Sermon Series: UnkNOTed – Untying the knots of life through the NOTS of Christ!
[Fear Not, Worry Not, Boast Not, Judge Not, Ashamed Not]
Scripture Reading: Matt 7: 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
In three words which seem rather blunt and absolute Jesus directs his followers, “Do not judge” (Matt. 7:1). Actually, that is only part of what he said because as we read the rest of verse 1 He introduces a relational exchange into this command, “…or you to will be judged.”
Does Jesus mean that we should never judge whether the actions of other people are good or evil? Whether their words are true or false? Let’s take a second look at this and other scriptures which deal not only with the act of judging but also the attitude with which we must judge.
There are other scriptures that can either cloud or shed light on the issue depending on how we understand them. Paul told the Christians in Rome not to judge one another (Rom. 14:13) but taught the Corinthians that they were to judge sinful believers and leave people outside the church to God (1 Cor. 5:12-13). James said he who judges his brother speaks against the law (4:11) but also implied that our judgments of others must be done with mercy (2:12-13).
Some common sense tells us that if we never made a judgment on the words or actions of other people, there would be no real human community. In a sinful world, no community can exist for long where nobody is ever held accountable: no teacher would grade a student’s performance; no citizen would sit on a jury or call a failed leader to account. (And, borrowing from an of the moment US political football, no President could ever “Build that wall!”) When you think about it, nobody would ever forgive anyone for the wrongs he/she has done; we only forgive people for wrongs we feel they have committed, and we blame them only after we have made some kind of judgement of their actions, words, or attitudes. Our culture tells us we are all flawed people, and that people who are flawed have no right to judge other people’s flaws. I remember using the “When you point a finger at someone you have three others pointing back at you” example in many a previous sermon message. And while there is truth in that statement, I’m not sure it captures all of what Jesus is trying to teach us here. Modern Americans do not believe that there are objective standards by which to judge. And where there are no standards, there is nothing by which to measure behavior. But when we take Jesus seriously it involves re-evaluating our modern relativism.
This sermon series is about untying the KNOTs of life through the NOTS of Jesus, and Judge Not can be one of the knottiest of the lot. Judgmentalism ruins relationships and compromises our witness, and it permeates Christianity because it permeates humanity. Paul reminds us that comparing ourselves one to another is not wise. It’s not just about us, but those around us. Every aspect of what God wants to do in us and through us is to be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Judge Not command is intended to help us with challenges to our spiritual growth… to Untangle us from the hindrances of our own human defaults, not to create more trouble, but help solve our relational difficulties –First with God, then with man! So let’s look at Jesus words here in Matthew more closely. Let’s note our Lord’s Exhortation, His Explication, His Examination, and then His Expectation from this text.
Jesus Exhortation: Matt 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Notice first that there is a context. His words come to us within the boundary of a relational setting and teaching moment. We can’t quote just the first half of the verse and use it as a reason for engaging in a discernment or analysis of what is right or wrong. It is general, broad exhortation, with a bit of an ominous tone. If we judge the way the religious leaders were doing in the previous chapters, Jesus is reminding them that “It will come back on you!” The Pharisees and Saducees were judging by the outside appearance, and they exempted themselves from their own rules of engagement. Jesus often reminded his disciples how important it was to live with a constant awareness of their effect on others. Man had broken community with God and was broken in community with each other, and Jesus is THE reconciler. As the good teacher, He did not place himself above accountability with them. Unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees, he did not hold himself up above men to judge them, but became one of us, subject to our judgment even unto death in order to redeem us.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Jesus knows how we think: Prone to evaluate people and size them up. He also knows that we don’t like it when we are treated that way. So what am I judgmental about? Everything and anybody! How others raise their kids, manage their money, spend their time, interact with other people, dress, speak, work, play, lead, follow, or how they get out of the way! You and I judge what others eat or don’t eat and why. And it seems the more singular importance we place on one aspect of our own life the more judgmental we are with others over that same part of life! (Vegetarians seem to be some of the most judgmental people I know – and of course that statement is in itself – judgmental!)
How often do we ‘judge’ the world? We have no authority or expectation to judge those outside the church. How can someone who does not yet know the love of Christ be held accountable for living and sharing that love? Can they respond before their hearts are awakened by the Spirit? We usurp God’s place and show our immaturity when we compare our spiritual depth to those yet unaware of God’s love.
1 Cor 5: What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are we not to judge those inside?
As humans in community we need feedback from each other. (Feedback is the breakfast of champions.) But sometimes it becomes critical and judgmental. It happens in families! Parents, the next time your adult child comes back at you with, “Stop being so judgmental!” Simply reply, “Are you judging me for being too judgmental?” We become judgmental in the work place, in our neighborhoods, on the highway, at a sporting event, and of all places… in the church!! Ahh – but there is a better way!
Explication: Matt 7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
There is a Latin phrase which describes this relational maxim –Lex Talionis. It is the law of retaliation whereby a punishment resembles the offense committed in kind and degree. A retaliatory measurement meaning is in play here which Jesus used in other places as well. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”… and “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” He highlights the interconnectivity of our actions to the results we reap with each other in Luke chapter 6 as well. Here, just after he has addressing the same subject of Judging others, Jesus goes on to compare his point to living a generous lifestyle using this word measurement again:
Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Jesus is telling us all how to get along transparently and with good intentions toward one another. To believe the best, turn the other cheek, walk a mile in your brother’s shoes… I want you to consider everything in my life and not just the moment when evaluating my actions, and I should be looking at you in the same way! It doesn’t mean all our actions are above reproach, but it does mean that if we don’t give others the benefit of the doubt we will not receive that same grace from others. God factors in mercy through His perfect and obedient Son in our stead into our judgment.
Matt 9:13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
James the brother of Christ writes this under guidance of that Spirit of truth:
James 2:13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
There are many ‘small’ judgments taking place in our lives every day so that we are already ‘judged’ in Christ as He conforms us to His image.
1 Pet 4:7 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Mercy (love) covers a multitude of sins. God wants us to know ourselves well before we try to help someone else with their difficulty/spiritual need/spiritual lack.
Examination: Matt 7:3 “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? 4 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?
He wants us to do our own internal investigation before helping someone else.
“Consider the why’s and the how’s of me before I touch the Eye of thee”
We come finally to Jesus expectation of our response:
Expectation: Matt 7:5 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.
Johnny Nash could have been a great theologian if he only his lyrics had gone like this: “I can see clearly now the beam is gone” J