7th February 2023
Read (Matthew 7v1-5)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
There are whole sections of the Bible that no one reads and no one remembers and then there are sections like Matthew 7 that even the dogs in the street seem to know. Why? Because Jesus said "Judge not, that you not be judged." (v1). At first glance this is wonderful news in this pagan world. Many think that what Jesus means is "No one can say anything to me. No one can judge me. I know that I left my wife for another women but don't you dare say a word! Didn't Jesus say 'don't judge'?" I'm sure you've heard a similar argument, indeed I've even seen tatttoos that declare boldy "Only God will judge me."
But is that what Jesus meant when he urged us not to judge? No. Christ doesn't prohibit all judging. The Christian has every right to speak into this sinful world. We have a duty to declare God's truth which acts as a judgement upon all kinds of sinful acts. Additionally whenever there is disagreement in a local fellowship, we are to judge and be discerning so that we might get to the bottom of any argument. The Biblical standard for truth is the testimony of two or three witnesses - these witnesses are to judge the truth of any matter.
So the Lord isn't telling us to never ever judge, instead He warns here against judgement that is harsh on others and light on yourself. That's what we are often like isn't it? We say that we hate liars but we're not shy about telling a little white lie to get out of a jam. We say that those who break the speed limit should be punished severely and then we rage against the police when they pull us over for the same crime.
When Jesus warns against judging others, He speaks against a spirit that is so harsh and critical on others but will never ever judge our own actions. We know this to be true because verse two says "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." (v2). If we are extremely harsh with others over sins that we have committed ourselves then we can expect a similar harsh judgement from the Lord.
To help us understand the point, Jesus uses the famous picture of the speck and the log. He said "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (v3-4). The Lord doesn't prohibit all judging, instead He challenges us in the harshness of our hypocrisy.
Imagine a church member called Maggie (no one I know). Maggie doesn't realise it but she is the biggest gossip in her fellowship. She loves nothing more than to hear the latest news and then to add her own two cents. Maggie has questioned the motives of hundreds of people and muddied the name of hundreds more. But one day Maggie heard that someone had been talking behind her back and she was immediately outraged. "How dare they?" raged Maggie. "That's a so called Christian!" she told herself. "What are you going to do about the gossip in this church?" she asked her pastor. Do you see the Lord's point? Maggie (I'm still not thinking of anyone in particular!) with a log in her own eye went to war to remove the speck out of her neighbour's eye.
Judging is not out of bounds for the Christian but when we judge we should be mindful of our own twisted hearts. May we seek the Lord to ensure that our motives and judgements are pure, taking the log out of our own eye before we do anything else! May we not seek to destroy our neighbour for things we do ourselves. May we be generous to people who wrong us and strive to think the best of their motives (for surely one day the shoe will be on the other foot). But with all of that said, may we be courageous in the face of sin and evil and be prepared to call it out for what it is.
Q70 What is the seventh commandment? The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.