Matthew 7 “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.
Matthew 7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. These were the words of Jesus. Is it that cut and dried? Are we never to judge? Is Jesus advocating a “Live and let live” mandate? Matthew 7’s admonition to not judge is NOT a prohibition against judging, but it is a warning to make sure we are judging appropriately, without hypocrisy. While God is the ultimate Judge of us all, and He alone knows the heart of any person, we do have a responsibility to evaluate, to discern, to decipher and to inspect the fruit of people’s lives in order to know, as a Christ-follower, what our responsibility might be to that person and what our responsibility might be to alter our own lives to line up with the judgments that naturally are rendered from aligning our hearts with Scripture.
Look again at Matthew 7:5: 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. And then in verse 6 He says, “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.”
Just who are the dogs and the pigs? Won’t you have to make a judgment about who Jesus might be talking about in order to avoid giving them what is sacred? Let’s move on down in Matthew 7 to verses 15-16. 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Who are the false prophets? Wouldn’t you have to exercise judgment to figure that out? Jesus went on to explain how you know who the false prophets are in verse 16: 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Is Jesus talking out of both sides of His mouth in Matthew 7? Is He telling us in one verse not to judge and telling us in other verses we need to judge and how to do it, like by becoming fruit inspectors, that is, by evaluating the fruit of people’s lives? Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t ever judge.” He just says if you are going to make a judgment, Start with yourself. Jesus is helping us understand that judging others without first judging ourselves is self-righteous and self-righteous judging or judging without humility is wrong. As we are inspecting the fruit of others, we also need to be inspecting our own fruit.
While many would say it isn’t a Christian’s place to judge, I would say it is actually necessary, but first “We need to be judging ourselves every day.” We need to be realigning our hearts on a daily basis. This is something that concerns me about Christians who relegate attention to their spiritual lives to just the weekly or monthly church service. As your love for Christ wanes, your ability to analyze yourself correctly will be reduced. It is hard to see yourself accurately when you aren’t fixing your eyes on Jesus. Only in a right relationship with Jesus will we have the capacity to see ourselves correctly, and the humility that will be developed in the person who routinely inspects themselves and allows the Holy Spirit to inspect and convict them will enable them to have the right heart and attitude when making a judgment about someone else.
In John 7:24, Jesus warns us to “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” Again, the caution here isn’t that we should never judge, but that we need to judge correctly. There will be moments, based on the leading of the Holy Spirit, based on the fruit in someone’s life, based on the need in the situation, that we will have to make a decision, but we shouldn’t wake up every day looking for situations and people to judge. We shouldn’t live with a judgmental or critical spirit. People who live with a judgmental or critical spirit will be quick to make a determination about people merely from a surface observation level.
We are, however, called to come alongside of people from time to time, to show them, to explain to them the dangers of their ways. “Live and let live isn’t the call of God. It is the call of the culture.” If we are truly seeking to follow God, and if we truly want to live in love with others, we need to demonstrate and explain God’s ways.
Ephesians 5:11 commands, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” That is pretty strong language. That sounds pretty judgmental. Remember, Matthew 7:16 gives us permission to inspect the fruit of people’s lives. The fruitless deeds of darkness refers to sin. When we hold up the Word of God as truth, which it is, and people are condemned because the actions of their lives expose that their hearts aren’t like the heart of the sinful woman who wanted to repent, who wanted to follow Jesus, who wanted to be freed from sin, there are going to be people who have a hard time with that. That’s when we get labeled as judgmental.
But Church, there is a standard to uphold. There are non-negotiables when it comes to morality and righteousness. And often, when we simply lift up God’s standards, we are accused of being unloving, self-righteous, bigoted, intolerant and hateful. All I can say about that is that sometimes maintaining biblical standards won’t be appreciated or understood by those who don’t embrace the life-giving benefits of doing things God’s way.
Notice the command in Ephesians 5:11 doesn’t say, “Have nothing to do with people whose fruit is dark.” I think that is a distinction that needs to be made. It is the lifestyle, the behavior and not the person that needs to be judged. God will do the judging of people when they step into eternity, but we can make judgments about what the Bible says is sin. Sin is sin because God says it is sin. But God loves people. God has a heart for people. The same chapter that contains this message about exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness opens with verse 2 which says, “Walk in the way of love.” Paul says just one chapter earlier, in Ephesians 4:15, “Speak the truth in love.”
Now, some people won’t ever receive a critique, a judgment about their actions regardless of how pure and loving our motives are, but this I know, all people will reject us if we try to pronounce judgment on their actions with a hateful and condemning spirit. Those who would say that the church is judgmental and therefore unloving don’t understand that it is unloving to not tell people about the dangers of sin. Sin is a sickness that does far more damage than a sickness that kills the body. It kills the soul and the consequences last for eternity. Those who refuse to listen, those who turn away because they don’t want to hear the truth, they are the pigs and dogs Matthew 7:6 refers to. There will be nothing you can say or do to convince them, so Jesus says, make a judgment about who is ready to hear the truth and who simply wants to argue with you or slander you for championing the truth and move on from those situations. The Gospel cannot be forced on people. Where there is an unwillingness to listen and a combative response, pray for those people, but move on.
And, as I close, let me just say that judgement ought to begin with the House of God. Perhaps our primary responsibility is to hold each other accountable to the standards to which we say we have subscribed not because we all are seeking to be some Jr. Holy Spirits but because we care enough to make sure we all stay strong and run this Christian race to the very end. I Peter 4:17 says judgment begins with the house of God.
Can we take an honest look? Can we look at the way we have been interacting with our world? Can we assess where we may be creating offense unnecessarily? Can we evaluate if we have a critical or angry spirit? Can we be honest about how we may have compromised and conformed to the sinful patterns of this world? Have we gotten off track somewhere? Are we in danger of our spiritual life being snuffed out because of a love for sin? Is there any fruitless deed of darkness hanging off of us this morning? Can we assess our openness to hear if another brother or sister shared something lovingly and honestly with us? Have we shied away from sharing the Gospel and lifting up the truth of God’s Word just because we know it won’t be popular with some or perhaps even many?
The world says we aren’t the judge. The truth is, Jesus says we have a responsibility to make judgments. We must judge ourselves before we judge anyone else’s lives, and we must agree with Him about the judgments He has already rendered on sin. While we do that, we need to exercise mercy. We need to pray much. We need to love deeply.