August 13, 2023. Sermon Title: Shh! Do Not Judge!

First Mennonite Church

August 13, 2023

Shh! Do Not Judge!

Some of the most misused words of Jesus are found in Matthew seven, verse one: “Do not judge.” Oftentimes, people quote this verse in an attempt to avoid being confronted about their mistakes or sins. Any attempt at showing them their mistakes is seen as being subjected to judgment. Churches also use this verse to avoid the instructions Jesus gives on how to deal with an unrepentant church member, according to Matthew 18. There, Jesus says that if you see your brother or sister sin, go and confront him or her. However, often times the act of confronting in order to restore the erring sister or brother is avoided under the excuse that such an act of confronting another is an act of judging the erring person. And, “Who am I to judge another?” someone would ask.  

Jesus’ command to judge not, needs to be seen in the context of his words, deeds, and authority as the ultimate Judge.

Therefore, the context of Jesus’ command on not to judge comes within the larger discourse he gave on the mountain. This discourse is called the Sermon on the Mount, which consists of Jesus’ teaching found in chapters five to seven. And more specifically, the command to “judge not” is the third under the subtheme: Do not be like the hypocrites. Under this theme, Jesus gives three instructions his followers shouldn’t do. The first two are found in chapter six: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, and do not worry about your life. The third is the command not to judge others.

The gospels are replete with stories about Jesus’ grace, compassion, and truthfulness toward those he met, including those who were antagonistic toward him. And for his part, he said, “The Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son . . .” (John 5:22); and that the Father “has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man” (v. 27). Yet, regardless of his prerogative as God’s appointed judge, Jesus acted with kindness and truthfulness.

Peter, when speaking at Cornelius’ house, declared that “God has ordained Jesus to be Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42); and as for Paul, in his preaching to the Athenians, he declared that “God now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” –Jesus Christ. (17:30-31).

As we can see in the New Testament, Jesus, the Son of God, will judge and reward everyone according to each one’s deeds during life. Jesus is the ultimate Judge; thus, his command to “Judge not, that you be not judged” is a very sobering truth directed to us his followers. Therefore, Jesus’ command to judge not should be a constant reminder of how we should treat others. For as Paul writes: “We make it our aim “to be well-pleasing to the Lord. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). No one else is qualified to be the judge of all the earth but Jesus. He came the first time as Savior of the world, but He will come the second time as the Judge of all. (Rev. 6:17). If we receive him as Savior, then there is nothing to fear about him being the ultimate Judge.

The command of not judging others does not deny nor deprive us of using our mental faculties to discern wrong from right. The word “krino” in Greek, means “to separate, distinguish, discriminate, condemn, or punish.[1] This command does not cancel our ability or obligation to use criteria in life. However, Jesus’ command is that we don’t do it like the hypocrites. His warning to his disciples was, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The Pharisees pretended to be something which they were not.

Jesus’ words in verses three to five illustrate his point.

“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.”

I wonder if when Jesus said these words he wasn’t smiling at how funny this comparison sounded. Imagine a plank sticking out from the eye of someone trying to remove the sawdust in the eye of another! It would be physically impossible. How could someone with such a large foreign object protruding from the eye get close enough to another person’s face to see a small speck in his or her eye? But that is the point Jesus was making.

Jesus’ advice to anyone trying to do that is that he or she should remove first the plank out of their eyes to be able to see and to remove the small object in the eye of another.

With this comparison, Jesus clarifies any confusion there could be about the command not to judge others. In fact, he seems to give the freedom to exercise judgment with the condition that we first look into our own lives first. We should be aware of our own weaknesses when dealing with the faults of others. And that is something Paul also writes about when he addresses the Galatians: Brothers and sisters if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1, 32).

In the community of disciples and the church, love and concern for each other are derived from our experience of God’s love and concern for us. Each of us knows how great the patience of Christ is towards us. Each of us has known of God’s mercy through personal experience. And those very same experiences are translated into the way we treat each other in this fellowship. But an integral aspect of showing concern and love for each other is admonishing each other as well. For that reason, we should not avoid the task of helping one another from straying away. On the other hand, if and when we ever want to admonish someone within the fellowship, let us do it in the spirit of humility and love.

So, if Jesus’ command to judge not is intended for self-examination before we attempt to assist others in love, what should be our attitude toward those outside the fellowship? In verse six, Jesus gives an enigmatic warning: “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. In this enigmatic and chiastically constructed saying, Jesus warns against giving what is sacred to dogs because they will tear you to pieces and throw your pearls to pigs for they will trample them under their muddy feet. Those listening to these words knew that the sacred was always something dedicated to God alone. Pearls might be a metaphor for any word of wisdom and counsel. Anything of beauty or of holiness given to those who have no idea about its value or sacredness will not only fail to benefit from it but will come after those who are giving it to them.

We are therefore warned not to waste our time, not to lose sleep, or the make our heart rate rise when we see the way of the world the way it is going. Do not scream or argue with those who do not understand the wisdom of God’s word. If you do, you are only wasting your time and, possibly, even getting yourself in trouble.   

So, let me close with the words of the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians:

Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with all of them. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.

This is the word of the Lord. Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] BibleWorks VII, Word analysis krino in NT.