Sunday, March 26, 2017

Judge Not

By Colleen Podmore

Matthew 7:1 says that we should not judge others or we will be judged ourselves. In this context the judgement made is negative. People will quote this verse in response to someone who has pointed out their sin to them. But this is not what Jesus means when He says, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’ We have to read on to verse 6 to get the complete message.

Matthew 7:1-6 is teaching us about living lives that are authentic, changing our own wrong and sinful attitudes, words and actions (our ‘planks’) before trying to help someone else with the ‘speck’ in their own eye – or the small sin in their lives.

Matthew Henry puts it quite succinctly in this excerpt from his commentary:

Matt 7:1-6   We must judge ourselves, and judge of our own acts, but not make our word a law to everybody. We must not judge rashly, nor pass judgment upon our brother without any ground. We must not make the worst of people.

Here is a just reproof to those who quarrel with their brethren for small faults, while they allow themselves in greater ones. Some sins are as motes, while others are as beams; some as a gnat, others as a camel. Not that there is any sin little; if it be a mote, or splinter, it is in the eye; if a gnat, it is in the throat; both are painful and dangerous, and we cannot be easy or well till they are got out.

That which charity teaches us to call but a splinter in our brother's eye, true repentance and godly sorrow will teach us to call a beam in our own.

It is as strange that a man can be in a sinful, miserable condition, and not be aware of it, as that a man should have a beam in his eye, and not consider it; but the god of this world blinds their minds.

Here is a good rule for reprovers; first reform thyself.

Keeping up appearances

The dictionary meaning of judgement is to ‘form an opinion about someone or something’. It does not have a value and may be either negative or positive, eg in my judgement they are a very fine person. In my judgement they could be less selfish.

We all make judgements when we meet people for the first time. We look at them and make a judgement about who they are, how they live and whether we like them or not. In the blink of an eye they are either ok or not ok. Have you ever been judged like this? Conversely, because others also do this to us, we learn to put on a certain appearance to become accepted or acceptable and we also act in certain ways especially around certain people who we want to impress.

I remember a sitcom a few years ago called ‘Keeping up appearances’ about a woman, Hyacinth Bucket, spelled bucket but pronounced bouquet. She plays the part of a real snob and desperately tries to make herself out to be upper class but her family is lower class.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) refers to a time when Jesus sat down to teach the crowds about how to live a life dedicated to and pleasing to God, free from hypocrisy, full of love and grace, full of wisdom and discernment. He preaches to crowds of people who have flocked to hear him. People who are maybe just curious, or maybe desperate to know God and how to live lives acceptable and pleasing to Him. Jesus has compassion on the crowds and he looks at them and begins to teach them! You can feel the compassion when Matthew says in Matt 5:1, ‘Now when he saw the crowds he went up on a mountainside and sat down’ – perhaps so that the crowds of people, men and women, young and old, rich and poor could hear him and see him? For no-one is excluded from the Kingdom of God.

The people did not have the benefit of Scripture, they were like sheep without a shepherd. The religious class known as Pharisees were hypocrites (Matt 6:2, 5, 16), who said one thing but did another. On another occasion Jesus told the people they were blind guides (Luke 6:39) and to do what they say and not what they do (Matt 23:3), as they do not practice what they preach! Perhaps these verse are mainly directed at them but because we can also be hypocrites at us also.

In summary then, these verses in Matt 7:1-6 are not telling us not to judge but to do so in a right manner and incidentally, verse 6 is also warning about people who will not listen and to be careful around them ie they are Pharisees.

Discernment is defined as the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. When we make a judgement, we also need wisdom to discern the right way to act in a given situation. Perhaps it might be to be silent, or to pray or to encourage, or to warn. In addition, a discerning person needs to be self-aware regarding their own emotions and motivations for intervening. It also requires us to see through the lenses of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As I look at a person or consider a situation, I view through my eyes which are covered with the lenses of the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Perhaps we need them all or just patience. Discernment is making a judgement with self-awareness and wisdom.

Let us desire also spiritual discernment. Hebrews 5:11-14 says, ‘But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil’. Solid food is understanding and grappling with God’s word. Reading it methodically and regularly, meditating on the meaning and allowing it to change us. Maybe we just like ‘milk’, that is easily understood and digested - passages that we don’t have to think too much about (Heb 5:12). We must know what the complete word says so that when the counterfeit comes along – we can spot it straight away. Know the voice of God so that we can distinguish it from the voice of the world (ie good and evil).

This is the gift of discerning spirits as Paul talks about in 1Cor 12:10, it is not being able to see Angels and Demons but it is about discerning situations and distinguishing between good and evil and being able act accordingly.

Finally, let us not be hypocrites keeping up appearances but let us be mature Christians who are being transformed by the renewing of their minds as we daily read the Scriptures, chewing the solid food and when we are called to judge, combine that judgement with spiritual fruit and wisdom to be able to discern correctly and act accordingly.

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