Avoiding Infection or Splinters and Logs, oh my! – July 28

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Series: Puzzling Parables
Today: Avoiding Infection or Splinters and Logs, oh my!
Matthew 7:1-5

Rev. Audrey Spencer

Jesus is preaching a sermon … it starts with what we know as the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew Chapter 5. As a crowd gathers, Jesus tells them what people who are in His family look like. His sermon continues through Chapter 5, 6 and into Chapter 7.

So, we are going to jump in the middle of this sermon – where Jesus has been addressing one primary subject … how to have an authentic relationship with God … not a religious experience …. and in the middle of this message, he
decides to address a part of human nature that needs desperate reformation!

Why shouldn’t I play Judge and Jury?

“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First, take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.

Judge = Greek means ‘to condemn’ ‘to pronounce opinion on right or wrong’.

This scripture may be one of the most misinterpreted verses in the NT. We’ve all heard this phrase “Don’t judge me.”

Typically, what we mean is – “Don’t talk to me about my questionable behavior.”

Sometimes, we are simply making a statement about our uniqueness … to which we would all agree! We are each unique. God created us this way, and we should celebrate our differences and our diversity.

But that’s not exactly what Jesus is talking about here. Jesus does NOT say – “Don’t let others judge you.” Jesus is not addressing the response of the accused, but rather our desire to judge others, but not ourselves.

What’s fascinating is our natural reaction to judge the people who are judging us … isn’t it?

When you feel judged, you judge. When you were a teenager, and your parent judged your language – what did you do … you told them that you learned it from them!

When your friend pOints out something you’ve done wrong, don’t the 10 things they’ve done wrong come to mind as well?

Jesus is warning us about the way we work as humans. We prefer to look at what’s wrong with others more than what’s wrong with ourselves.

Jesus is not lowering the moral standard. Jesus is not saying everyone can just do what they want.

If that were His intent, I doubt he would have spent the first part of his sermon raising the moral bar for everyone.

Jesus often raised the moral bar, so as to say even to religious people … you are STILL in need of God.

What is Jesus saying? I’m glad you asked … Let’s look at how he clarifies this first statement: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Jesus clarifies his statement by talking about standards.

He’s saying – be aware of the standard you use for others, because you shouldn’t use a different standard for yourself.

This is our nature, isn’t it?

We declare a standard, and hold others to it but ignore our own situation.

Illustrate: Parents – do as I say … not as I do. This is a good example of our nature.

Other examples – as a father, if you asked your daughter to consider how to dress modestly because she is a precious daughter, but found that you don’t always treat or speak to her as a precious daughter and child of God, that’s a double standard.

Jesus is saying, don’t do that. It’s bad for you. It’s destructive. It lacks mercy. It lacks grace.

And if you are the kind of person that lacks mercy and grace … you will receive that same treatment by others. If you spend all your time condemning others, they will spend their time condemning you.

If you focus on others sins, they will focus on yours.

The implication here is this, “what if God used your standard to judge you? How badly do you think that would go?”

Would there be assumptions about your motives? Would there be any room to explain? Would there be a lack of mercy and grace?

You see, Jesus is not saying God is not ultimately going to hold each of us accountable for our actions … Jesus is encouraging you not to take that job from God.

But we love that job so much!

For example – How many times have you heard your kids, or yourself say this: “It’s not fair.”

It’s not fair that they treated me that way. It’s not fair that he said what he said to me. You may be right, it may not be fair. But fair is all about us.

We never complain loudly about getting a bigger raise than someone else. We complain when someone else gets a bigger
raise than us.

Fair is really about our advantage. Fair is about us getting what we think we deserve.

So Jesus flips that on its head. Jesus changes the question. He says – you want to judge others … and you want to make sure they are getting what they deserve, but is that what you want for yourself?

Do you want to get what you deserve?

Do you want justice for every mistake you’ve ever made?

Do you want to be punished for every bad decision you’ve ever made? Probably not.

Maybe what Jesus is trying to get at is this: Judging others infects us with condemnation instead of grace.

When we judge others, we are in a constant cycle of judging ourselves.

Jesus warns us not to chain ourselves to judgement, because we will become prisoners of standards we can’t keep … we will be victims of our own quick leaps to condemnation, devoid of grace.

Maybe our temptation to judge isn’t really about what someone else is doing wrong, it is about keeping others from seeing what we are doing wrong!

The problem is – Jesus says … pointing your finger at someone else has the opposite effect – it only draws more attention to yourself!

Jesus goes on to explain the problem with us playing judge and jury: “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? 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? You hypocrite …”

Judging others infects us with hypocrisy.

According to Jesus, to stop judging is good for our own self-interest. If you don’t like being judged – stop doing the judging!

Good advice for Jesus followers in a very divided country.

Why is our propensity to point out others sins, while ignoring our own? It is like a coping mechanism to make ourselves feel better about our own lives.

Jesus isn’t saying there is no right and wrong.

Jesus is explaining that when people do wrong, our role isn’t to judge them, but to help them. Look how Jesus advises us to act: “… first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

These “planks” become magnifying glasses that make everyone else’s issues seem worse than they actually are, while keeping us from seeing our own issues.

This passage is NOT primarily about understanding right from wrong (which is often the incorrect interpretation of this passage).

In fact, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15 that the spiritual person makes judgments about all things.

The problem with most of us as Christians is that a little bit of spirituality is dangerous because we begin to see what’s wrong in the world, and we point our finger at the people doing that wrong …. trying to carry out God’s justice

This passage is really about why it’s wrong for you and I to carry out justice that belongs to God.

This passage does not say “no one gets to say what’s right or wrong” … it says don’t point out what’s wrong when you can’t see it clearly because you aren’t repentant about your own wrongs.

If you haven’t forgiven, if you haven’t taken inventory of your own sin … how can you lovingly point it out in another. You can’t!

So, is Jesus saying we should never talk to another Jesus follower about sin that is hurting them?

Clearly, Jesus is not excluding us from helping remove a “speck of dust from a brother’s eye” in Matthew 7:5, but He is EMPHASIZING something important about the PROCESS by which we should do so.

What’s really cool about this passage – and I think it gets missed by most people when they read it – is this: Jesus is teaching us about the gospel in this passage!

Do you know what the primary themes of the gospel are?

I’ll give you a hint, it is not primarily a message of justice, is it?

The good news Christ brought was not one where justice is poured out on you and me.

The good news is not a message about our condemnation. Most of us already feel condemned for our regrets and bad choices.

The gospel’s primary message – think about this – the primary message is one of reconciliation … of grace … and mercy!

You all know John 3:16 – Jesus came that we might have eternal life.

Do you know John 3:17? Jesus did not come to condemn us, but to save us!

In this passage, Jesus is helping us understand that “The true test of spiritual maturity is not poinbng our finger at people, but being able see what’s wrong, and point it out without pointing our finger!” R.T. Kendall, Total Forgiveness p. 100

Perhaps what Jesus is saying is that instead of playing judge and jury, we could choose love instead.

If judging others makes us hypocrites, then loving others makes us more like Jesus.

When the actions of others are doing great harm to those around them, it is important, particularly within the Christian community, to help protect victims and help the offender avoid an infection of shame through careful correction.

Jesus did this all the time.

In fact, Jesus never settled for a cheap imitation of love where we tolerate each other, or feel sympathy without empathy, or be polite to keep the peace. Jesus fought the spiritual battle for people – to heal our hearts.

Jesus loved the condemned adulterous woman enough to save her from being stoned, but sent her away and said “Go and
sin no more.”

We are healed to love God and others not by pointing out their sin so much as pointing them toward Jesus.

Our motive must be to love others, to restore them into a relationship with others, and with God … which often means helping each other with all of our sin issues.

When can we help someone else? According to Jesus, we are qualified to lovingly correct only when we have no “plank in our own eye.”

Isn’t this what Jesus was saying? When we have sin in our own life that we do not see, and have not asked Jesus to help us with – how can we help anyone else?

It is Love, not judgement, that leads others to Jesus.

So, next time before you play judge and jury:

Ask yourself, are my words NEEDed? Are they …

Necessary: Is it necessary to say this? Is it my role to say it?

Encouraging: Will it give them the courage to follow Jesus?

Edifying: Will it build them up and make them stronger?

Dignifying: Will it make them feel like they are worthwhile to me and to others?

CONCLUSION: We point our fingers at ourselves first. We invite God to deal with our messiness first. Then we invite anyone else to do the same. Our role is not to point the finger, but to love them by being honest about how God is transforming us!

We have great opportunities every day to show others supernatural love – and to teach them the way of reconciliation in
a culture that loves to judge.

How surprising would it be to people far from God, if instead of hearing our “judgment” of each other, they could see the way we lovingly, gently, and consistently we help each other through careful correction!