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Stop Judging and Start Judging
Matthew 7:1 to 6
Chris and John are away this week in Croatia teaching at The Master’s Academy International summit and they sent a greeting for us. So here are the guys—play the video. Don’t you just love those smiles?! Please be praying for them as they serve the TMAI team in Europe. And be praying for Shawn and Tracy Farrell too, as they are in New Zealand where Shawn is preaching at a sports camp with 300 students.
Speaking about New Zealand, here’s a scene you see there all the time. Here in California, Sereena has got used to using a clothes dryer, but in New Zealand we used to put our clothes on the washing line all the time.
There’s the story of a young couple who moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning when they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the washing outside on the washing line. “That laundry is not very clean,” she said. “Don’t they know how to do washing correctly? That laundry is an embarrassment! Maybe they need a better detergent.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbors would hang their washing to dry, this young wife would make the same comments.
About a month later, the wife was surprised to see nice clean washing on the line, and she called her husband and said, “Look, at last our neighbors have figured out how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught them?” To which the husband said, “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you dear, this morning I got up early and cleaned our windows.”
And so it is with life. What we see when watching other people depends upon the purity of the window through which we look. The way we see others depends entirely upon the condition of our own hearts. The standard by which we evaluate other people is governed solely upon the state of our own soul. And if we don’t see clearly, our judgments are going to be wrong. If our soul is corrupt, if our lens is dirty, if our heart is not clean, we will never be able to see anything outside of ourselves with any kind of sharp focus.
It’s a lot like a New Zealand rugby game that is being refereed by an Australian–that Australian ref just can’t see anything correctly. You’re probably thinking that the bias might be with the Kiwi preacher–and you’re probably right!
This was the problem when Jesus was preaching the Gospel to the self-righteous, religious hypocrites of His day. These people were super religious. They were self-righteous. They were the most faithful synagogue attendees. They wore the right kind of clothes. They kept all of the religious rules. They ate the right kind of food. They prayed the longest prayers. They fasted often. They gave money to the poor. They went to the Temple to sacrifice whenever that was required. Outwardly, they were the most devout religious people of the day.
But their problem was that it was all external religiosity–their hearts had not been transformed. Their rule-keeping was nothing more than keeping up appearances. They wanted to look good in front of their friends. Jesus told them they were tombs-painted-white. They looked sparkling-clean on the outside, but on the inside were dead men’s bones.
And they were hypocrites because it was all a big show! They appeared to be so godly, but on the inside they were evil, unregenerate, lost, pew-warmers–that’s all they were. And as a result, they couldn’t see anything with clarity, because their spiritual eyes had not been cleansed. Their moral compass was not pointing due north.
They claimed they worshipped the true God, but in reality they worshipped comfort, acceptance, position, money, and status. They were their own lawmakers. They created thousands of religious laws for themselves, kept those laws, and then felt good about themselves, because outwardly they appeared to meet their own standards. And when other people failed to keep their standards they were super critical, super condemning, super judgmental, and they looked down on these people because they didn’t measure up.
We have these kinds of people today too. They attend church. They appear to be devout, moral kinds of people. They talk about God. They feel good about themselves because they’re in the religious crowd. They say things like, “I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls who do!” They don’t drink alcohol. They don’t get tattoos. They think vegetarianism is godly. They want to save the world.
They wear the right kinds of clothes to church. Even their children look just so. They use the right translation of the Bible. They don’t listen to evil rock music. They don’t do drugs. They tithe. They don’t work on Sundays. From the outside they look perfect, but on the inside they are just as evil as ever. Yeah, we have the exact same kinds of religious people today.
If there was anything Jesus hated, it was religious hypocrisy–He confronted it wherever He went. Jesus preached a whole sermon to these kinds of people. The sermon is called the “Sermon on the Mount.” It’s found in Matthew 5 to 7, and it was preached right beside the Sea of Galilee. It was a beautiful setting for a devastating message.
If you turn around from the lake and look up into the hills, you see hardly a mountain–but it is a substantial hill, which would have acted as a natural amphitheater. Jesus’ voice would have echoed far out into the distance and even over the water, so that the thousands who came to listen to this great preacher could actually hear Him.
In this sermon, Jesus rebuked the religious hypocrites of His day and warned them that they were headed to Hell. And He didn’t mince words. In chapter 7, this is what He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21–23).
Religious people of all ages will claim that they should be let into Heaven. And their claim will be predicated upon their good works—“I did this, I did that, I lived out my religious duties, I hung out in the church, I was a good person.” And Jesus points to these people and says, “I have never known you! Depart from me!” What a shock! What a devastating message!
And so in Matthew 5 to 7, Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of these religious types who think they’re doing just fine, but in reality they’re on their way to Hell. And that brings us to our passage this morning. We’re going to be in Matthew 7:1 to 6, and I want to read that together right now.
Matthew 7:1 to 6 (Nigel’s Translation), “Judge not, that you be not judged, 2 for you will be judged with the judgment you judge, and it will be measured to you with the measure you measure. 3 And why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look–the log [is] in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 Do not give holy things to dogs and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them under their feet and turn to attack you.”
I want to show you in this passage that there are two commands regarding judging, and one illustration that explains them both. It’s like a sandwich! You have two pieces of bread and meat in the middle. Jesus starts with a command in verses 1 and 2 where He says, “Stop judging.” And He ends with a command in verse 6, where He explains that we should “start judging.” And smack dab in the middle of these commands is a ridiculous illustration that explains them both.
There is a bad kind of judging that Jesus tells us to stop, and there is a good kind of judging that Jesus tells us to start. And by the end of today’s service, I hope that as a church we will better understand and obey both commands.
1. Instruction–Stop Judging Verses 1 to 2
So let’s look at the first command in verse 1–it’s very simple. Jesus says, “Judge not.” But the question is–what kind of judging is it that we are not to do? The fundamental issue here is “attitude”, because if we understand that Jesus is confronting them. If someone enters into a pattern of arrogant judgmentalism, prideful criticism and disparaging comments, then they reveal a heart that doesn’t understand the Gospel. And they are placing themselves on a higher pedestal than those around them. And that kind of judgmentalism is the kind of judging that must be stopped.
Paul says it very clearly in Romans 14:10, 12 to 13, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of God. 12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”
The point is that we better understand that we will all stand before God one day. And God who knows our hearts–our every little secret–will treat us in the same way we have treated others. How do we know that? Well it says it right there in verse 1. Why should we stop judging? “That you be not judged.” The way we treat others will have a direct impact upon the way God will treat us.
Jesus gives two warnings to those religious hypocrites who think they can get away with condemning and criticizing people. He says the judgments that you dish out to others will be dished up to you. Verse 2, “for you will be judged with the judgment you judge.” kri,nw–see the repetition here for emphasis. It’s kind of like, how many times can you say the same word in one sentence?
And then He says that with the same measurement that you measure others, you will be measured. “And it will be measured to you with the measure you measure.” me,trw|–to measure (English word, metric). Which is interesting to me, because if the metric system was good enough for Jesus, why isn’t it good enough for America? Anyway, I digress.
The point is this–if you are a religious fake, a hypocritical phony who hangs out in Christian circles, but isn’t really saved, God is going to judge you with the judgment you use on others. And in the way you have measured others, God will measure you by that same standard. So Jesus is trying to get the attention of religious hypocrites and warn them that their excessive judgmentalism is exposing them to be fakers–they’re not saved. They don’t understand the Gospel. If they understood the Gospel they would be gracious to others, because they’d know from experience just how gracious God has been to them. And they would stop judging.
2. Illustration Verses 3 to 5
Now the illustration that comes in verses 3 to 5 is both weird and clear. I don’t know how you can get weird and clear at the same time, but that is what this is. Look at verse 3, “And why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
Now look, here is a speck. The Greek word for speck is ka,rfoj. But it isn’t really just a speck–ka,rfoj is more like a splinter or twig, or in my case a toothpick. Now a toothpick in the eye is not an insignificant issue. It really does need to be dealt with. You can’t just blink it away. It’s a very real sin, and this brother really does need help. And here is the log that Jesus says is in the hypocrite’s eye. This is a massive issue–a huge sin.
Now Jesus posed a question in verse 3. He said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” How is it that a religious hypocrite can see everyone else’s small sins, and totally disregard their own big sin? How is that even possible? Well, it’s because they are prideful. They overestimate themselves. They think too much of themselves. They lack humility, they look down on other people and miss the fact that their sin is massive compared to others.
On the other hand, genuinely saved Christians are broken people. Matthew 5 says that Christians are people who mourn over their sin. What do you do? Are you broken over your sin? Are you contrite? Do you mourn over your sin? Or do you spend more time criticizing others because they are the ones with the problem.
Then Jesus asks in verse 4, “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look–the log [is] in your own eye?” How can this guy with the log help this guy with the toothpick? It’s impossible! But you know what’s shocking about the guy with the log? He actually believes he can help the guy with the toothpick! He’s so totally deceived–he’s fooling himself. Listen, if you’re a hypocrite who is pretending to be a Christian, you are not in a position to be helping those who really are Christians and who are trying to conquer sin. You say, “Well, what should I do?”
Look at verse 5. Jesus says, “You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Stop being a hypocrite, and then you’ll be able to help others. Confess your sin, and then you’ll be able to help others.
There was a guy in the Old Testament who was a hypocrite–his name was King David. He heard about a rich man who stole the one-and-only lamb of a poor family. It was the family pet. He stole it and killed it with no regard for that poor family. David heard about that and he got angry, and he said, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die.”
And the prophet Nathan came to David and said, “David, you’re the man! You stole another man’s wife. You slept with her. You tried to cover it up, and when you failed, you had that woman’s husband murdered to save your own skin.” David was so blinded by his own sin that he was in no state to be judging other cases.
So Jesus says, “Stop playing the hypocrite, and then you will be able to help others.” In fact, in other passages we are commanded to do so. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private.” It’s a command–we don’t have an option. We must reprove Christian brothers and sisters when they sin.
Galatians 6:1 says, “If a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” You see, we are commanded to help one another in the Christian walk. We are commanded to address one another when there is obvious sin, but we better make sure we measure ourselves with the same measurement we use on others when we go to talk with them.
3. Instruction–Start Judging People Verse 6
When we get to verse 6, this is where the second command kicks in. Jesus doesn’t just say, “Stop judging,” in verse 1. He also says, “Start judging.” Look at verse 6. “Do not give holy things to dogs and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them under their feet and turn to attack you.”
Now at first glance, this verse just seems to be so out of place, doesn’t it? It just pops up out of nowhere, seemingly disconnected with anything that precedes it in verses 1 to 5. And because it seems so disconnected, many people have interpreted it as if it is a totally new subject within Christ’s sermon. But it’s not a new subject–verse 6 is strongly connected with the verses we’ve just looked at.
For five verses, Jesus told religious hypocrites to stop judging. And then He explained what is necessary for Christians to prepare themselves to be able to start judging rightly—namely take the log out of your eye and then you can see clearly to judge someone else. And then He says in verse 6, “Do not give holy things to dogs and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them under their feet and turn to attack you.”
In other words, make sound judgments–make wise judgments! Judge what are holy things. Judge what are wild dogs. And determine in your mind that you are not going to give holy things to dogs–they won’t value them. They won’t recognize them. Jesus says, “Don’t do that!” He says, “Discern the value of a pearl. Discern the filth of marauding, dirty pigs. And determine in your mind that you are not going to give priceless pearls to filthy swine.”
In other words, be discerning! Be discriminating! Make right evaluations, and start judging! There are other verses that back this up. In verse 15 of the same chapter, Jesus says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their [what?] fruits.”
In other words, you better do some evaluation of what people are saying in order to determine whether they are teaching truth or error. In Philippians 3:2, Paul says that “we should watch out . . . for men who do evil.” How do you do that? You need to make judgments. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” How do you do that? You need to be discerning. You need to test what people are saying.
And Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with a right judgment.” How do you do that? Don’t judge external, superficial things. Judge according to God’s Word. And remember the principle from 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Well how can we avoid bad company if we don’t evaluate people and make a judgment about them?
You see, Jesus doesn’t expect us to be amorphous, undiscerning blobs, who never have any opinions about anybody. No–He wants us to judge, as long as it is according to biblical standards. One of the possible applications of verse 6–we should not offer the Gospel to those who will disrespect it. That’s one of the possible applications of verse 6, but it’s not the whole message.
In the end, verse 6 is saying nothing more than Christians need to be discerning. They need to make judgments in spite of the fact that we live in a postmodern world were it’s not PC to make judgments. We need to do it anyway. This is why the sermon title is so weird. We need to stop judging people with a critical spirit (because that’s what unregenerate, religious hypocrites do), and we need to start judging people rightly with a biblical standard of discernment, and with love in our hearts.
Oh, and remember–if someone says to you, “You can’t judge me,” there are two possibilities. Either they are right, because you’re judging them hypocritically. Or they are wrong, because you are judging them with a clean heart and with a spirit of love. And in that case, you need to sit down with that person and say, “You know what? I love you, and I care about you, and I care about the testimony of Christ and of His Church. And for those reasons, I want to help you to see something you may not be seeing. Would you please let me come alongside?” And when that happens, you are doing something that pleases Christ, because that’s what He commanded us to do.
Final Word of Exhortation
Now let me give you some practical helps in this process–because let’s face it, this is a hard instruction for our Lord. We know we can’t risk becoming judgmental, proud, and critical. We also know that we are responsible to evaluate people’s actions and words wisely, so that we know how to respond to what is biblically right, and offer help if need be. But the question is: “How do we do this?”
Because sometimes it is difficult to know whether we are being fair in our evaluations, or whether we are just being arrogant–often our own motives are hard to read. This is something I struggle with. I had Panda Express for lunch yesterday, and after I had ordered my orange chicken (who loves orange chicken? See, some of you are making judgments already), they asked me if I wanted a drink. And I said, “Yes, can I have a large soda please?” The girl replied, “And what size would you like?”!
In my heart, I’m like: “You got to be kidding me! I said, ‘Large! Why can’t you hear me the first time!’” I didn’t actually say that, but I was thinking it. I mean, what kind of customer service is this? But then I thought, “Wait a second, have I always heard everything perfectly myself? Have I never been distracted when listening to someone? And aren’t I the one with the weird accent?” So I calmed down and tried to cut the girl a little slack.
This is something that Sereena and I struggle with from time to time. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, our communication slides and next thing we find ourselves in a “time of intense fellowship”–a “TIF.” And in these moments, we start critically judging one another–pridefully condemning one another for what we think the other person has done wrong. And sometimes it can take seconds to pull ourselves out of that downward spiral. Sometimes it takes minutes. Sometimes it can take us hours to stop judging one another because we’ve allowed ourselves to become so proud.
So how do you know when your judgments are coming from a right place? How do you know that you’ve successfully avoided evil judgments and landed on loving, righteous judgments? Here are four questions that will help you as you battle with that self-evaluation. Ask yourself . . .
Have I remembered the depths of my own sinfulness?
When your husband or your wife or anybody does something really bad to you–when they sin against you and you’re tempted to lash out in harsh critique or even anger . . . before you do that, ask yourself: “Do I realize just how sinful I’ve been in my lifetime? Do I remember all my mistakes and all the times I’ve sinned against a person too? Do I remember the depths of my own sinfulness?”
This is so important, because as soon as you forget your sin and you forget just how gracious God has been to you despite your sin, then you’ll certainly be judgmental toward others. It’s a given. Don’t go there–don’t do that! Remember just how rotten your own heart is first. Ask yourself . . .
Have I confessed my sin?
Have I sought forgiveness from the Lord, and have I turned from that sin and gained victory over it? In other words, “Have I removed the log from my own eye?” You cannot operate on another person’s eye when you have a log in your own–take it out. Confess your hypocrisy. Turn from it today. Repent of that religious superiority. Come down from your high horse. Humble yourself. Seek forgiveness from the Lord, and when you’ve done that then you can rightly judge another. So ask yourself, what is the state of my own soul before God? Ask yourself . . .
Is the thing that I am judging simply a personal preference or a clear biblical issue?
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had created all kinds of extra-biblical rules and expected everyone to keep their rules. As Christians, we can’t do that. We need to keep ourselves inside the confines of the written Word of God. If the principle that you are applying to someone’s life is a biblical principle, that’s great–go ahead. But if the principle is your own personal preference, something you cooked up because you just think it’s something everyone should do–then you need to stop.
First Corinthians 4:6 says, “. . . learn not to exceed what is written, so that none of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” In other words, “Don’t add to the Word of God.” Don’t exceed the commands of Scripture. Don’t add your own stuff just because you think it’s good stuff. If you force your own personal preferences on other Christians, then you are dong three really bad things.
First–you are in sin, because the Bible says “Don’t do that”
Second–you are showing off your arrogance, because you think you know better than the Bible
Third–you are pushing your legalism onto someone else, possibly even preventing them from coming to know Christ
So ask yourself, when I judge someone’s words and actions, am I judging them according to God’s Word or according to my own extra biblical standard? Ask yourself . . .
Am I guessing what that person might be thinking?
Am I guessing what his/her motives might be? Or have I observed an actual sin firsthand? First Corinthians 4:5, “Do not go on pronouncing judgement before the time, but wait until the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” And Proverbs 13:10 says, “Through presumption comes nothing but strife.”