Faithlife Sermons

Criticism without Critique

Raw Faith for Real Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:40
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Criticism without self-critique leads to vicious disregard of God's Truth.

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As I began thinking on today’s text my first reaction was to go down the path that several commentators follow. They, and I, first feel compelled to explain what this is not saying. It is as if the sting is so sharp that we feel a need to deflect, rather than to allow the words to bring about the necessary change.
As I caught myself trying to rationalize and excuse my intolerance, my prayer is that the words God has laid upon my heart will serve as a fine scalpel in the hands of the Holy Spirit to excise that which needs to be removed while not causing unnecessary trauma to surrounding flesh.
Nobody, including me, enjoys being told “you are wrong” but Proverbs 15:32 offers a wise word:
Proverbs 15:32 (ESV) — Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
My desire is that we would open ourselves to the instruction and reproof God’s Spirit needs to apply to our wicked hearts.
Last week we looked at the subject of worry or anxiety and I told those gathered that worry and concern were two-sides of the same word that Jesus used. Today we also have another two-sided word. Negatively we can interpret the word to mean criticism, but positively the word leans toward discernment or the ability to judge rightly.
Yesterday morning one of my long-term friends tweeted Proverbs 4:23. I’m guessing that my friend is reading the chapter in Proverbs that coincides with the day of the month, (which is a helpful suggestion for our graduates and a good practice for any of us).
Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) — Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Is it possible to “keep or guard one’s heart” without exercising discernment? We all make judgment calls daily. 1 Cor 15:33 reminds us that our choice of companions matters. Ps. 1 instructs that the blessed man is the one who chooses his circle of influence.
1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) — Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Psalm 1:1 (ESV) — Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Is it possible for me to conclude that associating with certain people can threaten my own decisions? How can I experience God’s blessing if I do not identify the wicked, the sinners and the scoffers? How can I identify them if I don’t “judge” them?
The very ones that would label you or me as “judgmental” are indeed exercising judgment themselves. The very ones that label certain words as “hate speech” or “phobia” are imposing their judgment on the ideas and behaviors of others.
In 1 Cor 8 Paul writes about a particular behavior that divided 1st century believers. Certain butchers engaged in a behavior that others considered superstition. One set of shoppers adopted a shopping mindset that more mature believers understood to be imaginary. Some imagine that they know more than they actually know.
1 Corinthians 8:2 (ESV) — If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
I suppose the best way to illustrate what I’m describing is with a real-life example.
In Bonner Springs is a bakery franchisee who happens to be Buddhist. Behind the cash register, in a prominent location, is a statue of Buddha. Each day the shop owner lights a candle and sets the first/best of his product before this icon.
There is something about his process that makes his donuts taste better than other franchises of the same chain. Should a Christian do business with him or not?
Today we make similar choices and are accused of holding to imaginary standards. A behavior that one group identifies as noble or innocent is considered dangerous or evil by another group,
I believe this is the sin that Jesus is calling out in today’s text—claiming to know when we don’t know. When we presume to know the heart of another person and it causes us to think negatively of them, we slip into the judgmentalism condemned by Jesus; and it happens on both sides of the fence.
Today’s text was written 2,000 years ago and is about more than abortion rights and what some call “gay-marriage”. The person who quotes verse 1 without considering the next 5 is taking a quote out of context!
Matthew 7:1 is not a charge for social liberals to levy again social conservatives. It is a caution for all Christ followers to evaluate themselves.
Transition: If all Scripture is inspired and profitable, which it is, then we cannot omit or ignore verse 1. We owe it to the Lord and ourselves to seek to understand it and obey it. I believe proper obedience to this command begins when we…

Consider Our Privilege (vv.1-2)

Explanation

1. That (v.1) sets up a fulcrum or balancing point.
a. This is the idea of Lady Justice (or better yet, Sovereign God) holding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other, but the scale must be same length on both sides of the pivot.
b. If you experience grace, mercy & forgiveness on your side of the scale, you must expect that grace, mercy & forgiveness are also available to others who stand in the balance.
2. You be not judged (v.1) – by whom?
a. There is NO way to avoid our judgment by God, the righteous judge.
b. I believe this is talking only about the way humans relate to one another. If a believer is strict in his judgment of others, he can expect to be judged strictly by others.
c. Some people’s own words and actions make them a lightning rod of attack; while others fly below the radar and seem to avoid scandal.
3. Judgment you pronounce (2a)
a. Do not expect of others more than God demands of you.
b. Romans 14:10 and following and James 4:12 clearly teach that sin will be judged. The warning is that we not elevate OUR judgment above God’s judgment.
4. Measure you use (2b)
a. Do not expect of others more than you demand of yourself.
b. This is where “privilege” comes into the discussion. Those of us who are the benefactors of God’s mercy are capable to extend that mercy to others. Those who remain under God’s wrath, have no experience from which true mercy may be offered.
i. Self-reflection is intended to increase compassion!
ii. If we find ourselves doing what we don’t want to do, and we have the Holy Spirit inside of us empowering us to make right decisions; What should be our perspective toward those who face the same temptations, yet do not have the Spirit’s empowerment?
5. The judgment we use demands humility (as we never substitute our opinions for God’s); and sympathy (as we extend grace to others as we have received). To the extent that we show humility and sympathy is the extent to which we will avoid the label of hypocrite.

Application

1. I believe the “for” at the beginning of verse 2 tells us that the point of verse 1 is not if we judge, but how we judge.
2. Our forgiven, yet imperfect, status gives us the opportunity to prioritize our own log removal before worrying about the speck in our brother’s eye.
Transition: Once we have determined that God’s judgment is the standard, and that grace is the measure to be used then we prioritize removal of both my log and her speck.

Chronological Speck Removal (vv.3-5a)

Explanation

1. Verse 3 identifies 2 problems-- both need to be dealt with. This is not a case or either/or; it is a situation of both/and, or first/then.
Triage is a medical discipline of prioritizing what conditions must be treated in what order for the greatest good.
2. Verse 4 shows the absurdity of wrong order.
3. Verse 5 reverses the hypocrite’s priorities.

Illustration

· My first merit badge when I was a Boy Scout was the First Aid merit badge.
In that course we learned cool things like how to suck rattlesnake venom out of a bite, how to splint a broken leg, and how to apply a tourniquet. But we were trained that all these treatments are secondary to a stopped heart or breathing.
We were trained that EVERY incident starts by assessing the A, B, Cs.
None of the cool treatments make a difference if we didn’t first ensure sufficient airway, breathing and circulation.

Application (1 Peter 4:17)

1 Peter 4:17 (ESV) — For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God;
1. If we don’t take care of first things first and remove our own logs, we can never get close enough to cautiously remove the speck from our neighbor.
2. In these verses Jesus is calling us to careful, humble, and complete self-evaluation before we even think of asserting our perspective on others.
Transition: The necessary log removal in the disciple’s eye has not changed the fact that a speck remains in the eye of our brother.

Compassionate Speck removal (v.5b)

Explanation

1. The speck cannot be ignored. It does no good for your brother or anyone else to act as if the speck has disappeared or has magically become something good.
2. The tendency of natural man is to rename the defect as a benefit, i.e. “this is the way God made me” or “diversity makes life richer” or “I’m only expressing my God-given freedom”.
3. This denies the reality that eyes were never intended to house foreign objects.
I am aware that several of us have medical conditions where our physician has adopted a “wait and see” strategy.
We have communicated a discomfort, the tests have been run, the options and risks have been weighed, and we now wait to see if the medication or therapy will change the condition.

Illustration

1. There is a reason that most children who get a splinter in their finger or toe run to mom before going to dad.
Most dads will look at the finger, squeeze it to see if the end of the sliver sticks out. If not, dad might pull out his pocket knife (the same knife that Junior has seen him use to whittle a stick into a spear). By this time Junior is crying hysterically and shaking uncontrollably and is imagining what life is going to be like without that finger.
On the other hand, Mom is likely to calmly take Junior inside and apply ice. This does 3 things: the constriction may urge the end of the sliver out, the cold will numb the finger, and the time will allow the patient to calm down. Then mom finds the least invasive tools she can find—a pair of tweezers, and a tiny needle “only if we need it”. Mom knows she’s only going to get one chance at this so she pulls over a light to get the best view possible, then she distracts by telling a story or singing a song, tells Junior to look at something across the room, then pops that little demon out before Junior realized what has happened.

Application

1. The difference is that most men see a splinter as a problem to be fixed, while most moms see a child in need of comfort.
2. Jesus says that logs are a higher priority than specks, but after logs are removed and we see and understand clearly, there is no reason to leave a speck in our brother’s eye when it could be carefully and compassionately removed.
3. If the first thing you notice when you look at your neighbor is his speck, we need to take a second look! It is only when you see him first as your brother, that we can even begin to have the compassion necessary to address his speck.
Transition: There will be times that even when our motives are truly compassionate and our demeanor is truly humble that our message may be disregarded.

Considered Pearl stewardship (v.6)

Do not allows “dogs” and “pigs” to determine your values.

1. Have you ever received an unsolicited opinion? How did you respond?
2. Dogs and Pigs are referred to together in 2 Peter 2:22
2 Peter 2:22 (ESV) — What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
3. In v.15 we will be warned against false teachers, so in order to obey v.15 we need to be able to identify those who prophecy falsehoods.
a. There will be times when we humbly speak God’s truth and the response will be vicious.
b. There will be times that we offer precious insights from Scripture and the recipient will totally disregard.
4. You have opinions and I have opinions, but the law of contradiction says that where these opinions diverge, they cannot be equally true.
a. Do not for 1 minutes entertain the idea that another person’s opinion or perspective is the same as their truth.
5. 2 Cor 10:5 warns that the enemy of godliness sets up strongholds, arguments and lofty opinions. But God offers divine power to punish every disobedience.

Illustration

As our young people go off to University, Trade School, Military, or the Factory there will be teachers, supervisors, and colleagues who disregard the message of the Bible.
· Verse 6 clearly states that neither vicious attack, nor dismissive words can decrease the value of God’s precious truth.

Application

1. “So when taken together Mt 7:1–5 and v. 6 become something of a Gospel analogue to the proverb ‘Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you’ (Prov 9:8)”.[i]
2. How will we respond when God’s truth confronts our disobedience? May we never disregard God’s word like dogs or pigs, but only as the wise man who removes the log and loves the rebuke.

Conclusion:

To our graduates who are entering the world of adults and ideas, and to those of us who already live in that space, today’s text offers invaluable advice about how we interact with those whose values are different than ours.
1. Do not consider all ideas as equally true.
2. Do not condemn those in need of redemption.
3. Do not cast away the riches of God’s Word.
[i] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 185.
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