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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 28, 2014
Throughout our study of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has made it very clear that there is a large divide between true righteousness from the heart and self righteousness as demonstrated by the Scribes and Pharisees. True righteousness is demonstrated in the character qualities described in the Beatitudes of being poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart and true peacemakers. Those who demonstrate these qualities are hated by the unrighteous world and so suffer persecution for their righteousness.
The self righteous may try to give an outward display of virtue, but it ends up being perverted in some way. We saw this throughout the rest of chapter 5 as Jesus pointed out their serious errors in understanding and applying the Scriptures. In Matthew 15:6 Jesus rebuked them strongly for this saying, “And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” For many of the Jews, their traditions had actually replaced the authority of the Scriptures. The revelation of God had been exchanged for the musing of man.
The twisted self righteousness of the Pharisees was also seen throughout chapter 6 as Jesus contrasted the proper practices of righteousness with those of the Pharisees in three specific areas of giving alms, praying and fasting. The Pharisees used methods that would gain the attention of other people for they were more interested in praise from people than praise from God. This is the opposite of the humility of true righteousness which strives to direct the glory to God and so does not call attention to itself.
We have also already examined the first of Jesus’ three prohibitions given in the sermon designed to promote true righteousness. Jesus commanded in Matthew 5:19-20, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” but to instead “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” The pragmatic reason is that treasures on earth can be destroyed or stolen while those in heaven cannot, but the more serious reason is that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vs. 21). (See: Where is Your Treasure?) Many of the Scribes and Pharisees claimed to be servants of God, but their hearts were set on the things of this earth and storing up its treasures. They thought they could serve both God and the things of this world, but as Jesus said so plainly and forcefully in verse 24, “you cannot serve God and mammon.” If your pursuit in life is to gain what the world has to offer, then that is where your heart will be and so you will serve those things with mammon as your master. If you value the things of heaven, then your heart will be with the Lord to serve Him as your master. (See: Who is Your Master) Like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4, you will learn to be content regardless of the circumstances of your life whether you have little or much because the things of this earth become less and less important to you. You will also find that worry and anxiety also diminish because when you know and trust God, you can rest in His care for you. As you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, you can be confident that He will keep His promise to provide for your needs. (See: The Remedy for Worry)
This background is critically important for our study this morning because it sets the context for it. Too often passages from the Sermon on the Mount are taken out of context, misinterpreted and used to support error. Our passage this morning is one of the most commonly misunderstood and misapplied Scriptures because of that. If you do not understand the context then you will be in grave danger of falling into this same error if you have not already done so.
Turn to Matthew 7:1-5 where we read, “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother; ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, 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 brother’s eye.”
Pharisaical Judging – Matthew 7:1
I am sure that nearly everyone here has heard the first verse of this passage used by someone to say that we should not judge whether something someone was doing was good or bad. Many people cite this verse as proof that Christians should not evaluate or criticize others. I have had it used against me as a defense by people who did not like me telling them that what they were doing was sinful. The sad fact is that our society has elevated tolerance to be the supreme virtue because it does not like absolutes and especially theological and moral absolutes. Practices and behaviors that even twenty years ago were widely recognized as morally abhorrent have now become politically correct and so are now tolerated and even celebrated as good. If you speak against such things or even question them you will quickly find the hypocritical side of political correctness. They strongly advocate for tolerance of nearly anything including flagrant sin, but they are intolerant of anyone who disagrees. When you do so, expect to be insulted, slandered and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, but then remember that Jesus said that you are blessed for yours in the kingdom of heaven and the prophets who were before you were treated the same way (Matthew 5:10-12).
As tragic as this is in society, it is even worse that this has also infiltrated the church. A new Barna Research study revealed that “90 percent of pastors surveyed believe that the Bible says a lot about pressing political and social issues, but less than ten percent actually preach about such subjects.” The study went further to suggest that the main reason is that such pastors do not want to offend people so they fail to preach clearly about what the Bible defines as sin. I admit that surprised me a little. I have come to expect most so called “Christian counselors” to over look and make excuses for people’s sins due to the idea of not judging others. I suspected that a lot of pastors followed the same kinds of practices, but I did not realize it had become this bad.
This incorrect interpretation and application of this verse has had a stifling effect on the practical outworking of holiness. People use it to defend themselves from proper criticism. “Don’t tell me what I am doing is wrong for the Bible says that we are not to judge one another!” People use it as an excuse to tolerate sin saying, “I don’t think what he is doing is right, but who am I to judge him?” The net effect is that we become like the church in Corinth which Paul rebuked in 1 Corinthians 5:2 for their tolerance of sin, “And you have become arrogant (proud of their tolerance) and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.”
Did Jesus mean that other Christians are not to confront us when we stumble into sin? Did Jesus mean that we are to be tolerant of the sinful practices of others because we may have sin in our lives? Did Jesus mean that to “not judge” was to forsake being involved in the moral aspects of one another’s lives? It is the context that tells us what Jesus meant, and the context here is the same as in the previous passages. The general context is that your righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if you are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The specific context is to not follow the example of the Scribes and Pharisees. When we look at the context of the whole Bible, the context of Matthew, the context of the Sermon on the Mount and the immediate context of these verses, we find that all of them demand that we do judge one another in the sense of discernment and involvement. We are to discern who is following Christ and who is not. We are to discern what is sinful and what is not and then take action based on what has been discerned.
For example, you cannot obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:6 to not give what is holy to dogs and to not throw our pearls before swine unless you first judge / discern who is a dog and who is a swine. You cannot heed Jesus’ warning In Matthew 7:15 about false prophets unless you first judge their fruit and discern who is and who is not a false prophet. Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15 require that you go and reprove a brother that sins, but that cannot be done if you are unable to judge / discern whether a person did or did not commit sin. The rest of the New Testament has many similar commands and warnings which cannot be carried out unless you are able to judge what is right and what is wrong and acting upon that.
What then does Jesus mean? Since the context here is a contrast of true righteousness with the self righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we can know what Jesus means by looking at some of the examples of their judging others. John 9 gives a clear record of their actions and attitudes toward those that did not meet their standards. The beginning of the chapter records that Jesus healed a man who was born blind. All of those that knew the man were astonished at the miracle and they brought him to the Pharisees. We pick up the story in verse 14, “14Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Again, therefore, the Pharisees also were asking him how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the Pharisees where saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.
The story continues with them calling in the parents because they did not believe the man’s story. The parents affirm that this is their son, but they do not answer any other questions because as they were afraid with verse 22 pointing out, “the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” The Pharisees then brought back the formerly blind man and question him again concerning Jesus.
Verse 24, “So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” (They had already judged Jesus as a sinner for breaking one of their rules about keeping the Sabbath). Verse 25, He therefore answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said therefore to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you want to hear [it] again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” 28 And they reviled him, and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 “We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and [yet] He opened my eyes. 31 “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him. 32 “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered and said to him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they put him out. Their self righteousness and traditions blinded them from seeing what was right in front of their noses resulting in their condemnation of Jesus. Jesus had made clay and told the man to go wash. Both were violations of their prohibitions of doing work on the Sabbath but not against God’s command of keeping the Sabbath. They also unrighteously condemned this formerly blind man because he held to the truth and would not bend to their narrow-minded prejudice.
In John 7:24 Jesus warned the multitude, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” In John 8:15 rebuked the Pharisees saying, “You people judge according to the flesh.” It is this type of condemning, self righteous judgment that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7:1. Do not judge others like the scribes and Pharisees who were self-righteous and condemned others based on outward appearances of whether their traditions were being kept or not.
This type of self righteous judgment can be recognized in several ways. First, unrighteous judgment is pleased to hear something unpleasant about others because it boosts their own self-righteousness. True righteousness mourns over the sin of others and is merciful. Second, unrighteous judgment is seen when a person judges based on prejudice rather than the principles and precepts of Scripture. That is what they did in the case of the man born blind. Third, unrighteous judgment is also manifested in the criticism of motives which cannot be discerned. Opinion is given without knowing all the facts and no interest is given in gaining an understanding. Unrighteous judgment condemns simply because the person is doing something differently than the standards you have set for yourself.
We are not to judge unrighteously. We are to be careful of the manner and basis of our criticism of others. Righteous criticism is beneficial and helps the other person become more godly. The condemnation of unrighteous judgment is negative and destructive.
You can avoid judging others in this manner if you will pay attention to the rest of what Jesus states in this passage.
Reciprocal Return – Matthew 7:2
First, notice in verse two the principle of a reciprocal judgment. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” In other words, do not be surprised when you are treated in the same manner as you treat others. The Pharisees applied their strict judgment to one another as well as those outside their group. Nicodemus understood this and it is one reason he came to Jesus at night to ask his questions (John3). He later received a sharp response from the other Pharisees in simply trying to apply the Law in defense of Jesus (John 7:50-53). John 12:42 records that many of the rulers believed in Jesus but they would not publically confess Him out of fear of being be put out of the synagogue.
Those who are like the Pharisees in following legalistic standards will be held to those standards by both those within and without the group. Christian legalists are so notorious for this that they are often accused of “shooting their wounded,” but the secular world also piles on when a legalist strays because the hypocrisy is blatant. I think of the Christian preachers that harshly condemn divorce or sexual immorality while they are carrying on secret affairs themselves.
Some conclude from this passage that they can avoid being condemned by others by not judging anyone else in any manner. In other words, the real reason they will not point out someone else’s sin to them is that they do not want their own sin exposed. That of course does not work because people are inherently self-righteous and will treat you how they think best regardless of how you have treated them. I find it almost humorous how liberals who profess themselves to be so tolerant are very intolerant of even one of their own that does not measure up to their changing standards. Among them it is no longer enough to be tolerant of homosexuality, you must hold it to be an alternative that is equally good. It is no longer enough to espouse women’s equality, you must be pro-abortion.
However, more important than this pragmatic application about human behavior is the theological truth that underlies Jesus’ statement. God is the judge and His condemnation of everyone who is self-righteous is just.
The scribes and Pharisees placed themselves in the seat of Moses according to Matthew 23:2 as those who instructed others about keeping the Law. In doing so they brought God’s judgment upon themselves for in the rest of the chapter Jesus pronounces woes upon them for their hypocrisy in not doing what they instructed others to do. They would be condemned according to the law of Moses which they falsely claimed to follow.
Someone might say, “then it is better to remain ignorant in order to avoid God’s judgment.” Not so, for your criticism of others, whether pronounced or kept as a secret in your heart, proves that the knowledge of right and wrong is already written on your conscience as Paul says this in Romans 2:1, “Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” Recognizing the wrong in someone else proves your own knowledge of right and wrong, and your failure to do right and practice of wrong will condemn you.
In reality, this passage proves once again that true righteousness can only come from God because no one can live according to Jesus’ injunction here apart from God, and apart from God’s grace and mercy, everyone stands condemned by his judgment of others. Self righteousness condemns itself by its own standard of measure. True righteousness does not neglect God’s standard of holiness, but rather it seeks it while relying on God’s grace and mercy for themselves and others. When God’s standards are not upheld by themselves or others, the characteristics of the Beatitudes are displayed. They mourn over the sin and are comforted. They give mercy and receive mercy.
Get the Log Out – Matthew 7:3-5
Verses 3-5 make it clear that Jesus’ statements in the first two verses do not block being discerning and giving proper correction to others. “And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother; ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, 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 brother’s eye.”
The word speck here (kavrfoV / karphos) is not something small like a particle of dust, but rather a “small dry stalk” like a twig, straw, chaff, or a splinter. This is not an insignificant object in the eye. Jesus is not comparing a minuscule fault with one that is large, but between one that is small and one that is huge. The point is that the sin of the critic is much greater than the sin of the person he is criticizing.
Some suggest that the speck is a minor ceremonial infraction as compared to a log sized sin that is gross, indecent, and repulsive. However, the context here indicates that the log size sin is being self- righteous. It is self righteousness that Jesus has been speaking against all through the sermon. It is self righteousness that is so blind to its own sinfulness. It is self righteousness that by its very nature seeks to justify itself while condemning others.
In the earlier story concerning the man born blind concludes with Jesus saying to him in John 9:39, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
The Pharisees were busy condemning others and telling them all the sinful things they were doing, but they had the greater blinding sin of self righteousness. In Jesus’ condemnation of them in Matthew 23 he calls them “fools,” “blind guides,” “hypocrites,” “serpents” and “brood of vipers” because of the evil they brought on others in the guise of being righteous. They shut men out of the kingdom of God (vs 13) and made proselytes “twice as much a son of hell as [them]selves” (15). They kept the minutia of the law while neglecting the more important things like “justice, mercy and faithfulness” (23). They gave an outward appearance of righteousness but inside were full of robbery and self-indulgence (25), all uncleanness (27), hypocrisy and lawlessness (28).
The Pharisee in Luke 18:11-14 is the classic illustration of the man who sees the specks in others but is blind to the log in his own eye. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a taxgatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
The man was a religious leader who was supposed to point people to God, but until he got the log of self righteousness out of his own eye, he could not help his brother get the speck out of his. Verse 5 plainly states that you are to take the log out of your own eye and then help your brother with his speck.
Help Your Brother – Matthew 7:5
Righteousness requires helping others overcome sin. Leviticus 19:17 states that to not reprove a neighbor would be hatred. “You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor.” 1 John 2:9,11 tells us that hating our brother indicates that we are still in the darkness and not walking in the light. We are to love one another and that includes “admonishing one another” as Romans 15:14 tells us to do. Matthew 18:15 tells us that we are to go to our brother when he sins and reprove him in order to win him back. To leave a person in their sin violates Scripture’s command and demonstrates that you do not love them.
Paul said it this way in Galatians 6:1-2, “If any man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself, lest you to be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”
Notice how well this agrees with Jesus’ commands. You examine yourself to make sure you do not have a log in your own eye first. It is self-righteous to be blind to or ignore your own sin. It is also self-righteous to think you are incapable of falling into sin. 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” You are to examine yourself to make sure you do not have a log in your own eye, and if you do, then take it out. Confess it to the Lord and get right with Him so that you can go help your brother. Then go in humility recognizing that you are subject to temptation not only by the sin that has caused your brother to stumble, but other sins along the way including pride and self-righteousness. Being a Christian demands that you are to walk with the Lord in holiness. It also demands that you are to love others enough to be humble as you help them overcome the sins that overtake them.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus’ teaching here to “judge not lest you be judge” means that you are to be tolerant of sin and refrain from criticism of those that are sin. Remember the whole passage in its context and make sure that you have examined yourself so that the log of self righteousness is out of your eye. Then go to your brother and help him with the speck in his eye. Make sure that you judge sin based on the Scriptures and not on man made tradition. You are to speak the truth in love, not in condemnation. You are to go with all humility, grace and mercy, and not arrogant, self righteous pride. You are to come along side and bear their burden with them.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count the references to judging in the sermon. 2) Talk with your parents about to be humble and then help others overcome their sin.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the theme of the Sermon on the Mount? Outline how Jesus develops this theme in the sermon. What pragmatic reason is given for not storing up your treasures on earth? What is the more serious danger of this? How can you live without anxiety? Explain. What does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Give examples. How is Matthew 7:1 commonly interpreted and applied by both Christians and non-Christians in current American society? Give examples from your own experience. Why is political correctness hypocritical? How do the politically correct treat those who disagree? How has political correctness infiltrated the church? What in the context of the Sermon on the Mount proves that Jesus does not mean in Matthew 7:1 that you must refrain from pointing out the sins of others? Can you carry out Jesus’ commands in Matthew 7:6; Matthew 7:15, Matthew 18:15-17 without judging others? Explain. What does John 9 reveal about the practices of the Pharisees in judging others? Why were they blind to the truth that was so obvious before them? On what basis did the Pharisees make their judgments? How can you recognize unrighteous judgment? Contrast that with righteous judgment. What principle is expressed in Matthew 7:2? How do legalists treat one another? By what standard will the scribes and Pharisees by condemned? (Matthew 23:2) Why? By what standard will people without the law be judged? (Romans 2:1-16). How do the righteous respond when God’s standards are not upheld? What is contrast between the speck and the log in Matthew 7:3? What evidence is there to conclude that the “log” is a reference to self-righteousness? What was Jesus’ opinion of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23? How is the story in Luke 18:11-14 a classic illustration of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees? What additional Scripture passages show that we are to confront one another about sin? Why would it be hateful not to do that (Lev. 19:17)? How does Galatians 6:1-2 compliment Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 7:1-5? How do you get a “log” out of your eye? What is the real danger of you stumbling into sin (1 Corinthians 10:12)? How do you “bear the burden” of a brother caught in sin? Explain. Do you want others to confront you about your sin? Why or why not? In what manner would you want to confront you about your sin and help you?
Sermon Notes: Judging Righteously
The Sermon on the Mount _________self-righteousness with true righteousness described in the Beatitudes
Jesus corrects their false _______________ in Matthew 5
Jesus correct their self-centered _____________of giving alms, prayer and fasting in Matthew 6
Jesus prohibited laying up treasures on _____where they would be destroyed or stolen and mislead the heart
Seeking _____God’s kingdom and righteousness leads to trust in God, heavenly treasure, peace & provision
Matthew 7:1 is commonly taken out of ____________and therefore interpreted and misapplied
Pharisaical Judging – Matthew 7:1
This verse is often used to support society’s perverted elevation of ______________as the supreme virtue
Political correctness is _____________for the advocates of tolerance are intolerant of anyone who disagrees
Politically correct __________of “judging” others has infiltrated the church and become dominate
This misinterpretation and application stifle ______________and allows sin to spread among Christians
The ____________ reveals clearly the intention of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:1-5
You cannot _____________Jesus’ commands in Matthew 7:6, 7:15 or 8:15 without “judging” others
Examining the self-righteousness practices of the Pharisees gives the contrast and ___________- see John 9
The traditions and pride of the Pharisees ________them from truth resulting in unrighteously judging others
Unrighteous judgment is condemning and is recognized by 1) Rejoicing to hear about the sin of others.
2) Judgment based on _________instead the Scriptures. 3) Judgment of motives which cannot be known
Righteous judgment is ______________in helping the other person become more godly
Reciprocal Return – Matthew 7:2
Do not be surprised when you are treated in the ____________manner as you treat others
The Pharisees then and legalists now judge even their own by their ______standards – and secularists pile on
People refrain from pointing out the sin of others because they _________having their own sins pointed out
Underlying truth: ___________is the judge & His condemnation of everyone is just.
The Scribes & Pharisees had placed themselves in the seat of ________& would be condemned by that Law
Your criticism of others, stated or not, demonstrates the law in your _______________which condemns you
True righteousness can only come from ___________- no one can live by Jesus’ standards on their own
Self righteousness _______________itself by its own standard of measure.
The righteous __________over sin and are comforted, they give mercy and receive mercy (Matthew 5:4,7)
Get the Log Out – Matthew 7:3-5
The contrast is between a “Speck” (“a small dry stalk”) and a log – between ____________ and huge
The context suggests that the “log” sized sin is ____________________- See also John 9:39f
Matthew 23 – Jesus called them, fools, _________guides, hypocrites, serpents, brood of vipers, sons of hell
Luke 18:11-14 – The Pharisee saw the speck in the publican but was blind to the ___of his self-righteousness
You can’t see _________________ if you have the log of self-righteousness in your eye
Help Your Brother – Matthew 7:5
Recognize any self-righteousness and vulnerability to fall into ____________- 1 Cor. 10:12
_____________ self-righteousness, then go in humility to help bear the burden of a brother caught in sin
Interpret Scripture according to its _______________ , then make application
Get the log out, be humble, judge according to Scripture, speak the truth in _________, help bear the burden
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