, someone is in sin, and we are a part of their lives, we should do something about it.
Get some courage, and move in, and help get them on track. If you know the person, and God’s put them in your life, moving in and talking to them about it, is the right thing to do.
That’s a good judgment to make.
Unfortunately, we instead just often choose the course of what I would call spineless judging
We throw rocks from afar and then hide behind our walls. We make comments to our spouse about it, we talk to our friends about it, we talk to even people who aren’t our friends about it.
We do just about everything, and make just about every judgment besides the right one:
Which would be to actually go talk to the person and offer to help them out.
Christians are called to help each other…and part of doing that is making a judgment, and then moving in and doing something.
(1 Corinthians 5:12) – NLT
“It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly IS your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”
We aren’t called to confront those on the outside (meaning non-Christians) for they live in ignorance of God’s standards
But we are called to do something about our brothers and sisters in Christ who are falling away from Him (if we know them and have that place in their lives)
And by the way it’s not actively judging someone if you just kick them out of a church, or shun them, or ignore them, or treat them harshly because of their sin.
No, the only Godly way to judge, is to follow the steps of Matthew 18 I read earlier.
Make a judgment that someone is sinning and needs help, and then go talk to them DIRECTLY about it.
So, judging can have its place in our churches, but only if it is driven by love, mercy, and compassion, and ultimately leads to restoration.
But judging that does nothing but stay in your mind or the ears of other people, is nothing but ungodly and damaging
So take some time this week to think about the thoughts of judgment that are floating around in your head
Because there are plenty of them floating around in all of our heads
And start deciding:
Is this something, I just have to stop thinking about (it’s not your place to say something…maybe they’re an unbeliever, or they are a believer, but you don’t really know them)
Or, is this something, you should act on…maybe you should talk to your good friend…rather then just let anger fester and grow in your heart
And lastly, take some time to remember just how great God’s mercy is.
And that he looked at you and me who’ve accepted his forgiveness of the cross, and declared, “NOT GUILTY.”
Let that sink in…and then, and only then, will you be able to deal with thoughts of judging.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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