This series essentially picks up where the resurrection left off. When Jesus was on the earth, He announced that He was doing something brand new. He announced that He was establishing a brand new covenant with all of mankind, not just with the Jews, but with all the world, a brand new kind of relationship with God. And with that would be a brand new movement. We know it now as the church. And although He started some new things, He also ended some old things. And then just as things were going well, He was crucified, which meant game over, or at least so the people thought.
That is until He rose from the dead and punctuated everything He had taught and everything He claimed about himself. Then He gathered His closest followers together and instructed them to go out into all the world, again not just to the Jews or the people in their region, go into all the world, and teach all the people to obey everything I have commanded you.
They had what we’re calling a Resurrection Religion, because it was a religion based off an event, not a book or something someone just said. This was a brand new thing, not an extension of something old. But even though they had this powerful event, they really didn’t have much else to go on.
They had some parables that most of them didn’t understand. There were miracle stories told by eye witnesses to those miracles. They did not have a Bible. But they did have the teachings of Jesus as remembered by those that heard Jesus teach. And with those teachings came this odd assortment of commands. These are what we’re calling the “N Commandments.” Things Jesus taught us not to do.
So in this series, we’re looking at five of those things that Jesus said not to do. In doing so, we’re kind of stepping back in time and asking the question, what would it look like to be a Jesus follower before there was a New Testament? What would it look like to be a Jesus follower when all you had was a Resurrection Religion and this strange assortment of commands?
The amazing thing about these five of these things is that they don’t even really make any sense, and they especially didn’t make any sense to His early followers, that is, until the resurrection happened. So far we looked at Fear not, Sin Not, and Worry Not. Worry not, wouldn’t you like to just be able to obey that? Never ever have another thought of worry in your whole life!? Again, these commands, they really did not make a lot of sense, until the resurrection changed it all.
A most important “NOT”…
The ‘not’ that we’re going to look at today is one of the most important because it’s the commandment that is most often quoted and thrown back in Christians’ faces. In fact, you might have said this to someone, or someone might have said this to you recently. If you’re not a Christian, this is probably one of the things you hate about those who are. In fact, when you find out which ‘not’ this is, you’re going to think that you struck gold because “church people” are talking about the biggest issue you have with them. It’s the one thing that Jesus said, that you might even quote pretty often.
That’s right. Do not judge.
In other words (you can use this next time somebody judges you) “Thou shall not size me up and write me off.” That’s what it means to judge, right? Though shall not size me up and write me off. Thou shall not look at me or hear something I say, see something I wear, find out who I’ve been with, see what’s on my body, and decide to write me off.
Nobody wants to be judged. Nobody likes to hear about other people being judged. This is one of the most popular things Jesus said. Do not judge. In fact, maybe you didn’t even know Jesus said it, but you knew it was in the Bible somewhere. Couldn’t find it if your life depended on it, but you know it’s in there somewhere.
Today, we’re going to look at what Jesus actually said about judging.
Why are religious people so judgmental?
Christians can be judgmental. Muslims can be judgmental. Catholics can be judgmental. The ancient Jews in Jesus’ time were certainly judgmental. When you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and hear some of the stuff they said and the ways they treated people, it was extremely judgmental. For some reason, religious people, regardless of the religion, get judgmental pretty quickly.
Jesus said early on in His ministry (literally right after He said worry not) to “judge not”. So why do we judge? Why are religious people so judgmental?
I think there’s probably a lot of reasons. But I want to talk about two real quick, then we’re going to look at what Jesus actually said.
Two potential reason religious people judge others…
1. I think sometimes we judge because we’re jealous.
We see sinners having so more fun than we are having, and we don’t like that. Mostly because as they’re enjoying sin, and we’re being righteous (or are working on being righteous), they seem to be getting away with something. Basically, as a religious person, if I can’t, they shouldn’t be able to either. To top it off, the more sinful they are, it seems the better their lives are. Part of what we’re so jealous of is that we think people are getting away with their sin.
When that’s the case, I don’t think we really understand sin, and I think that’s one reason we’re so judgmental.
2. The other reason is we’re self-righteous.
This is going to be a little harsh so bear with me. But remember, I’m in this with you. I do understand. We’ve all, if we are truly honest, at some point or another have done this.
Self-righteousness is ignorant, and it’s arrogant. Here’s what I mean by that. Self-righteous people compare themselves to others thinking things like, “I’m so much better than her,” “I would never do that,” and “I can’t believe they believe that.” It’s just so easy to judge other people.
Meanwhile, we dumb down God’s holiness, and we elevate our own. That’s what self-righteous people do. They dumb down God’s holiness so that they can reach that goal, and then they elevate themselves. That’s why it’s ignorant and arrogant. And consequently, the self-righteous are very rarely self-aware.
The point is, if you’re religious at all, regardless of your religion, religion leans itself to being judgmental. Now, that makes this a very, very important ‘not.’ But the other reason this is a very important ‘not’ is because “judge not” is not all that Jesus said. “Judge not” was the beginning of a discussion, but unfortunately the only part people understand or remember or notice in the Bible, is the “Do not judge.”
So since this is such an important ‘not,’ we’re going to look closely at what else Jesus said about judging. So here we go.
1 “Do not judge.”
There it is. Basically, thou shall not criticize me, compare me to anyone or anything. Don’t compare me to my older brother, don’t compare me to the other guy you worked for, don’t compare me to the person down the street, don’t compare me to his wife, don’t compare me to anyone. “Do not judge,” period.
Except when Jesus said this, there wasn’t a period, there was a comma. He said…
1 “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.
Literally this means, with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with what measure you use, that measure will be used against you. So basically, Jesus said “Judge unto others as you would have others judge unto you,” right? The next time somebody judges you, you should say “You better be careful, cause this going to come back on you.”
Which goes both ways by the way, which brings us to a really important question when it comes to judgment. If we are going to be judged the way we judge other people, or if the way that we judge others is going to come back on us, how do you want to be judged? I’ll answer first, I want to be judged not. I don’t want to be judged at all. Do you want to be judged? No, we don’t want to be judged.
But if you have to judge me, isn’t it true for all of us, if you have to judge me I want you to judge me mercifully. And let me explain what I mean.
When you judge me, I want you take into account the family I was raised in, I want you to take into account the way I’ve been treated by other people, all of my insecurities that I have no control over. I want you to take into account the temptations I struggled with. If you’re going to judge me I want you to be merciful, and I want you to take into account my entire story.
Isn’t that how you want to be judged? Before somebody sizes you up, writes you off, cause that’s not fair, I want you to take into an account my entire story. You need to take into account all of me, not just that one behavior, not just that one tattoo, not just that one bad hair day, not the fact that you saw me working over there, or saw me with her. I want you to take into account my entire story.
And Jesus continues,
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye…
Now this is the part we like because this confirms what we suspected. There is something wrong with her, there is something wrong with him – they do have sawdust in their eye. That’s the part when we go “Have you seen her? Oh yeah, I wonder what kind of girl she is. I don’t know what’s going on with her.”
So there is something in their eye, and we have noticed it. He goes on, you’ve heard this before…
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?”
So we went from a piece of sawdust to a plank. Now, I think this question Jesus is asking is a really easy question to answer. The reason that we look at the speck of sawdust in her eye, and don’t look at the big old plank in our eye, is two reasons.
Number one, it’s more fun to look at the sawdust in someone else’s eye because that distracts me from the big old plank in my own. In fact, her issues, the things that are messed up about her make me feel better about myself. The reason that we do this is because it’s easier on us. It distracts us from the fact that we’ve got issues too.
The other answer we have for this question Jesus is asking is that we don’t really believe there is anything wrong with us. We see what’s wrong with them. That’s easy. It’s obvious to the rest of us what’s wrong with them. But I’m not so sure there’s anything really that bad or wrong with me.
And then Jesus clarifies the “not” taking us right to the heart of the issue, why you should judge not.
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?
In other words, how dare you point out what’s wrong with someone else when you have something wrong with you? Then he punctuates it with these two words that none of us want to hear ever.
5 “You hypocrite”
Now, if you want to know what a hypocrite is by Jesus’ definition, it’s this. It’s somebody that is more fascinated by what’s wrong with someone else than they are what’s wrong with themselves. It’s someone that’s more interested and more preoccupied with fixing other people, than fixing themselves. It’s people who see what’s wrong with everyone else, but refuse to face up to what’s wrong with themselves and this is harsh, I know, but it’s true, because we all have issues.
I should focus on my issues and you should focus on yours. Now this doesn’t mean we don’t help each other out. We’ll get to that in a minute. But we don’t need to be so worried about other people if we’re not concerned about our own issues first. So, maybe the lesson that Jesus is trying to get to with this ‘not’ is simply this: Mind your own business. He could have just said that, right? The lesson for today is mind your own business. Lesson over.
You let her deal with her stuff cause she knows her history and she knows her background, and she knows her insecurities, and you just go look in the mirror and deal with your own stuff. Everybody, mind your own business. The end. Let’s pray. Just kidding…cause Jesus doesn’t stop there.
In fact, this is what’s so amazing. This is where Jesus actually begins the lesson, because once again when He gets to “You hypocrite”, there’s no period. It’s a coma again. So listen to what He says next.
5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly”
“You hypocrite, first…” Saying it like that sounds like He’s about to give us a list. “First, you hypocrite. How dare you interfere with what’s going on in another person’s life before you first look in the mirror and deal with your own stuff?
See, when I see how messed up you are, that should remind me to go examine my own sin, deal with it, and consequently, be better off. That’s what He’s teaching, isn’t it? That when I’m tempted to pass judgment on someone – “oh man, did you see what he did? Look what he wrote. Look what she tweeted. Did you see her the pictures on her Facebook page?”
When I’m tempted to pass judgment on someone else, I should stop and say, “Wait, Jesus said judge not. So not only am I not going to judge, but I’m going to go back and look at the stuff on my page, and I’m going to look at the things I’ve said. I’m going to look at the way I dress. I’m going to examine me, and consequently I will become a better version of me….thanks to your mess.
But remember, Jesus started a list. He said, “You hypocrite, first, take the plank out of your own eye.” So, if that’s first, we have to ask the question, “What’s next?” It’s not a trick question.
If the first thing is to take a plank out of my eye…many think that’s where it should end, but it doesn’t…and now I’m better off and I’m a better person. But here’s the thing I hope you never forget. Following Jesus never stops with what’s in it for you, ever. It never stops there.
Following Jesus, at the end of the day, is all about leveraging what God has done in me, and God has done for me for the sake of other people. Because at the epicenter of Jesus’ teaching is, “Love one another the way that I have loved you.”
He says, 5 “You hypocrite. First, take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly…” And once again, there’s no period…and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
See, the problem with me minding my own business is that it does nothing for the person whose business needs minding. And the problem with you seeing something in me, and it’s just simply motivating you to become a better person, is that it does something for you, but it does nothing for anyone else. Suddenly Jesus spins the whole thing around. Suddenly, Jesus turns ‘judge not’ inside out and says that’s not all.
This isn’t simply about leaving people alone. This isn’t simply about minding your own business, and it’s certainly not about becoming a better person based on all the issues you see in other people. This is about getting to a place where you can appropriately approach someone else about the stuff in their lives.
To which we say, “Oh but wait. That’s so judgmental.” To which Jesus says, “No, it’s not.” Jesus commands us, don’t miss this, this is huge, Jesus commands us to address our stuff, but not for our sake. Jesus commands us to address our issues to prepare us to help other people with their issues. He commands us to take the plank out of our own eye, not simply so that we won’t have a plank in our eye, but so that we can see clearly to address the sawdust in the eyes of other people around us.
This is not is judgmental, this is obedience. It takes us right to the heart of everything Jesus taught, and everything that Jesus is about. Love one another.
The problem is, self-righteousness and jealousy get in the way of love. But self-awareness paves the way to the kind of love that Jesus asked us to exhibit to one another. You see, ‘judge not’ does not equate to care not. ‘Judge’ not does not equate to act not. ‘Judge not’ does not mean mind my own business. Because love forbids me to size you up and write you off. Love forbids me from simply minding my own business when I notice that, perhaps your business needs minding.” That’s not judgmental. That’s love.
So what Jesus is really teaching about judging, is to take the plank out of your eye, in preparation for helping your brother remove the speck from his eye.
Now, as I think about this passage, and there’s so much to it, I think it addresses three different audiences. And truth be known, I imagine everyone one of us fall into more than one of these audiences.
Audience number one are those of you who size people up and write them off. This is self-righteousness. This is the thing Jesus despised the most because self-righteous people dumb down the holiness of God, and they jack up themselves. And Jesus who died for our sin is like, “How in the world can you do that?” So, if you lean toward self-righteousness, and you can’t understand why other people continue to do bad things, the thing that you should do in response to what Jesus just taught us, is repent of the sin of self-righteousness.
Look, it drove, and I imagine it still drives Jesus crazy. Let me say it this way. If the sin of others doesn’t break your heart, it’s probably because your heart has never been broken over your own sin. Because if sin broke your Savior’s heart, sin should break His followers’ hearts as well, and you need to repent. Aren’t you glad you came to church today?
The second audience is you have a tendency to size people up and walk away. That you see people with issues and problems and you say, “Except for the grace of God, I can’t do anything. God, what I see him doing breaks my heart, so I just want to lift them up to you and pray that you’ll do something to change him. His sin reminds me of your grace in my life, and how much better off I am because of you. But I’m not going to go talk to him, it’s none of my business.
But Jesus teaches it is your business. Confronting people about their stuff is not insensitive, don’t miss this. It is what love requires of you. And after all, like that old song says, you can see clearly now…I once was blind, but now I see.
God has done something in your heart. You can now see clearly what sin is doing to him and what his activity is doing to his family. You can see it, you’ve been there perhaps. But you don’t see clearly for your sake.
Jesus says you see clearly for the sake of the people around you. It is your business to confront, to approach. To deal with difficult situations is what love requires of you.
Because love doesn’t size people up, and write them off. And love doesn’t size people up and walk away. And what’s so interesting is right now as I’m talking about this, you know exactly who you need to talk to.
And before you get all nervous and worried that they’ll tell you this is none of your business, you just say, “Unfortunately, it is my business because you’re my brother, you’re my sister, and I just can’t act like I don’t know this is going on.” This is how you leverage what God has done in your life for the benefit of someone else.
But there’s a third audience. You’ve been sized up, but you refuse to listen. Someone has come to you about something in your life, and you wrote them off as being judgmental. As soon as they started, you just went for it. You didn’t know where it was in the Bible. You just know what’s in there somewhere. And so, you just went for it. You looked him right in the eye, and you said “You have no right to judge me.”
And they said something along the lines of “I’m not judging you. I’m trying to help you.”
And in your heart, you knew they were right. And in your heart, you knew they were on to something. You knew something needed to change. Please hear this. Defensiveness ensures your past will continue to show up in your future.
When someone approaches you and I’m telling you, it’s always awkward, and no one confronts other people perfectly. I don’t care how long you pray, I don’t care how much you prepare. When you confront someone else, it never goes great. And when you’re confronted, they never do it perfectly, and you’ve used the imperfection of the way they approach you as an excuse.
But if you continue to be defensive, all it does is ensure that your past continues to determine your future. If that’s you, your application is you need to listen. Because they were not being judgmental, they took a risk to love you the way Jesus requires them to love you.
So here’s what I want do. I want to pray for us that God would give us wisdom to know what to do next. Because now we know, some of us need to repent, some of us need to confront, and a whole bunch of us need to listen. And if we do this, we will have taken a giant first step toward learning to ‘judge not,’ but even better, we’re taking a giant step forward and loving the way that our Savior has invited us to love.
Heavenly Father, please give us the wisdom not to simply feel convicted, but to know what to do next and the courage to do it. Father, I pray that in the next seven days, we would be gently and lovingly confronted about stuff we need to face. That we would go back to moms and dads, and friends and roommates, and husbands and wives and say, “I was defensive. You were right, I should have listened.” And that we would repent of our self-righteousness that must drive you up the wall. Because apart from your grace, we were all condemned sinners. And without you, we have no hope for a future. Again, give us wisdom to know, give us courage to obey. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.