INTRO: Good morning church. Turn in your Bibles with me this morning to Matthew 7:1-6. This will be our main text though we will be looking at other scriptures.
This is a part of the Sermon on the Mount as Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7:1-28 is called. In this sermon, the Lord proclaims the principles of the kingdom of heaven. In chapter 5 are what we call the beatitudes, and the relationship to the law. In chapter 6 we read about seeking the kingdom of God and in chapter 7 the narrow path.
This is a sermon from which we can glean a large number of practical lessons on how to live our lives. The content of chapters 6 and 7 are practical instructions in righteousness for the citizens of the kingdom, forming a striking contrast to the ideas of righteousness that was current among the Scribes and Pharisees. Alms, prayer, forgiveness, fasting, wealth, freedom from anxiety, rash judgments, reserve in communicating sacred knowledge, persistence in prayer, the necessity of good works, and stability of character
The particular lesson or theme that we are dealing with this morning is “to judge or not to judge”. Understanding this topic is something that is very much needed in our society. Something we need to consider carefully because it is often misunderstood.
As to this particular text, it is a text that from time to time we mention in dealing with the type of judgment that is condemned and also the type of judgment that is not condemned.
In our lesson this morning, I want to look at that in greater detail. We're living in times when we're not supposed to judge anyone, especially when it comes to their moral behavior.
Sadly, as we know, this is not exclusive to dealing with what we would describe as the worldly mindset. There are many so-called believers in Jesus Christ, who would tell you the same thing, that we should not judge others.
Even among some of the Lord’s church, there are those practicing things with no authority. They use this text to say; “You should not judge me in my conduct, or you should not judge us in what we are doing.” Is that really what the Bible is teaching? What does this passage mean? What is involved here? I suspect that judging is something all of us struggle with from time to time.
In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says “… unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Then Jesus gives illustrations of what He's talking about. He gives several examples of how they had dismissed what the law truly taught or what the Law was demanding of them.
Now our text, “1. "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2. "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4. "Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me remove the speck out of your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5. "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye. 6. "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
In this message Jesus is dealing with the subject of judging. What exactly did Jesus mean as He was talking about judgment? Jesus gives us an illustration when He talks about how you want to remove the speck in your brother's eye when there's a plank in your own eye. Jesus says, take care of your plank first before you worry about your brothers spec.
Let’s look in scripture and see if we can identify:
First what Jesus was not talking about.
Secondly what Jesus was talking about.
Thirdly, let’s look at how to judge, and some principles to give consideration to.
I. What was Jesus not talking about - .
A. From the scriptures the first observation we make is Jesus was not saying that we should never question somebody or criticize somebody concerning their behavior. If somebody is doing wrong, there's nothing to discourage us from pointing out that error.
1. Jesus is not saying we should not take note of people who are in error. We need to be constructively concerned about somebody doing that is wrong, rather than just fault finding.
2. I'm reminded of Galatians 2:11, where Paul says, “But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;”
a. Paul called Peter out publicly. Paul gives the example where Peter was playing the hypocrite. Before certain men came from James he would eat with the Gentiles. But when those men had come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
b. Peter was being inconsistent in the way that he was dealing with brethren, and the rest of the Jews played the hypocrite with him so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
c. Paul goes on to say, I challenged him. Paul “called him on the carpet”, as the saying goes, and pointed out to Peter his error.
d. We should understand, when somebody is in error, Jesus is not saying you should not point out what that error is and even go to the individual critically and challenge them on that error.
3. In James 5:19-20 James concludes with this point, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”. When somebody wanders from the truth, we need to do whatever we can to bring them back. We are making a judgment on their actions, and determined that it is in error. Then we need to deal with that error.
4. Galatians 6:1 is similar, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
5. There is a time then to deal with a speck in your brother's eye. Did Jesus say you should never do that? He didn't say that, did he? He just said; Take care of the plank in your own eye first.
6. If somebody is in error, it needs to be challenged. Jesus is not saying that we should not question someone on their teachings or their behavior when there is error.
B. Furthermore, Jesus is not saying that we should not practice, and I'm putting this in quotes, “church discipline” today, that is withdrawing from the ungodly. That is taught very clearly in 1st Corinthians 5:4-7. Paraphrasing 5:1 first, “It is reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.”[para] Paul goes on to say they should be mourning the situation.
1. You hear some people say, you can't judge me in what I do. Paul says, “4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5. deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7. Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.”
2. Look at Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” Paul warned these brethren to note those who cause divisions, and mark them.
3. In 2nd Thessalonians 3:6 Paul says, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” He says, we are to withdraw from everyone who walks disorderly. This is practicing discipline.
4. The world says, “You shouldn't judge people like that, let God take care of it”. Scripture says—we have a responsibility to try to help someone in error to turn from it and that may include withdrawing.
5. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus teaches about a brother who has a fault. “15. "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16. "But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that `by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17. "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
6. How do you deal with it? You go to him first, and if he doesn't respond, if he doesn't repent, take two or three witnesses. If that doesn't work, you tell it to the church. If that doesn't work, you let him be to you as an unbeliever, no longer a brother in Christ—you withdraw from them. That's the standard that Jesus gives us.
C. Having said that, Jesus didn't mean we should be involving ourselves with those that are in darkness and have no desire to understand the truth. If somebody is in darkness, if they are living a life of immorality and engaged in sinful behaviors, don't play around with that. It would be like somebody playing with a poisonous snake. Jesus isn't saying you should refrain from making a judgment against somebody in that type of circumstance.
1. We're told in Ephesians 5:11, “… have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
2. In 2nd Corinthians 6:14 Paul says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Paul follows this with examples. Light has no fellowship with darkness, and Christ has no fellowship with Belial.
3. In 2nd Corinthians 6:17 Paul says, “"Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.''”
4. We are not to say; “I can't judge those who are practicing immorality in the world. I'm just going to hang out with them anyway. Even though they're doing things that are sinful, I'm not going to say anything to them and I’ll just act like it's no big deal.”
a. In 1st Peter 4:3-4 Peter says, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles when we walked in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” We don't do that anymore. We've changed. We choose our friends based upon a different standard.
b. In our text Matthew 7:6, Jesus says, “do not cast your pearls before swine”. This calls for us to make a determination, a judgment, “Am I casting my pearls before swine if I continue dealing with this individual?” We need to determine (i.e. judge) whether or not we should deal with someone.
5. Nor does Jesus mean we should not expose false teachers or false doctrine. Galatians 1:6-9 “6. I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7. which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
a. There's only one gospel, and if somebody preaches something different than the truth of God's word, you are to reject that person. We are not to sweep false teaching and false doctrine under the carpet.
6. In Titus 1:10-11 Paul is in the process of giving instructions to Titus to appoint elders. Among the qualities needed in elders are maturity and integrity. Paul says, “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.” These people need to be challenged, they need to be identified, and they need to be marked. When somebody is teaching error it needs to be identified.
7. In 2nd John 9-11 we have a very strong passage where John is warning about those not teaching the doctrine of Christ. “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” John says whoever does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. Do not fellowship with such a person. If you do… you will share in their evil deeds. We are not to support somebody that is teaching false doctrine.
a. Incidentally, do you have to make a judgment when you identify somebody as a false teacher? Yes, you do.
b. 1st John 4:1 tells us to “test the spirits”. In Matthew 7:15f Jesus warns, “… "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” You will be able to make a judgment based upon the fruit that they're bearing. That's in the same sermon where Jesus says, “judge not, that you be not judged.”
II. What was Jesus talking about -
A. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom. He is correcting some misunderstandings (example: Matthew 5:43-44) and extending His followers understanding beyond following points of law (example: Matthew 5:27-28). Remember Jesus is not teaching based on reinterpretation, He is teaching based on HIS OWN AUTHORITY. What Jesus teaches superseded the Old Law. I suggest that here He was addressing unjust and unfounded judgments. Let’s consider some scripture.
B. We have studied in James about prejudice and that's one of the ways that our text applies. Somebody that looks at a person's outward appearance and they make a prejudgment without knowledge. They determine if someone is bad or good based upon outward appearance.
1. In James 2:1-10 James says we are not to judge with partiality and gives an example. James says, if you do so you've become judges with evil thoughts. In verses 8-9 there he says “ If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself,'' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
2. That's the type of judgment that he's talking about. Prejudice is unjust judgment.
C. Another example is assuming the worst in others or assuming the worst in a given situation.
1. There are those who out of hatred will assume the worst in their perceived enemy or rival. We hear of those who think a certain person can never do anything right. Everything is scrutinized and attacked with the assumption that person must be wrong.
2. Jesus was constantly judged wrongly because His enemies did not WANT to accept Him. Just consider His trial, and how they accused Him of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub.
3. We see this in politics all the time, don't we? We see it in the way that politicians treat each other, both sides of the aisle. So much hatred and animosity expressed in an ungodly attitude of judgment toward those who you don't like, toward those who disagree with you. “Everything that so-and-so says, it can't be right, it has to be wrong.” That's the attitude.
4. Look in Matthew 12:24 “But when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.''” Does that answer the question of how Jesus can cast out demons? Is that an honest judgment of what Jesus was doing? Absolutely not. It was made out of hatred. It was made assuming the worst in Jesus because they didn't want to assume the best.
D. I’m sure we have all known or know some individuals who, if you talk to them, it's almost guaranteed they will have something negative to say. They just approach life and other people with the idea that, it has to be wrong, rather than it being right. Instead of assuming there might be other motives behind what is being done, they assume the worst. Every little thing is nitpicked and criticized and people can't do anything right.
1. That's unjust judging, unrighteous judging. There are some people that approach life with everybody's bad, and I'm going to assume that you're bad until you prove to me that you're good. Would you think that's the approach we should take?
2. I suggest perhaps we ought to reverse that, give a person the benefit of the doubt. James 5:9 “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”
E. Another type of judgment that is wrong judging is passing judgment with ulterior motives, which is something Jesus dealt with all the time. There are many people who pass judgments, some pass judgments constantly condemning, and others constantly justifying.
1. When you know someone has exposed something negative about you, you may be tempted to find fault with them or try to attack them and their character. Perhaps you want to divert attention from your errors and what you're doing wrong.
2. We find this in debates today dealing with who is God and whether the Bible is the word of God. (And politics) People engage in what is described as an ad hominem attack. What it means is they attack the speaker when they can't answer his argument.
3. You impugn the integrity of the speaker as if that will invalidate the argument. Folks, let me tell you right now, in logic—it doesn't. Nevertheless, that's what people do. Isn’t that exactly what the enemies of Jesus did over and over and over?
4. There's another side to this, which is created by favoritism. It is saying here is a person who can do no wrong. They may be in error, but because they're on your side or whatever, you say, “I see nothing wrong with what they're doing.” Isn't that wrongful judgment just as much as the unfounded condemnation?
5. Look at John 11:47-50 in speaking of Jesus. “47. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48. "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.''” In other words if we leave him alone, we're in trouble. Does it matter whether what He's doing is right? Does it matter whether what He is teaching is worthy of consideration?
6. Verse 49f – “49. And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, 50. "nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.''” That's a chilling statement. It's more expedient to kill Him than have to answer to the Romans. Is that a righteous judgment?
F. Something else that is sinful judging is prideful judgment. There are many people that pass judgments on others to make themselves look good. They think they're better than everybody else.
1. I think of Luke 10:25-29 where the lawyer asks Jesus what is needed for eternal life. Jesus asks the lawyer what the Law says. The lawyer answered correctly but then in verse 29 “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?'” That’s an ungodly attitude—prideful judgment.
G. Another thing we need to be concerned about is being hypocritical in our judgment.
1. In our text at Matthew 7:5 we read, “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.” The idea here of a hypocrite is someone who will impose a standard on you that they won't follow themselves. Unfair judgment.
2. Another passage where Jesus used the word hypocrites to describe that very thing in Matthew 23:4, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” I suggest that's the type of judgment that Jesus is condemning.
H. When Jesus said, judge not, lest you be judged, I think we need to give consideration to every one of those qualities we have looked at.
III. How should we judge - From studying the scriptures we see there are judgments we should not make and there are judgments we should make. How are we to do this judging?
A. It ought to be righteous. Jesus tells us that in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” There's a time then for righteous judgment. We need to make sure that in whatever way we render judgment, that we're doing it to the best of our ability to be right.
B. Why do we need to judge righteously? It is because we desire to be right with God. When you're dealing with how you judge others based upon their behavior, based upon their teachings, do you want to be right with God? And - Do you want them to be right with God? That's really the attitude that we need to have in mind.
1. We find in The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” You bring your gift to the alter because you have a desire to be right with God but Jesus makes the point you need to be reconciled to your brother before you offer your gift.
C. Something else that's associated with righteous judging is taking the time to investigate before we pass a judgment. 1st John 4:1 reminds us, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Make sure that you know what is really going on when you judge.
D. I suspect this next point may be a little difficult but we need to judge with respect for the liberties of others. There are some things that we may not like. We may not be comfortable with the way someone is doing something, but what they're doing may not be wrong within itself. And just because we don't like something, doesn't mean it's wrong.
1. This is a tricky area and people sometimes abuse this principle to justify what is sinful. I'm not talking about things that are sinful. But there are areas, we call liberties, where God doesn't care whether you do them or not. Think of Romans 14, God doesn't care what kind of food you eat and the observing of days and so on. As example Romans 14:10 – “Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
2. The point being, when we consider judging, we need to respect differences that are not contradictory to God's word. Colossians 2:16 – “Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,” We need to make sure when we judge that we respect the liberties of others.
E. In addition to that, when it comes to judging others, it needs to be done with love. This, folks, is one of those things that cannot be emphasized enough. 1st Corinthians 13:4-7. Paul says, “4. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5. does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6. does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I strongly suggest that every one of these qualities need to be in place when we start judging others.
F. It needs to be done with love, with a proper attitude, with understanding, and it also needs to be done with mercy. James 2:12-13 – “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
1. We talked about the person with ungodly attitudes, the one that looks for faults, passes judgment without knowledge and so on. Why not do it the other way? Why not give the benefit of the doubt and assume maybe a person had proper motives in what they were doing, rather than improper motives?
2. If somebody is teaching error, until they prove differently, assume that they don't mean to be teaching error, and that they want to be taught the truth. Go to them before passing judgment. Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness,” Give the benefit of the doubt that they want to do the right thing.
G. In addition, keep in mind we should judge others the way we would want to be judged. Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Think about that when it comes to judging others.
H. Remember also that our goal is to save souls. We should keep that in mind when we see the need to judge. Go to that somebody you have a concern with, with the goal of saving a soul. Go with a desire for them to do that which is right, not just so that you can have justification for writing them off. Hope for the best.
I. Along that line our judgment needs to be with a view toward eternity. Back to The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:2 again, with emphasis – “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
1. Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
2. Matthew 6:14-15 – “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
3. On the same occasion, Jesus said, the way you forgive is the way you're going to be forgiven, the way you show mercy is the way you're going to be shown mercy, and the way you judge is the way you're going to be judged. Think about that.
Are we to judge with a righteous judgment? Yes, but we need to take seriously the warning of Jesus, judge not lest you be judged, and understand what He's saying. Then make a proper judgment making application of that text.
The lesson is yours.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon by: Thomas Thornhill Jr.
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