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.

What Jesus Said: God Answers

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Yesterday, we heard Jesus say not to toss your pearls to the swine, seemingly pointing out the great value of the message that we can belong to God. We can be of him. Those who reject that message don’t realize how costly it is.

whatjesus_350Today, he tells us to ask, seek, and knock. What would you ask for? What would you seek? Well, since he is God with all of the power in the universe, hopefully you’ll ask for something of great value, something like pearls, something like the opportunity to belong to God or to be restored to closer fellowship with him.

God responds to those who seek him. He is discoverable; he finds those who look for him. He welcomes those who trust in the message of Jesus; he offers them a place in his family by his grace through their faith.

Why? Because good dads like to give good things to their kids. Come back tomorrow.

Think: What have you asked God for? How have you looked for him? What has he given you? What have you found?

Pray: Thank God that he answers those who ask, seek, and knock.

Do: As briefly as possible, write down the incredibly valuable message of how someone can be included in the family of God.

What Jesus Said: God Gives Good Gifts

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

When was the last time you heard a five year old say something like this? “I’m really struggling in my conversation life with my dad. I’m not sure if I’m talking to him in the right way. I feel so guilty asking him for things all the time.”

whatjesus_350Kids don’t think that way. They ask their dads for what they want. And because even flawed human dads like to give good things to their kids, it works out.

God does not want us to think of him as a religious system or theological idea. He doesn’t want us to work on our “prayer life” or use all the right church words when we pray. He just wants us to talk to him like a dad – to tell him what we’re thinking, ask for what we want, and say thanks for what he gives.

He likes his kids. He likes giving us good things. He holds back things that will hurt us. He’s a good dad.

Think:  Do you think we tend to make our relationship with God more complicated than it needs to be? Why do you think it’s tough for us to think of him as a dad who likes us?

Pray: Thank your Father that he likes to give you good gifts.

Do: If you can, ask your dad how he feels (or felt) when you ask him for good things – even if he can’t always give them to you.

What Jesus Said: Do As You’d Like Done

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

What a simple idea! I’m sure the religious leaders resisted this statement. Their power and authority came from being masters of the specifics: “How much am I required to give? How often am I required to forgive? How exactly must I wash my hands?”

whatjesus_350Jesus moved past all the specifics to get to the point of the Law. In another passage, he said the greatest commands were to love God (with everything) and love all of our neighbors as ourselves. Here it’s even easier: Do what you’d like done to you.

How would you like someone to respond when you’re being a jerk? What would you like someone to say when you’ve make a mistake? How would you like someone to notice when you’ve made an effort to look good? How would you want your friend to treat you when she’s had a terrible day?

Jesus’ golden rule is genius. Don’t focus on the rules. Focus on being the person you’d like to have for a friend.

Think: Think back over the last week: Were there a couple of times when you did not “do to others what you would have had them do to you?” How could you handle that differently next time?

Pray: Ask God to help you to do to others what you would have them do to you.

Do: Ask a good friend, spouse or sibling how he or she would have liked to have been treated during your last fight.