When’s the last time you felt judged? (Not about masks or vaccines!)
I’ve been doing some flying these days coaching churches and pastors in different parts of the country and I purchased the TSA PreCheck so I could get through the security checkpoints much quicker. You don’t have to remove your belt, shoes, etc. It makes it so much easier! And because of my credit card, I also have Priority Access at the check-in line!
I noticed the other day when I flew out to Oklahoma that the line at the check-in counter was long, but no one was in the priority line. So I jumped in that line (I belong there!) and went ahead of everybody standing there. Boy, did I get some ‘judg-ey’ looks!
I went next to security and walked right by a huge line of people in the regular security line as I sa-shayed thru TSA PreCheck. I was judged again, man! Now it may have been because I smiled at them as I strutted by and said ‘Stinks to be you!”
Sadly, the airport is not the only place where people feel judged. There has to be a better way… and fortunately, there is – the Jesus Way. Today we launch a new series – A Better Way… and we want to talk about judging others.
Now I know nobody here in person or watching online, would ever do that. But just in case you ever do, I want to walk through Jesus' words on judging in Matthew 7 and ask/answer two questions, “What does it mean?” and “Why does it matter?”
Let’s read Matthew 7:1-6. So much to unpack here!
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“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, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “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.
What does it mean?
Let me start by explaining what Jesus did and did NOT mean. There’s a huge difference between being judgmental and making judgments. You make judgments all the time and there’s nothing in the scripture that means we shouldn’t make judgments about people or events.
And this is important because we ARE indeed living in such an uber-tolerant society and culture where many feel a judgment call or evaluation should never be made by anyone about anything. Our culture today hates absolutes, especially moral ones, and I have come to realize it is not my job to police the culture. That’s an exercise in frustration and distraction, but it IS my job to speak the truth in love, especially to people in the church who claim to follow Christ and His Word.
Peter made a powerful statement when he said this in 1st Peter 4:17, 18…
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
Refusing to warn a person about the consequences of their sin, is just as unloving as refusing to warn them about a serious disease they have. And challenging someone you know about an error is not "judging." Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you fear or hate them. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. The motive though has to be love. It’s not so much about your position, but your DISposition.
SO toleration, where people are concerned, is a virtue, but tolerance, when the truth is concerned, is a tragedy. Because it’s a compromise. And when people in a dark and decadent culture hear the truth, even in love, they will not always like it. Truth sounds like hate to them. This is what I think Jesus means in Matthew 7:6…
“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."
Now everybody here wants to be known for love. But let me speak to all of us here because you are watching a generation of Christians set the truth of the Bible aside in an attempt to become more ‘loving’ to people. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible because we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, and the church has indeed been so judgmental sometimes in the past.
And even though I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, I care more about being on the right side of Jesus and eternity. And this is one of the cleverest tools of the evil one in our generation. To sacrifice truth and his commands for the sake of love. That’s why Jesus was full of grace AND truth. See, truth without grace is judgmental fundamentalism, grace without truth is liberal sentimentality. But the Gospel combines both!
And learning how to live in the tension of Grace and Truth (like Jesus), is our call and challenge today. It’s a better way! But we are so quick to pick up the bat of judge-mentalism and beat people over the head with it. There’s a better way…
Pastor, JD Greear lists a few other signs that you’ve ventured into ‘judgementalism' vs simply making judgments. There’s a better way…
SO that’s what it means. Let me talk now about Why this matters?
The first reason it matters is AUTHENTICITY. A rare quality to find now or then.
The people that gave Jesus the hardest time (and he them!) were the Pharisees – the legalistic group of the Jews who acted righteously but were not. Jesus called them snakes, hypocrites, and whitewashed tombs. Funny, the only people Jesus hit over the head with the Bible were people who loved hitting other people over the head with their Bibles! (Or bats!)
The Pharisees tried to look better than they really were! They were into image management. And that’s why Jesus shares this metaphor about men with wood in their eyes. One has sawdust in his eye, and a man offers to help him remove it and he has a whole wooden bat sticking out of his. Never say Jesus didn’t have a sense of humor!
The plank or bat Jesus is talking about here is the plank of self-righteousness. A holier-than-thou attitude. Which is always easier, not to mention a lot more fun, to identify other people’s faults than our own. Why is it we can so easily see sin in others with 20-20 vision, but we are absolutely blind to our own problems?
Author John Mark Green wrote, “The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons in their own closets.”
Have you ever watched the show Shark Tank? It’s about five investors who have potential inventors who appear seeking funds for their new creation or invention. In an episode a few years ago, Belinda Jasmine of Sand City, California pitched her invention of The Skinny Mirror. The Skinny Mirror is designed to make you look more flattering.
The mirror uses curved glass to create an optical illusion so the user will look 10 pounds lighter. Retailers became interested in this mirror because they could sell more clothes to their customers - the clothing seems to look better on you than it really is! Think of the additional line of products that could be made from this idea! There could be the Skinny Scale. It would weigh you 10 pounds lighter than you really are! I’m not 208, I’m 198!
I think, maybe even more beneficial would be things like the Hair Mirror for bald guys like me; and the Muscle Mirror for people like … JT!
I’m thinking there could even be a Skinny Bowl. You go to Graeter’s Ice Cream and order the Skinny Bowl. You won’t get any less ice cream than a normal bowl, but it would be designed as an optical illusion to make you feel like you are eating less!
But we kinda do a skinny mirror deal with ourselves spiritually all the time. A spiritual mirror to make ourselves seem a bit more spiritual than we really are. But James 1:22-25 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."
Authenticity is freeing and attractive. It’s big with Jesus – as well as JT because Jon lived an inauthentic life for so long, so candor and honesty is one of his core values. So how authentic/real are you? Isn’t it exhausting to act better than you really are? There’s a better way.
What Jesus is saying here is before you start judging others about a spiritual deficiency, be sure you are evaluating your own spiritual walk. Take a good look in the mirror. You don’t have to be perfect before you speak up, you just need to be perfectly in touch with your own sin. And that authenticity (not perfection) will be a magnet to those far from God.
The second reason this subject matters (and Jesus talked about it) is HUMILITY.
Humility is the trait that allows God’s spirit to work through us to refine us into His image and learn to love others as he does. When someone judges, it often comes across as the opposite of humility - it’s a sense of superiority. An arrogant spirit says, “I would never do something like that person did!” A humble spirit says, “I may not struggle in that area, but I sure know a lot of other areas where I DO struggle spiritually.” Of course, you know right, that the temptations I struggle with aren’t anywhere near as bad as the ones you struggle with! I think I just judged all of you!
Humility means we give people some grace and the benefit of the doubt. Funny how we judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intentions… and I’ve also noticed we tend to judge others with ourselves as the standard. If someone drives too fast, they’re a speed demon… too slow a slowpoke. If they spend money freely, they are a spendthrift, if they don’t spend money they’re a miser, etc. Who is the one that determines all this? YOU!
But we all have blind spots don’t we?? If we refuse to acknowledge the existence of blind spots in our lives, we almost always become judgmental and self-righteous. This is so well illustrated in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. (Luke 18:9-14)
Let me say this from my heart... if you read the New Testament and the people in it who sound the most like you are the self-righteous religious ones, you are doing this Christianity thing wrong! And what makes that so toxic is when you justify yourself and condemn others, you start playing God. "Let me tell you what is wrong in your life and let me straighten you out." Ever tried that? Especially online. That usually works out so well, doesn’t it! There’s a better way…
The third reason this statement by Jesus matters is to avoid PENALTY. Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” By others, as well as God the ultimate judge! The standard you used will likely be used against you. The warning here is to be careful what you judge and criticize others for because that very sin or problem might come back to haunt you! Trust me – what goes around comes around!
I’ve found people easily judge others so harshly on things until that same thing or problem happens to them or their family. ‘Those divorced people…. Those people who are gay or trans… Those people who get an abortion… Those democrats! Or republicans… Beware when you hear this phrase – ‘Those people…’
So don’t judge, or you will be judged. Jesus’ point here is that we rarely have a full picture of a person’s circumstances that would allow us to make an accurate judgment call. If anyone had the right to judge, it was Jesus, but he didn’t. So whenever you are tempted to bring out the bat of judgment, Jesus says, just know that there is a higher power and judge that you have to answer to. You are not the final court!
The person who has the mind and attitude of Jesus will be the first person to see their own sin and then put themselves in a position to help others, not just judge them. When the wooden bat is removed from our own eye, we can see everything and everyone more clearly, God – others - and ourselves.
As I close, let me give you some judgment hacks on how to reduce unhealthy, unhelpful, and ungodly judging. Some things that have helped me…
- Remember people are not the enemy, they are victims of the enemy.
- See people for where they started, not where they are now (or you think they should be). Because if they started where you did, they’d be farther than you! SO don’t be too quick to evaluate them - they might be really growing! They just didn’t have the breaks or privilege or parents you did! And be especially careful not to judge someone with a drug or alcohol addiction if you’ve got one to food or caffeine - Ah oh, I think I just shared my own issues/sins!
- Get up close and personal in a relationship and see if your perception doesn’t change. Proximity equals perspective. It’s so easy to judge via social media when they are an anonymous user name. It’s harder to judge when you see them, talk to them, and pray regularly for them.
That’s why Jesus said this to the outwardly perfect religious leaders in Matthew 21:31, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. Don’t you know that just endeared Jesus to them! But they needed to learn about Authenticity, Humility, and the Penalty of getting this wrong.
Jesus has a better way to deal with, look at, and relate to people. People in and OUT of the church. So let’s put down the bats of judging and pick up the banners of grace and truth. Let’s get the wood out of our eye, so our eyes can see the wood of a cross on a hill far away.
Because what unites those of us who know Jesus is this – He died and took our punishment/judgement so we wouldn’t have to. We deserve crumbs, but we get Communion. The Lord’s Supper is the one activity where the only person we get to judge is ourselves. The Bible says communion is the time where we examine (judge) ourselves before partaking. So let’s do that today as we share the Lord’s Supper.