Friday, October 23, 2020

Matthew 7 - Part 1


 Read Matthew 7

And so, we come to some of the most powerful and yet so often misused words in the New Testament.

Judge not lest you be judged.

These are powerful when used for introspection.  They are abused when used as an excuse not to live up to being a disciple of Christ.

The word that we associate with judge is κρίνω (kree'-no).  It is most often associated with a verdict from a court or a judge.  It can be positive or negative.  The word divides and separates those being judged.

In itself, the word has no good or evil to it.  Our counsel is not to sit in the judgment seat.  We are not really qualified to judge another human.  We pronounce neither guilt nor innocence.

We make decisions all the time.  We discern good and evil, better and best, profitable and nonprofitable.  We judge but we are not to sit in the judge’s seat.

We are not equipped to condemn another person. 

Think to how clearly we see fault in others and how obscure our own faults become in the context of our lives.  We know our extenuating and mitigating factors and apply them subconsciously to the point that we can point out a speck of sawdust in another’s eye while being blinded to the lumberyard in our own.

Prescribing how others should live because their lives and choices are before us has become a preoccupation in this country.  We are so myopic in so many ways seeing only that which is immediately before us while oblivious to everything else, especially ourselves.

We so have the solutions for everyone else that we often forget that we too are a work in progress.  We become hypocrites so easily.  What are we to do?  Work on ourselves first, then try to help someone else with their issues.

What’s the split here?  Jesus doesn’t say but I’m going with 95% of the time working on our own issues and 5% addressing issues with others.  That’s a Tom thing, but if I post it online, it must be true.

OBTW—of that 5% that we direct towards others, I think 99% of that should be prayer for them and the other 1% might be us addressing their shortfalls.

Wow!  That sounds like most of the improvement in this equation comes from us working on ourselves.  I think that’s the gist of it.

The more we focus on the plank in our eye, the more lumber we become aware of that we had not noticed before.

Judge not lest you be judged.

Beware!  These words can be the ultimate excuse. 

I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to judge.  Sometimes, we use these words to look the other way or accept the unacceptable.  Sometimes there is a time to speak to another’s actions.

The apostle Paul gives us excellent counsel here.  Speak the truth in love.  Only the believer who is growing in grace can do this.

Everyone can speak the truth in condemnation.  Some can disguise the condemnation, but it takes Christian maturity to speak the truth in a spirit of love.

It takes Christian maturity not to take the, “I don’t want to judge” excuse as an easy way out.

Sometimes, people can manipulate this verse to subsidize bad decisions.  You are judging me!

When love brings you to talk to someone about spending $100 a month on cigarettes while the kids haven’t had a bath in two months because the water has been disconnected for nonpayment, it’s the one size fits all excuse.

You are judging me!

For the person who does not want to see or hear and know the truth, this is the standard excuse.  For the Christian who doesn’t like confrontation at any level, it’s easier not to say a word and put the unbathed kids out of your mind.

Most of the time we work on our growth as disciples, but when called to help others with their transgressions we use the sound mind that God gave us and the maturity required to speak the truth in love.

This short pericope on judging wraps up with words many know but struggle to understand.

Do not cast your pearls before swine.

Here is the full verse in the New International Version.

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.

Some interpretations say this means do not share the gospel with the unworthy.  Wow!  After just being lectured about not sitting in the judgment seat, would Jesus tell us to condemn a group of people based upon our metrics of worthiness?

I’m going to share my interpretation based upon the context proffered.

Do not give your best efforts where they will produce the least return.  The proverbs tell us not to argue with a fool or we will be just like him.  That should be in the Facebook terms and conditions.

So what does it mean?

Don’t argue with a fool—someone has discarded reason in all aspects of his life—that is surely one of them.

How about don’t give an alcoholic $20 to feed his family.  He will likely not make it past the liquor aisle to get milk and bread.  Your best effort would be to deliver some food to the family and talk to the one who needs the Lord to change his life about coming to know Jesus.

How about turning off the 23 hours of commentary that goes with the 23 minutes of daily news and read your Bibles.  How about taking our best time and best efforts and applying them to the things that will produce the best results.

For the person without God, they are as likely to turn on you and destroy you if they can in spite of what you have done for them.

Some of you remember my first I broke the vending machine post.  I make no qualms about the fact that I am direct.  In the course of my lifetime, I have been accused of being tactful twice.  I was acquitted on both counts.

I am direct.  My direct message is that the church is not to be transactional but transformational.  I like to write and use imagery.  I liked the image of the broken vending machine.

We did transactional.  It was casting our pearls before swine.  Now we stick to transformational, at least as much as we can discern as we learn.

What I noted among the 10,000 comments to that post were people who we had helped more than once noting that they could never be a part of that church.  They left out the part about the help they had received again and again.

People stand ready to trample you under their feet.  Many of you made comments on that post in defense of our church.  I asked you to stop.  Our focus must be using our best efforts and resources to produce good fruit and bring glory to God.

Arguing with the ignorant only drags you down to their level and makes them feel good.

Use your best efforts to produce the best results possible.  Be transformational not transactional.  Don’t sit in the judgment seat, but when we must address transgression in another believer, be wise—believe it or not, that means be direct and don’t beat around the bush—and speak in a spirit of love.

For the most part, let’s get the wood out of our own eyes.


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