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What We Judge

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We have no right to judge others - we can't even judge ourselves adequately

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Date: 2022-03-13
Audience: Grass Valley Corps ONLINE
Title: What We Judge
Text: Matthew 7:1-6
Proposition: Living in the Kingdom means focusing on your relationship with God, not anyone else’s.
Purpose: Pledge your allegiance to the King
Grace and peace
Matthew – bio of Jesus
Jesus, speaking to crowd of disciples in Galilee
Explaining how to live as part of God’s Kingdom
Everything someone who chooses to follow Jesus needs to know is covered in this message. Both the details and the explanations of how to apply them.
Sadly, ignored by most. Why? Two main reasons:
- We broke it up into chapters and verses, then separated those out and gave them headers as if each were its own separate story or teaching. Result: people try to understand the parts without connecting them together into a whole. That will get you around as well as a car which has its parts scattered around a large parcel of land. Wheel over here, fuel tank over there, engine block somewhere else…If you’d never seen a car or ridden in one, and someone showed you just a seat from one and told you this is how you should get around, what would you take from that? Same problem here. Splitting up the Sermon on the Mount into pieces is like giving people a glove box and telling them to drive.
- Second reason people struggle with the message here is that it’s old. Seriously! Jesus is speaking to a large crowd of people who live in a First Century agricultural society. He probably spoke in Aramaic and his biographers wrote in Greek. We take that and read an English translation, missing all the wordplay and not understanding the idioms and trying to rewrite our understanding of what was being said and done by applying our modern views, standards, and expectations to it. But when you do that it’s like asking someone to tell you how much two plus two is and having them tell you the answer is lemon squeeze. God made sure each of us had a brain of our own – it seems that he expects us to use them. Understanding this stuff takes some thought, some work, and some willingness to discover what WAS so that we can apply the lesson from that to what IS now.
As we’ve worked our way through the Sermon on the Mount we’ve learned that the view of Jesus was that there were two ways to go: Live as a subject in the Kingdom of God or live as a rebel fighting against that Kingdom. His call has been that those who are in rebellion can turn back, leave that life behind, and start new by pledging your allegiance to the LORD.
What does that mean? Well, we’ve seen him give us tools for self-examination. We are each to evaluate how or even if we are representing God’s Kingdom and how we are trusting in him to do the things a King was expected to do, like provide for his subjects. He has encouraged us to do for one another as God has done for each of us, going above and beyond to show love even in situations where our rebel nature might call for a far different reaction.
“Love,” by the way, meaning making a choice to make the needs of the other our priority. The word Jesus uses that is being translated as “love” isn’t one that has anything to do with that warm, squishy feeling you may get when someone you like walks by. Instead, it is a decision, a choice, to treat each person as a beloved part of your community – as if they were already a valued part of God’s kingdom – even if they are a sworn enemy of it or even of you. Just as God showers blessing on the righteous and unrighteous, the good and the bad, to let them know he is there and he loves us all – yes, even you! – so we are to respond to others with love to help them recognize there is a place for them in God’s Kingdom, if they accept it.
Which brings us to the last third of this message Jesus is preaching.
He’s given us all of these tools for self-examination so we can take up citizenship in God’s Kingdom and learn to follow his ways. So, do we use those to make sure we are good citizens? Or do we use our understanding of what God has called US to live out as a weapon against others?
If you’ve ever caught yourself justifying your choices by saying, “Well, yeah, I did this, but THAT GUY OVER THERE did that…” you know the answer is that our human tendency is to constantly compare ourselves to others instead of keeping our focus on our own relationship with our King.
Flip to Matthew chapter seven and let’s see what Jesus has to say about where the focus of his followers should be.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “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? 4 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? 5 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.
6 “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 turn and tear you to pieces. [1]
Matthew 7:1, like Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13 is a horribly misquoted and misused verse. I know that’s kind of a church-insider thing for me to say, and I’m not going to go into detail for the 90% of you who have no idea what I’m talking about. Ask me later, if you’re curious. The point I want to get across is that there are a lot of folks who pull this verse out by itself and think that it somehow means you’re not supposed to ever judge anyone for anything in any way. That’s maybe what this one particular sentence by itself in English might mean, but it isn’t at all what Jesus is saying when we look at it as part of the whole context of what he’s saying.
In Greek this confusion doesn’t even exist, because the word being translated at “judge” is more specific. A better translation to help us understand might be “Don’t decide in your own mind what is right and proper.”
Again, think about this as part of the WHOLE of what’s being taught and not as a stand-alone sentence disconnected from everything else.
If you are a citizen of a country, living in its borders, what laws are you subject to? Are you compelled to follow the law of “Some guy walking down the street just saw me and decided this is how things should be?” or are you under the law of the King?
The King, right?
Are you the King of God’s Kingdom?
No – sorry to disillusion you, but you don’t know enough to make the rules or to know what should or shouldn’t apply or how it should or shouldn’t be applied to others. And if you think I’m wrong about that, well, okay, but maybe you should go check some of the last chapters of the book of Job. He tried to lay some law back on the LORD, but the LORD rattled off a whole list of things Job never even gave a thought to as if they were just the beginning of the decision-making process God goes through in our lives. Stuff like, “How do you get to where light lives? Where does dark live? Where does wind go when its done? Why is the universe? What is a chicken thinking? Why are there wild donkeys? How come some birds lay eggs and leave them while others watch over their young? What tells birds that it’s time to migrate? Can you crush the wicked and decide the natural end of their life? Make a brontosaurus? Or train a sea monster to be a house pet for children?”
Or, to put it another way, if you aren’t the King’s equal, why are you trying to take his place by standing in judgment?
What is Jesus saying, then? He’s saying you need to fix your eyes on the King and follow him. If you want to evaluate someone’s eternal destiny, evaluate your own. If you’re looking at others to correct their choices or behaviors, your focus is in the wrong place.
If you want to help others on their journey towards God, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re dealing with your own junk first. Get that two-by-four out of your eye before you try to find the speck of sawdust in someone else’s.
Paul and other early church leaders said things like, “Follow me while I follow Jesus.” That’s helpful. It may open debate about what it means to follow Jesus, but that’s okay. We need to wrestle that stuff out together. What they DIDN’T teach was, “Hey, you suck and are going to hell unless you do what I say.”
Jesus even goes so far as to say that we have no place trying to condemn those outside of the Kingdom. That’s the whole “dogs/pigs” thing he said.
“Pearls” is how people referred to wisdom from the Torah, God’s Law. And pigs were unclean, unholy animals under the dietary and ritual laws of the day. It wasn’t an insult to the non-believers – it was a way of making a dramatic point that if you give something precious to someone who doesn’t value it, you’re wasting your time and theirs, and your precious thing is going to get muddy or stomped or eaten in the process.
Followers of Jesus are to be witnesses for the Kingdom, not gatekeepers, judges, or executioners for it. Show what it’s like, don’t impose it.
[1] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 7:1–6.
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