What Jesus Said: Don’t Judge

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 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 7:1-2)

This might be one of the most often quoted verses in the New Testament by people who don’t often read the New Testament. We’re dropping in on the middle of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” this week, kicking off with a verse many of us have attempted to use like a “get out of jail free” card when we’ve been caught in sin.

whatjesus_350“Hey! You’re not supposed to judge me for killing kittens! Jesus said so! What is wrong with you? Don’t you ever read your own Bible? Now leave me alone; I’ve got a lot of kittens to get through before supper time.” It goes something like that.

Of course, if you read on to the next verse, Jesus is not saying we should never have an opinion about what is right and wrong – or even that we should not lovingly correct each other. He does seem to be saying one of two things. One: It is God’s job to be the judge, not yours. If you try to do his job, you’ll receive from him the same judgement that you try to pronounce on others.

Or, two, he might be making a wisdom statement about human nature: We all tend to feel and act judgmentally toward people who are judging us. And we tend to give more grace toward those who show us grace and mercy. Either way: If you don’t want to be judged, don’t volunteer to judge others.

Think: Why do we sometimes feel so compelled to judge people who are obviously doing something wrong? How do you decide when it is right to confront a friend about sin and when it is right not to?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to wrongfully judge others and for the wisdom to know when it is right to offer loving and helpful correction to a friend or family member who is sinning.

Do: Think about this verse in light of what you read in James 5:19-20.

What Jesus Said: Plank Eye!

“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? 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?” (Matthew 7:3-5)

Jesus uses such great word pictures. You can almost see this as a Monty Python or “Saturday Night Live” sketch as the clueless-but-official-sounding “doctor” keeps whacking his patient in the head with the plank sticking out of his eye as he tries in vain to pick the other guy’s speck out with a pair of tweezers. Before it was over, they’d both be blind.

whatjesus_350And that’s the point. Volunteer judges love to walk around with tweezers looking for small infractions to point out and attempt to fix in their siblings. They carry a list of rules around with them – whatever list they’ve decided is the most important one – so they can pull it out and show it to each other and argue about exactly where the lines are that must. not. be. crossed.

Meanwhile, Jesus said, they are literally blind to the giant, obvious sin in their own lives. These hypocrites – and we’ve all been there – are like murderers banging the gavel at a jaywalking trial. They are the last people who should be “fixing” other believers.

So none of us should ever point out sin in another person’s life, right? Wrong! Come back tomorrow.

Think: Has anyone ever approached you about sin your life? Did they do it judgmentally and hypocritically? Have you ever been told you have a plank-sized sin that you had previously been blind to? Who do you trust that you could ask about any obvious problem areas in your life that you might be missing?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to become a hypocritical judge of other people’s sin while being blind to even more obvious sin in your own life.

Do: Think about asking someone you trust to tell you honestly and kindly if they have noticed any obvious sin in your life that you may not have seen. (Be willing to hear what they say and really think about it, even if you don’t agree completely, at first. And refuse to get mad and punish them for telling you what they really think.)

What Jesus Said: Be a Speckectomist

“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.” (Matthew 7:5)

It would be so much easier just stop with the verse before this one. I’d be way more comfortable with a philosophy of life that said, “Don’t ever worry about what anyone else is doing wrong; live and let live. That’s between them and God, not me.” It’s what our culture often means by “tolerance,” and it sounds so right and clean, doesn’t it?

whatjesus_350But Jesus kept going: Once you’ve rejected hypocrisy and have removed that log from your eye, then jump in there and help your brother remove the speck from his own eye. Yes, don’t become a judgmental hypocrite. But, also yes, do confront each other about sin with the willingness to help each other overcome it.

Jesus’ half-brother James was talking about a lot more than “specks” when he wrote this at the very end of his famous letter: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

God isn’t looking for volunteer judges, but he does call us as his children to get into each other’s business, to keep pointing each other back to the path of Jesus.

Think: Which is harder for you – not to judge or to lovingly help a Christian friend to deal with sin? Why?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be willing to be available to help your Christian friends deal with sin – with wisdom, grace, and kindness.

Do: Notice how these ideas fit with Hebrews 10:24-25.

What Jesus Said: No Pearls for Pigs

“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.” (Matthew 7:6)

In Jewish culture, to call someone a dog or a pig was harsh language. Usually, it was reserved for enemies of Israel or those who worshipped pagan gods. Jesus seems to be saying that we should only go so far in offering God’s truth to those stuck in sin.

whatjesus_350The most valuable things we have to offer to anyone – Christian or not – is the message of the gospel, the good news that God will forgive sin, that he loves us, and that we can be redeemed and/or restored to fellowship with him.

Don’t waste your time, Jesus says, trying to help pigs understand the value of pearls. Don’t squander your hours explaining the grace and glory of God to someone who refuses to care, to someone who is blind to the truth. Let them go.

Think: Is it hard to let people go when they openly reject the message of Jesus? Is it freeing to you to realize that you are not responsible for how people respond to God’s offer of grace and forgiveness?

Pray: Ask God to help you not too “throw your pearls to pigs” by trying too hard to convince those who reject him. Then ask him to help you to be available to talk to anyone who is interested about the enormously valuable message of the cross.

Do: Ask a Christian leader in your life if he or she has ever had to make a choice to stop “chasing” someone who clearly had no interest in God’s offer of forgiveness through faith in Jesus.