is Wrong . . . and When it Isn’t
Rev. L. Kent Blanton
- Woman viewing neighbour’s wash
- Pastor John Burke’s log of judging others
- Our society condemns judging others
- But is all judging wrong? What did Jesus mean when he said, “Do not judge!”?
- Thesis verse of the SM is Matt 5:20 “. . . unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
- In the SM, Jesus teaches his disciples what that greater righteousness looks like, how kingdom righteousness is to work itself out in our everyday lives.
- In the first half of chapter 6, Jesus showed us what this righteousness that is greater than the scribes and Pharisees looks like in public religious life (6:1-18), in activities like prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor.
- In the later half of chapter 6 Jesus showed us what the greater righteousness of the kingdom looks like in our personal interior life (6:19-34) in matters like choices between materialism or spiritual reward, worry or trust and God, and choices between worldly or kingdom priorities.
- Chapter 7 begins a new section of the sermon where Jesus shows us what kingdom living looks like in our interpersonal relational life (7:1-12). As we just read, he starts by talking about judging.
- Jesus sometimes used hyperbole (exaggeration) in his teaching to make a point (e.g. Matt 5:29-30). Hyperbole doesn’t diminish the radical nature of Jesus’ teaching, but we need to recognize it to accurately interpret his words.
- Compare Jesus’ teachings to all the teachings of Scripture to avoid misunderstanding or taking them to an unintended extreme (compare Matt 6:25 with 2 Thess 3:9-12; 1 Tim 5:8). Doing so doesn’t lessen the radical nature of what Jesus taught.
What did Jesus NOT mean when he said “Do not judge”?
The command to not judge does NOT apply to . . .
- Discerning truth from error (Matt 7:15-23; 1 John 4:1)
- Calling some attitudes and actions right and others wrong (Is 5:20). Scripture is our plumb line for right and wrong ( 1 Tim 3:16-17), not our society (1 John 4:16-17)
- Living in mutual accountability (holding others accountable and being held accountable by others) (Matt 18:5-7; Gal 6:1)
- Some appropriate judging and sanctioning which is godly (1 Cor 5:10-12; 1 Cor 6:2-3)
What did Jesus mean when he said, “Do not judge”?
- Greek word krino translated “to judge” in this passage has broad range of meanings (ordinary discernment/evaluation, judicial litigation, bestowal of reward, pronouncement of guilt, absolute determination of a person’s fate)
- The latter two meanings of the word are intended in this passage. This happens when we take it upon ourselves to serve as “judge & jury” toward others that makes absolute judgements based on limited knowledge or that lacks evidence of mercy and grace
- Examples of being judge and jury in the church:
- “Look at her up there on the worship team. She thinks she’s really hot stuff. She acts like she is so into worship, but I know it’s not real. Its just a show to impress others how spiritual she is.”
- “My parents don’t really care about me. They just get on my case because they care about their image. They want me to get good grades so that our family will look good, so they can brag about me and my sister to others.”
- “No one in leadership ever thanked me for serving as an usher, even after doing it for eight years! Our church leaders are all the same. They just use people til their burnt out and don’t care enough to even say thanks.”
- Can you believe it? Parading her new baby around the church after being born out-of-wedlock. I think all those tears she shed in front of her small group and our church leaders was just a show to avoid church discipline. When will our leaders ever make a public example of out of those who choose to sin?”
- “I know the choir director said he was sorry for being too gruff with me at choir practice, but he didn’t really mean it. He was just saying it so I wouldn’t lose face in front of my peers.”
- “Only two people in my small group ever expressed care for me when my father passed away. They talk a good talk, but their words don’t translate into action. They’re really uncaring people at heart.”
- “Our elders meddle way too much in the affairs of others. How dare they come to me and suggest that I shouldn’t be criticizing my committee chairman. They have no idea how he treated me. Who do they think they are? They’re just a bunch of holier-than-thous!”
- “Pastor Kent never responded to the question I emailed him. He acts like he cares about people, but he thinks he’s too important or busy to respond to me.”
- What’s wrong with becoming “judge & jury”?
- I usurp God’s rightful role as judge (James 4:12)
- I give evidence that I have forgotten the mercy and grace shown me by God when I fail to extend it to others
- Illustration of the Ungrateful Servant (Matt 18:21-35)
- I will be judged by the same standards I apply to others (Matt 7:2; Rom 2:1-4; Matt 6:14-15)
- We easily spy the sins of others, but often are blind to the same or worse sins in our own lives (we see the speck in another’s eye, but fail to see the log in our own) (Matt 7:3-5)
How can I make godly judgments and live in mutual accountability without falling into ungodly judging?
- We aspire to live by the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12)
- Practical helps to live by the Golden Rule
- Remember God’s lavish mercy and grace shown to me (Eph 1:7-8)
- Invite the Holy Spirit to regularly examine my heart (Ps 139:23-24)
- Confess my sins to God and others (Ps 32:5; James 5:16)
- Choose to stay open to correction and humbly invite others to speak into my life (Prov 13:18; 15:31-32)
- Take seriously my responsibility to hold others accountable, though in gentleness and with compassion (Luke 17:3; Gal 6:1-2; 2 Tim 4:2)
Jesus shows us how to live out kingdom life in community. Scripture warns us to avoid either extreme, becoming “judge and jury” to others AND failing to exercise discernment and living in mutual accountability. When we avoid wrong judgments and engage in appropriate judgments, his kingdom comes among us and we become a city on a hill providing an accurate picture of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth for all the world to see.