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Matthew 7:1-6

March 31, 2019

So, our text this morning is about judgement. And, before we start, I just want to say that, as a leader, being nonjudgmental is one of the things I strive for. I never want to come off as if I think I’m better than someone or that I’m judging someone because of decisions they’ve made. That’s 100% not the case in anything I say or do. Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there.  
Oh no -- what’s this? Oh, is this the most up-to-date Beaver Memorial bracket showing that I’m still in first place? How did that get in there? That’s so embarrassing. This has nothing to do with what we’re talking about today, so obviously I wouldn’t have put this in here. But since we’re on the topic, I just want to point out that Bryan is still losing. And even though he threw me under the bus in the group motto, I just want to say that, in light of our passage this morning, I’m going to be the bigger man and not judge him. I will not call him out for this; I will not publicly point out that he’s losing to someone who’s never watched college basketball before. I’m going to take the high road here.

Anyway, we’re talking about judgement here. And judgement isn’t something that only accompanies filling out a bad March Madness bracket. Judgement kind of consumes our day-to-day lives. We’re judged at work, we’re judged at school. When we’re kids, we’re judged by our parents and then, when we become parents, we’re judged by our kids. The judgement Jesus talks about in this passage is everywhere around us. What we’re going to be looking at a bit this morning is the fact that we’re often not aware of this judgement, especially when we’re purveyors of it. We’re quick to point it out when we’re on the receiving end of it, but not when we’re the ones shelling it out, and that’s a problem. 

So, we’re jumping into the beginning of chapter 7 this week. We’re skipping right past chapter 6 for not. There’s just nothing important in chapter 6; it’s just the Lord’s prayer and stuff like that. Totally unimportant. Anyway, we’re jumping into chapter 7 and Jesus is talking about judging. He says, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” This is classic Jesus, right? Not only is it straight down the middle, but it’s got this sharp, pithy feel to it. “The measure you give will be the measure you get.” Jesus uses these little aphorisms a lot. It’s one of the things that makes him such an effective teacher, because his teachings are easy to remember. “You are the salt of the earth”; “Love your enemies”; “You cannot serve God and money”; and yes, “the measure you give will be the measure you get.” 

And this is often where we get into trouble, right? We tend to impose standards onto other people that we don’t impose on ourselves. And we’re especially bad at this as Christians. This may vary individual-to-individual, but as a whole, in the church we do this a lot. We expect perfection of other people when we wouldn’t possibly expect that of ourselves. Churches expect perfection of their pastor when they wouldn’t possible expect that of themselves. Luckily, I don’t think anyone here is under the delusion that I’m perfect so we don’t really have to worry about that. But it’s one of the things that kills our mission. It’s one of the things that turns people off from the church. 

I remember this one time I had a counseling session with a parishioner, and we were talking about the church and its problems. And after the person I was meeting with was done talking, I paused for a minute and said something like, “Listen – I grew up in the church, I’ve been a pastor for a few years now, I’ve seen how the sausage gets made, and I’ve got news for you: You don’t know the half of it. It is SO much worse than you think. Don’t even get me started on the clergy.” And I think what makes it so bad is this very problem – the sheer hypocrisy often associated with the Christian faith. And the problem doubles down when it backfires on us. If this is the hypocrisy associated with the Christian faith, then people who might feel moved to become a part of a worshipping community walk through the doors of the church and expect to find a bunch of perfect people, and then are surprised when they’re wronged by one of them. There’s no other way to turn this narrative than to be upfront and honest about it. 

We cannot, and should not, put on the front of perfection. That’s something we’ve never been and it’s something we never will be on this side of glory, and we should be ashamed of the times we’ve tried to claim that for ourselves. Just like Jesus says: if perfection is the measure we give, then perfection will be the measure we get and if you think that’s something you, as an individual, or we, as a community, can live up to then you’re delusional. You wouldn’t go to a hospital and expect to find well people, so why would you come to the church looking for sinless people. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Until we realize that every single one of us, in our own way, is the worst sinner of all, then we’ll never get away from this problem Jesus is talking about.

He speaks to it a bit further as our passage goes on: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” Ahhh. Jesus gives us some instruction here. “Take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” So, there’s a distinction here, and it really centers on the idea of “reproach” or “rebuke.” To reproach or rebuke someone with hypocrisy is nothing more than judgement. But to reproach or rebuke someone without hypocrisy is exhortation. This word, “exhortation” pops up every now and then in the bible and when it does, in the New Testament at least, it’s always tied to this word: παρακαλέω. This is a compound word from “παρά” (meaning ‘near’) and “καλέω” (meaning ‘call’). So, this word is used to mean, “to call near, invite, invoke, beseech, call for, comfort, desire, exhort, intreat, pray.”

So, when we try to take the speck or splinter out of our neighbor’s eye while there’s a log in our own eye – when we try to rebuke someone for doing something that we ourselves are guilty of – we’re doing two things: we’re just judging people. We’re casting a level of criticism and condemnation others that we’re not casting on ourselves. It’s basically a “do as I say, not as I do” situation. It’s like person A, who’s cheating on their spouse, rebuking person B for cheating on their spouse. It’s two-faced, it’s insincere, and it’s not at all in line with the love we’re called to have for others. But, if we deal with our own issues first, if we get our own house in order and our own ducks in a row, maybe we can then reproach or rebuke someone with love and charity and grace and all those things. But if we don’t – if we don’t acknowledge our own sin, if we don’t work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, if we don’t walk the walk – then we will never be who it is God has called us to be for the world. 

Now, this brings us to the last verse of our passage: “Do not give what is holy to dogs; do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” (Picture of pig) Now, how many of you have read this before and thought: “this is one of the strangest things that anyone has ever said?” The problem with this teaching is that it was never something I was tempted to do in the first place. I was never like, “hmmm…should I or shouldn’t I? Well, Jesus says no, so that settles it.” Now, this is a really weird verse, and we know the immediate context is Jesus’ teaching about judgement. But if we back up even further, toward the end of chapter 6, we see this: Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 
The Kingdom of God that Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount is predicated on our entrusting ourselves to God. Jesus tells us that we can’t add an hour to our lives by worrying; that the Father takes care of the birds and the grass so why would we ever wonder if God is going to take care of us? Now, immediately following, we come to our passage this morning demanding that we not judge. And maybe Jesus is telling us something similar here. If the Kingdom of God is predicated on our entrusting ourselves to God, then maybe it’s also predicated on our entrusting others to God. We can help our neighbor take the speck out of their eye, we can raise our kids in the church, we can try to move our loved ones closer to Jesus, but at the end of the day, we can’t save them. Only God can save them and only God can save us. 

We tend to resist entrusting people to God. One of the ways we resist entrusting others to God is by trying to control them through bad things like judging. Another way we resist entrusting others to God is by trying to control them through good things like exhortation. Pearls are good, right? But I guarantee, if you throw them to a pig, the pig isn’t going to go, “oh yeah, I know exactly what to do with these.” So, exhorting someone to do something or lovingly rebuking someone definitely has its place in the Christian life and it’s a good thing. But the problem is that we will very often throw these things of value before people who aren’t in a place to understand or appreciate it. How many here know a kid who, at a young age, had Christian education rammed down their throat at a stage of development that wasn’t appropriate and now, in adulthood, they want absolutely nothing to do with it? Is it good to educate people in the way of Jesus? Yes. Is it good to take about our faith? Yes. But there’s a difference between 1) sowing seeds of the gospel into the fabric of a relationship whenever God so provides an opportunity, and 2) throwing the gospel in someone’s face and judging and condemning them for not conforming to a lifestyle or standard they might not even understand or be aware of in the first place. Make sense? 

So, as we leave today, I want you to keep this in mind. We can’t fully live into the kingdom that God is building on earth unless we entrust ourselves and others to his care. And if we go around trying to take specks and logs out of our neighbors’ eyes when they might not even realize they’re there in the first place, our exhortations will become judgements that are just trampled underfoot. If we really want to avoid the hypocrisy Jesus teaches about here, we’ll go and meet people where they are. We’ll offer them things they can appreciate and understand – things like love and empathy and care. Our heavenly Father knows the souls of those people better than we ever will, and he knows what they need. What you need to do is simply open yourself up to being used by God to give that person what they need at this precise moment in their life. God never fails to meet us where we’re at without shame or embarrassment; we’re merely called to do the same with the world.

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