TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE
What is before us this morning is one of many passages
that are taken out of context. Such verses as… Matt 18:20 “Where two or three are gathered in My Name” The larger context of Matthew 18:20 is Matthew 18:15-20, which describes believers sinning against one another within the fellowship and how to go about seeking reconciliation. Not prayer meeting.
Phil 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ” Phil 4:13. This verse is referring directly to Paul enduring hardships as a result of living out his faith no matter what the cost.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In fact, chapter 29 is written to the exiles in Babylon, who were there because of disobedience.
Isaiah 53:5 “By His Stripes We Are Healed” We are not exempt from sickness and disease simply because Jesus died for us. This is speaking of redemption and the gospel promise. In context, “heal” follows statements about sin and peace with God.
One writer wrote “Often, Bible verses are pulled out of context and made to mean what they did not mean to the original audience, usually as a way of making applications to present-day situations.”
Without question this verse before us is one of the most well-known and often mis-quoted verses from the bible in our century. People who know very little about the Bible quote this verse religiously. And they do often, but they do it often,…with misunderstanding. They take this passage and say “Only God can judge me.” It is a religious way of saying “Mind your own business.” The question before us this morning is this!
Does Jesus really mean we are never to be discerning,
to evaluate one’s actions, or judge someone’s behavior?
The answer to that question can only be answered by properly understanding the context of this passage. Jesus distinguishes between acts of judgment and attitude of judgmentalism. It is easy to see how powerful and dangerous the temptation is to be judgmental over biblical acts of judgment; or be confused by both. In one letter Paul says that we are not to judge. “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” 1 Cor 4:5. But a chapter later Paul says we are to judge, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”
What is Paul saying? Are we to judge or not to judge?
What is Jesus saying? Are to judge or not to judge?
Paul is simply instructing us that there are things we must not judge and things we must judge. We are never to judge the hidden motives, or purposes of the heart because you are not God. But things that are visible we are to come along side. Christians must judge the explicitly sinful behavior of a professing Christian. As Jesus said “…for the tree is known by its fruit.” Matt 12:33. God’s people are called… to call out sin as sin; but we need to be careful how we go about doing that. God’s people are certainly called to discern between good and evil, right and wrong, and good fruit from bad fruit. Matt 7:17
We live in a time frame where everyone thinks they can do whatever they want too. So who are you to judge? It’s like that phrase “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” As we read in the Book of Judges “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6. In a society that hasn’t learned and continues to repeat history. We are called, in light of God’s Law, to evaluate human behavior and determine whether it’s good or evil.
(v1) We need to get this portion right, before we can look at the rest of this passage. “Judge not, that you be not judged” This is a judgment of condemnation. You can say this verse this way “Condemn not, that you be not condemned.” This word “Judge” is borrowed from the legal vocabulary of the day. It has to do with the “gavel” of the judge coming down when He issues a sentence of punishment.
A prime example of this condemnation is found in John 8:2-11 of his gospel. “Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."
The Pharisees let the offended male to go, but the woman was to be condemned. According to the Law of Moses, stoning was the penalty for adultery, but Romans forbid them from exercising capital punishment. The religious leaders knew this. This did this to trick Jesus is picking a side. The Law of Moses or Caesar. But Jesus, being God in flesh. I would say “Good luck with that.”
So what does Jesus do? He writes something in the sand and all of a sudden things backfire in the hypocrites face. Their plan of catching Him failed, by what Jesus says after getting up from writing in the sand.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the
first to throw a stone at her."
And one by one the accusers left the area. All that was left was Jesus and this woman who was caught in adultery. So He asks her a question! "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" (v10) She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (v11)
Why did Jesus say that to this woman
who was guilty of adultery?
Why did the condemning men leave from
the oldest to the youngest? (v9)
Because Jesus was the only Sinless One present, and He was the only One who had the right to stone her. Not them! The one thing that defines the life of the Christian is forgiveness of all people in the world. We as God’s children are the ones who have the least right to be judgmental, harsh and critical. Why? Because we are sinners who deserve the wrath of God. So we don’t get what we deserve, because the Son of God bore our punishment on the cross. What Jesus is speaking out about are critical spirited people who are always picking at something about someone. Criticism is a part of living; you cannot do anything without being criticized by others. Our natural bent is to be critical and condemning.
Take ministry for example and this is what I found! Let’s say a pastor; because no one ever criticizes the pastor. Right? If the pastor is young, they say he lacks experience; if his hair is gray, he is too old for young people. If he has five or six children he is irresponsible; if he has no children he is setting a bad example. If he uses lots of illustrations, he is neglecting the Bible; if he doesn’t use enough he is being irrelevant for the culture. If he condemns wrong deeds, he is cranky; if he does not, he is compromising. If he drives an old car, he shames his congregation; if he drives a new one, he’s setting his affections on earthly things.
It shouldn’t be…… But criticism is part of ministry and that’s why the context of this passage is vitally important to observe and to obey properly. Critical people will find ways to condemn wrongly. It’s judgmental condemning spirit that is rampant to every situation. They are not happy unless they are unhappy and critizing someone or something.
Kent Hughes wrote “Few things are more exhausting and debilitating than harsh, unloving criticism.”
This is condemning judgement not acting biblical judgment of accountability or restoration for a fallen brother or sister. This is what Jesus is referring too! We are to do the complete opposite when dealing with sin and other believers.
R C Sproul said we are to approach others with “judgment of clarity.” We approach human beings by discernment over their actions, particularly towards us. We are to see them in the best possible light.
Here Is What Judgement Of Clarity Is Not. (V3-V5)
We interpret others wrongly by judging them in the worst of possible light. Why is that true? Because we never judge ourselves by that same light. Sometime will rationalize our sins and give them less evil names like “a mistake, a little spill or bump in the road” Worse yet! Will minimize or justify our wrongdoing, to the point that it wasn’t as bad as it looks. But other people! We will pick up that Mt Everest gavel and crush our fellow man for the sins they commit. We are no different than the men who Jesus exposed by writing in the sand and saying “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” A condemning fault-finding heart attitude does nothing for Kingdom building. Especially if you treat everything as earth shattering issues and ignore your own. Paul condemned such judgmental behavior. “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.” Rom 2:1-2
When we sin, our Christian brothers and sisters have an obligation to judge us. They must not condemn us, but they must, out of love, call us to repent.
If we don’t do what is right Biblically; then
how can we judge others correctly?
The understanding and submission to Scripture plays a key role into how we love, live, address, listen and correct others who have fallen into sin or darkness.
It requires that we walk carefully
and not careless.
Carelessness condemns, but Carefulness responds with clarity. The number one rule of judgement is…… We must never judge the motives of others because we cannot possibly know their motives apart from them telling us their motives. Nothing destroys a church faster than those who make harsh judgments about other believers. We know this is true (v3-v5) Jesus uses a “Hyperbole” an exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. “Plank” a large log or beam, used for supports to hold up houses. What Jesus is saying is this! “An eye that is covered by a large plank of wood cannot see clearly to help out a brother or sister. “Speck” a very small particle like “saw dust” not very visible to the eye. Although we are all guilty of major sin and failures, we easily call attention to the tiny speck that is in our brother’s eye. Sin needs to be called out that’s why Peter said it starts in the house of God. “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17
The believers were struggling to separate from the former worldly sins that had once enslaved. Peter reminds them that the wicked will face God’s judgment, but that believers in Christ must hold themselves to a higher standard than they once did. God is going to deal with His children first; and we are to keep each other accountable, not in a condemning way, but with clarity to help each other. But unfortunately.. we do this wrong; because we try to distract the attention from our own sin and address the unseen sin in others. According to Jesus we view others “saw dust as planks”. And this is what destroys the church, relationships and most of all the family. We are to demonstrate the judgment of discernment not condemnation.
But it begins within our own hearts first. You cannot.. address a brother or sister in Christ if you skip this step first. Jesus says “Hypocrite” your play acting righteousness is nothing but filthy rags, fake news.
See! The person who is kingdom focused, who’s attitude is poor in spirit, humble, hungers after the His righteousness will be a person who first mourns over their own sin first. As David said “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me..” Psalm 51:10. Why? So David can do this “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” Psalm 51:11. This is why Jesus said “The approved, “blessed”, are those who mourn. Matt 5:4
Mourn over what? Sin
The right balance in judging is humility and helpfulness, not self-gratification and destroying others. Jesus said to Peter before he sinned in the courtyard “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32.
If it’s not done this way then we are no different than the Hypocrites or as Jesus calls them “Dogs and Pigs” (v6) “Dogs” in Israel were not gentle, fuzzy household pets. They were despised scavengers, who were held in the same regard as pigs. They were dirty, greedy, snarling and often vicious and diseased. “Pigs” were considered by the Jews to be the epitome of uncleanness. They too were greedy, dirty and very vicious if you came became them and their food. Pigs were often found outside of town at the garbage dump.
Who are these dogs and pigs?
They are people who make it their business to hate the kingdom of God. They have no desire for holiness and no regard to mourning over their sin. David refers to this about Jesus in Psalm 22:16 “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me.” In Revelation 22:15 we read “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Paul warned the church of such people “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” Phil 3:2 What Jesus points out is that dogs and pigs have no appreciation for the value of the pearl. Certain truths and blessings of our faith are not be to be shared with people who are totally antagonistic to the things of God. They have no appreciation for things that are holy and pearls the rarest and most valuable of jewels. Dogs and pigs represented ungodliness, a person who refuses to have anything to do with holy and precious things.
That’s the difference and why we need to take this command seriously! The child of God desires to restore and bring a person closer to God, where dogs and pigs want to destroy and teardown. Paul said “Love….does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Cor 13:6. The question is this….
Has my focus on their faults blinded
me of my own?
How do we do this correctly, after removing the plank and our heart motives are for loving correction and restoration; and not condemning and throwing the believer into the pit of hell? I think Paul summarizes it best to the church of Ephesus “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph 4:1-3. This requires daily gospel recollection, and walking carefully with clarity. And not with the inward, hidden distractions from our own hearts. If I see a speck in my brother’s eye, I must cover it in my soul….with love. So that I can help, with clarity as we draw closer to Christ.