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judge not

 

This morning at c|Life Kaufman, pastor David Griffin continued the “The N Commandments” sermon series masterfully addressing the command of Jesus in Matthew 7:1, “Judge Not”. As always, he got me thinkin’. Truth is, all are guilty. David didn’t exclude himself but led the way in acknowledging a simple reality – we judge others.

In one way or another, being judgmental seems to be a part of what makes us human, not right, but human. In fact, if honesty is to prevail, the most abundant spiritual gift operating in most churches today is the gift of criticism. Don’t laugh, think about it. Christians are notorious critics, sizing up and passing judgment on people every day, often people we don’t even know. Politicians and other government officials, for example. Look at us; we judge the boss, the teacher, our co-workers, friends and neighbors, anybody who lives, acts or thinks differently is subject to our scrutiny, including the pastor. Admit it, you can’t even watch a ballgame without being critical of the players, coaches or the officials at some point, but hold on a minute; let’s take a deep breath and think.

What was Jesus’ point? Was he telling us to zip it? To do or say nothing in every circumstance? When we see someone taking a wrong turn in life, going down a road that will result in harm to self or others, to not be judgmental are we to look the other way, be passive, do or say nothing? Is it being that persons judge to notice and point out the destructive path they travel? I don’t think so, no, I do not believe that to be the point of Jesus’ teaching. After all, Jesus later instructs his disciples to confront believers who are in sin (Matthew 18:15-17) and you will find a surplus of New Testament references encouraging believers to be on guard, looking out for false teachers and those who would pervert the truth of the gospel (Galatians 1:8, Philippians 3:2, 1 John 4:1) “. . .test everything, hold fast what is good”, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us. That’s not being judgmental but discerning, which happens to be a gift we are given enabling the follower of Jesus to follow him and help other believers along in their journey. It boils down to motive and addressing issues the right way and from a right spirit.

There’s A Log In Your Eye

Using this illustration in verses 4 and 5 of Matthew 7,  Jesus warns against hypocrisy. It’s not that we are to refrain from helping our spiritual family members to walk a closer walk through positive and compassionate spiritual counsel as circumstances and situations warrant, but we need to be sure the life we live qualifies us to do so. If there are issues we have yet to conquer and bring under the authority of the Holy Spirits counsel, we are not qualified to assist others in those matters and are being hypocritical when we dive into their problems yet neglect the very same problem resident in our own life. Paul wrote in Romans 2:1, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

This was an issue Jesus had with the Pharisees, repeatedly calling them hypocrites (see Matthew 23). Great at pointing out the sins of others, they kept up a pious facade Jesus compared to keeping the outside of a cup nice and clean but not the inside, it was dark and dirty. What about you? What does the inside of your cup look like?

If we are going to see clearly to help others in their struggles, we need unimpaired vision. We need to get the log out of our eye and clean up the inside of the cup before we will be able to correctly identify spiritual need and be truly qualified to assist someone else in getting back on the right road. I mean, if the road you travel is the wrong one, where then are those heeding your advice and following your lead headed? How will they wind up and where? What will be their eternal destination?

The Main Thing

The primary issue Jesus speaks to in warning against judging is one of invoking condemnation on others, as a final judge – that’s God’s job, not yours or mine. Only he who knows the heart can render a right decision. Try as we might, and often do, we see only the exterior of a person, what lays in the heart God alone sees (1 Samuel 16:7). This is why using such phrases as “God damn you” or “go to hell” should never pass over our lips. The person who does makes himself to be God (the ultimate judge), as having absolute knowledge of a person, his or her thoughts, intent, and motives, something we are not capable of. And as Jesus points out, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). It’s as if Jesus is saying, what goes around comes around – and it does. Keith Krell writes,

“You could say we are perfectionists when it comes to other people, but extremely tolerant when it comes to ourselves. We find it so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin while we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope!”

Krell is so right, pretty much one point of many David Griffin made at c|Life this morning. What about you, what about me? The verdict is in, the judge has found me guilty as charged. Forgive me, O’ God for the judgment I pass on others. Please help me remove this blinding log from my eye and teach me to be slow to judge others and quick to judge myself, being merciful always. The merciful will receive mercy (Matthew 5:2).

 

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*I am indebted to the work and ministry of Keith Krell for much of the content in this writing.