October 11, 2009

Don't Be Judgmental - Oct 11, 2009

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Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 7:1-6 (NIV)

1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

What does it mean to judge? Interestingly enough, the Greek word here means the same exact thing that the English word means. To judge is to say that someone or something is either good or bad. Thumbs up, or thumbs down.

Jesus doesn’t mean that we should never make a judgment about anything. What He is saying is that we should never make a SHALLOW judgment. That’s what He said to the Pharisees. Turn to John 7, verse 24.

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24 NIV).

There are lots of ways that people make shallow judgments about other people. One person might see someone with tattoos so thick on their arms that it looks like sleeves. That person is probably not a good person. Probably spends most of his time in bars and other places of sin. Maybe he does drugs. I certainly wouldn’t want my daughter to go out with THIS kind of guy.

That’s being judgmental. Assuming you know all about a person because of one outward characteristic.

Sometimes we judge people who belong to other churches. We might say, I know that Baptist churches teach that baptism is only a symbol and isn’t for infants at all. They say it’s a something we do for God, not something He does for us. They probably believe this because they think Christianity is all about doing things for God, not trusting in what God did for us. Baptists are not very faithful to God, and certainly not to be trusted.

That’s assuming quite a bit about a person’s faith because of their church connection. That’s judging their whole character without even knowing them. Without even having a conversation with them.

Pastors can be judgmental too. For example, I know that the Bible says that Christians shouldn’t give up meeting with each other. They should gather together to worship God. In the Old Testament God even told the Jews to dedicate one day every week to worshipping Him and hearing His Word.

So, when I see one of our members who I NEVER see at church. I think, they’re not reading their Bible at home. They’re not praying. They’re certainly not growing in faith. I wonder what they really believe? I mean, if they really value Jesus and His forgiveness, then WHERE ARE THEY ON SUNDAY?

But their bad habit doesn’t justify my excessive judgment. I don’t really know all those things about their faith life. One person I asked about this actually said, well yeah, pastor, I am studying the Bible at home. My sister and my brother and me study together over the phone.

Yeah. My judgment of her faith was shallow and wrong. If I’m concerned about someone’s church attendance and what it means, I should talk to them. I should reach out in Christian love and say, how are you doing? How’s your Bible reading going? What about your prayer life? Where do you think you can grow in your relationship with Christ? How can I help you do that? That’s what my response should be, not a shallow, self-righteous judgment.

Now, what this passage doesn’t mean. Lots of people are familiar with this part of the Bible. Well, at least the first part, “Don’t judge”. When a Christian what someone is doing is wrong, the reply comes back, “Who are you to judge me? I thought Christians weren’t supposed to judge? How dare you judge me!”

A response like this means, “You’re not allowed to tell me something is wrong, because that’s judging.”

But like I said earlier, Jesus doesn’t mean that we should never make any judgments of any kind. What he means is that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. We dare not make shallow judgments. We don’t want to be JUDGEMENTAL.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of judgments that we are supposed to make. Turn to Matthew 5, verse 20. Jesus says…

“20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 NIV).

Jesus is judging the faith of the Pharisees! He’s saying, they don’t have any! They think they’re righteous before God because they don’t sin as much as other people. That’s not righteousness before God! Jesus wasn’t being judgmental. He was making a good judgment. He knew what the Pharisees were like.

Jesus doesn’t tell His followers NEVER to make a judgment. Never tell someone, what you’re doing is wrong. That’s the kind of judgment that we should make. Point it out to them and help them.

Another way of looking at judging is this. Judging people is like drawing a circle around someone and saying they’re bad, and I’m good.

That’s what the Pharisees did. They looked at people around them and saw tax collectors and prostitutes and they said, these people are bad. They circled them and said, these people are hopeless. They will never be anything other than damned sinners, so don’t go near them.

Jesus doesn’t want us to do that with people. He doesn’t want us to go, I’m so much better than this other person. They’re a sinner, I’m not because I don’t do what they do. No! That’s now what matters. We’re all sinners. Any sin that you say about someone else, oh, look at them they’re a sinner in this way – you have broken that same commandment.

Turn to Romans 2, verse 1. Paul just got done listing off a bunch of things that godless people do. They’re greedy, envious, murderers, liars, gossips, arrogant, boastful, disobedient to their parents, heartless, ruthless and so on. But then in chapter two Paul turns the finger around and says,

“1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1 NIV).

The same sins we see in the world around us, we can also find in our own hearts and lives. We’re not righteous before God because we’re better than others. We’re not righteous before God because we’re not prostitutes or career criminals. The only reason that you and I are righteous before God is because we are covered with Jesus’ righteousness.

He lived a perfect life to God, so that He could take that life and, through His sacrifice on the cross, offer it to us. Through faith in Jesus we put on His righteousness like a long white coat. THAT is how we are righteous in God’s sight, through faith in Jesus.

Turn to Matthew 7, verse 3. Jesus continues by saying…

“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? 4How 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? 5You 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” (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV).

This is what the Pharisees were doing to the sinners around them. With the “plank” of their own self-righteousness, they were looking around at everyone else saying, here, let me help you get that sin out of your eye. Here, learn to live your life as good as me and then you’ll be right with God.

But they had the “plank” of self-righteousness in their eye! They weren’t righteous before God! And even if they could convince a prostitute to stop and to live like them, that wouldn’t help at all!

Turn to Matthew 23, verse 15. Here Jesus is laying into the Pharisees. They told everyone, we’ve got the way to heaven and we’ll teach you what you need to do. But all they were teaching was self-righteousness that leads to hell.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15 NIV).

I don’t have to point out that Jesus is judging again, do I?

The Pharisees needed have their self-righteousness removed before they could EVER help anyone else spiritually. They needed to understand they were sinners. They need to see that only Christ could clean them of their sins before God.

With their self-righteous replaced with repentance and faith, THEN they could help others. They could say, Look, I’m a sinner, but in Jesus I am forgiven. I see you have something in your eye, but Jesus can help you with that.

We have to do the same. We have to come to people AFTER we have confessed our sins to God. We have to say, Lord, look, I’m a sinner. I do these things wrong just like they do. I don’t want to do that anymore. Forgive me. Change me.

By faith in Christ that’s what happens. We are made new. We are declared righteous by Christ. Then after repentance and faith, after the plank is out of our eye then we can go to people and say, look, I see you’re sinning. Let me show you how to get rid of that. Let me introduce you to Jesus.

People look at this section about the plank and the speck and they say, what that means is that I can never tell someone they’re doing something wrong unless my life is perfect first.

But it’s not about being perfect before you can reach out to someone else. It’s about being repentance and forgiven by Christ. Then you can turn to other people and say, I had something in my eye, and so do you, let me show you the Man who can take it out.

Turn to Matthew 7, verse 6.

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 then turn and tear you to pieces.

This last part here kinda seems to come out of nowhere. Jesus was just talking about not judging people and then all the sudden we’ve got dogs, pigs and pearls. So, what’s up here?

There is a definite connection to judging, but before we see that we need to study up on dogs and pigs. If you look through the rest of the Bible for dogs, you’ll find that dogs were considered to be low animals. Incapable of much. They were also disgusting animals. They ate dead things. They had the lovely habit of puking up something and then returning later to eat it again.

Sorry. I know it’s gross, but those are the things that the Bible associates with real dogs. It’s not to hard for us to understand what’s being said when God calls people dogs.

Turn to Revelation chapter 22, verse 14. There John is quoting Jesus. Jesus is describing heaven and those who are locked out of heaven. He says…

“14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:14-15 NIV).

Dogs are people who refuse God and embrace evil instead.

Pigs are pretty easy to understand too. In the Old Testament God told the Jews they were not to eat pork. The pig was to be considered a ceremonially unclean animal. It wallowed in the mud. It was dirty.

Figuratively, pigs and dogs are the same. People who hate God and His Word.

Jesus doesn’t want us to judge people around us as “sinners” who will never change. But there are people we will meet who show their hatred for God and their opposition to anything that comes from Him.

There are times when the Christian must not lay the Good News of Jesus before a person like this. It would be like offering communion wafers to a rabid dog, or trying to put your expensive pearls on a pig. They’ll only make fun of the precious message of Jesus, and they may even turn on the messenger.

Be compassionate. Be forgiving and not judgmental. But don’t be foolish in your personal ministry. Take care of what is sacred and precious, and take care of your self as well. Don’t be a martyr unless that is God’s will for you.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, help me not to condemn and shun people because of some THING they say or do. Even if that thing is a sin. Make me wise and compassionate, enable me to reach out in love – pointing out sin, but also pointing out Your Son who died to take our sins away.

Father, don’t judge me by my sins, for they are many. Instead judge me by Jesus, who’s righteousness covers me by faith. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all our understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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