Judgmentalism (Matthew 7:1-6)
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
May 19th, 2019
I. Are Christians Judgmental?
I believe many people today, if asked to give one word that describes Christians, would pick the word “judgmental”. For many, Christians are judgmental. Now, I think all of us would rather these people suggest words like “loving”, “kind”, “understanding”, “loyal”, “wise”, etc. But nevertheless, “judgmental” is the judgment often offered up. But why?
Think about this scenario, and tell me which of these three self-described Christians is being judgmental:
A gay couple moves into a new apartment, and discovers they are neighbors with three Christian individuals. The first Christian neighbor, after talking with the new couple, regularly avoids eye contact and rushes out of the complex. The second Christian neighbor, while talking with the couple, angrily denounces their lifestyle and 'draws' a relational 'line in the sand'. The third Christian neighbor, while talking with the couple, is pressed about his beliefs, and states clearly that he believes homosexual acts are contrary to God's desires and design.
So who is being judgmental here? Many today, including some Christians, would say that all three of these individuals are being judgmental. Furthermore, it wouldn't at all be surprising if someone were to confront these three professing believers and say, “Shame on you. Doesn't Jesus say not to judge others?”
Well... yes, Jesus did say that. And that's the very passage we're going to look at together this morning. Keeping these issues in mind, turn over to Matthew 7.
II. The Passage: "Judge Not" (7:1-6)
We're picking up where we left off in our study, which means we've arrived at verses 1-6 of chapter 7. Now, if you're looking at that passage, only two words in we find the command in question: “judge not”. Obviously, our goal this morning, as it is every Sunday morning, is to understand the meaning of each verse, AND how, by God's grace, we can live in light of his word. So... what did Jesus mean when he said “judge not”?
So to do that, let's break this passage up a bit. I think what we see here is that Jesus wants us to think about judgment in light of several factors. For example, we should consider...
1. Judgment in Light of Judgment (vs. 1, 2)
Look at verses 1 and 2... “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
Notice that Jesus is talking here about judgments made NOT in light of judgment; that is, those doing the judging are not judging in light of the fact that they themselves will be judged. That's the very reality Jesus wants them to keep in mind. He makes it clear here that the kind of judgment he has in mind, will most definitely lead to judgment by God.
In verse 2, Jesus gets more specific about our present judgments NOT made in light of God's coming judgment. First, he says, “with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged”. What does that mean? It means whatever violations you prosecute and verdicts you render, God will do the very same in your cases, inasmuch as those things are also true of you.
Second, he says, “with the measure you use it will be measured to you”. What is he saying there? I think it means, to the extent and with the severity that you find fault with others, fault will be found with you by God.
Now, if neither of those points is sobering to you, if neither of those ideas causes you to stop and proceed with caution when it comes to judging other people, then... “Houston, we have a problem.” But Jesus goes on to unpack this idea a bit more. According to verses 3 and 4, we should also consider....
2. Judgment in Light of Pride (vs. 3, 4)
This is what Christ goes on to tell his disciple about judging... verse 3...
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?”
As we've seen over and over again in this 'mountain message' of Jesus, these questions are clearly meant to get the person who is passing judgment to think about his or her own heart. “Why do you see...? How can you say... ?” Jesus wants his followers to consider what is driving such behavior.
And what is the behavior in question? It is prideful faultfinding. The person who is prideful has no problem cataloging and condemning the sins of others. But that's only part of the equation. Such cataloging and condemning is done with no healthy recognition of one's own failures. But again, that's only part of the equation. Not only is there no recognition of one's own sins, but the prideful person is also misguided in terms of assessing the extent of sin.
Jesus, with his carpentry background, chooses an effective illustration. He says, “O prideful judge, how can you make a big deal of and focus your judgment on the sawdust in someone else's eye, when you are walking around with a beam in your own. Or how can you foolishly believe you are in any position to set someone straight when you yourself are way, way, way off the path?”
In everyday terms, what Jesus is describing here is like when a person is judged for being late to a lunch, but judged by a person who is known by all to be epically flaky and inconsiderate; or like when a wife is judged for spending too much on a purchase by a husband with a gambling addiction; or a friend who is judged for sharing a sensitive piece of personal information by another friend who is and has been a chronic gossip.
It is pride, it is arrogance, that blinds us to the extent of our own faults and failures, AND it is pride that gives us a false sense of self-importance when we condemn others for specific sins, especially when such sins are relatively infrequent.
Sadly, there are Christians and so-called Christians who believe that being concerned about righteousness means first being concerned with the righteousness, or lack thereof, in other people. But Christ calls us to a very different path. In vs. 5, 6, we are called to consider...
3. Judgment in Light of Humility (vs. 5, 6)
This is what we hear in the next verse, verse 5...
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
It's interesting that the word hypocrite, used in chapter 6 in reference to many of the Jewish leaders, is used here in reference to a judgmental disciple. How is such a person a hypocrite? Because they say one thing and yet do something else. They want to point the finger at your sin, but are unwilling to do the same in regard to their own sin.
But notice that the word of Jesus in Matthew 7:5, his word to the hypocrites is not simply a condemnation. It is more so a correction. And how does he correct these prideful, judgmental hypocrites. He call them to humility and repentance. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye...” Jesus calls them to acknowledge the “beam”, that is, their own sin.
But removing that “log”, that plank, also means confessing that sin to God and remorsefully rejecting the sin. And all this... requires humility.
But if our prideful, judgmental hypocrite is truly humbled, what happens next? This is where it gets really interesting. Jesus says, “...first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
Ah. Do you understand what Jesus is saying? He's indicating that when he told his disciples to “judge not”, the issue was not recognizing, and even pointing out, the “the speck” of sawdust in the brother or sister's eye. The issue was the heart behind that judgment. It is a very different thing when a humble brother or sister points out your sin. The prideful person wants to put you down. The humble person wants to lift you up. The prideful person simply wants to condemn. The humble person wants to help.
And help they can! As Jesus describes here, the person who is deeply aware of his or her own faults and failures, is the kind of person who can “see clearly to take the speck out of [that] brother's eye”.
Now, think for a minute about what all this means. In light of the context, it seems clear that Jesus, in verse 1, is not condemning all forms of judgment. No. He is condemning the condemning heart. He is condemning the kind of heart, the pride-filled heart, that produces this judgmental posture; that spews out such judgmental poison.
The one who sets himself or herself up as a judge over others with this kind of heart, is not humbled by the reality that he or she is accountable to God. And they are not humbled by the reality that they are a 'beam-blinded' sinner. They pretend to be in a position they are not in, to have a knowledge they do not have, and to hand out punishments they have no right pronouncing. This is precisely why Paul later warns the Corinthians the way he does...
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... (I Cor. 4:5)
Only God is in such a position. Only God has such knowledge. Only God has the right to hand out such punishments. James, the half-brother of Jesus, warns us about this same mindset...
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11–12)
Did you hear how James refers to the law of God here? So what did the Law say about this issue? Turn over, if you would, to Leviticus 19:15–18. This is what we read..
“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.  You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.  “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.  You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Notice there are two kinds of 'judging' described in this passage: first, there is judging in “righteousness”, the kind of judging that “reason[s] frankly with your neighbor” and is an expression of “lov[ing] your neighbor as yourself”. But this passage also describes how you can “judge your neighbor” in unrighteousness; how you can have a condemning attitude that tempts you to be a “slanderer”. It is driven by “hate... in your heart”. This attitude seeks to “take vengeance”. It tempts us to “bear a grudge”. Do you see the difference?
So when James says the one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law (v. 11), he is pointing out how a prideful, judgmental hypocrite is, in fact, rejecting passages like Leviticus 19; and therefore setting himself up, or setting herself up, over God, passing judgment on his judgments. But as James reminds us, in order to humble us, there is only one lawgiver and judge (v. 12).
Therefore in light of all this, I think it is safe to say that judgmentalism must be rejected. But that does not mean every form of judgment is wrong. In fact, if we go back to Matthew 7, we discover that Jesus, in the very next verse, in verse 6, calls us to judge. He declares... “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
What exactly does that mean? How is it related to what came before? Well, I believe Jesus is warning us: even when we, in humility, can (v. 5) “see clearly” and we desire to help a brother or sister, or help anyone, with the “speck” in their eye, it might not always be wise to do so. Inside and outside the church, there are individuals who will hear your genuinely “holy” help and see your “pearls” of loving correction, and they will despise you.
Christ is calling us to make a judgment call about the kind of person who might receive and the kind of person who would certainly despise your care and concern. That discernment doesn't mean a person will always be a resentful, prideful, abusive “dog” or “pig”. The setting and season can change. Clear opposition may eventually become potential opportunity. While we might not always be able to help someone with a “speck”, we can and should always pray.
And if we were to continue in Matthew's Gospel, we would hear Jesus say in Matthew 18:15... “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” That is faultfinding, but not prideful faultfinding. It is humble, loving 'speck (or log) removal' assistance (something all of us need). Yes, there is a judgment involved... but it isn't judgmentalism. The heart here is the same heart we heard about in 5:24, the heart that leaves the altar in order to reconcile with a brother. It's the same heart we heard about in 6:12, the heart that prays, “forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors”.
III. Transformed by the Judge
What did Jesus mean when he said, “Judge not...”? He meant, 'condemn not'. He meant, 'do not set yourself up as a judge over someone else'. He meant, 'do not judge with a blind eye to your own sin and your own judgment'. He meant, 'do not be a prideful faultfinder'. He did NOT mean, 'do not judge between evil and good'. He did not mean, 'do not practice discernment'. He did not mean, 'do not talk to others about their sin'. He did not mean, 'practice judgment within the church, and if necessary, church discipline'. All of these are the fruit of a humble, cautious, and caring heart. Listen to how Paul described his same heart...
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:1–3)
Are Christians judgmental? Like everyone, they can be. But like that last apartment neighbor, and only like that last apartment neighbor, it isn't judgmental to speak the truth in love. Unrighteous judgment demonizes and distances the one in sin. But righteous judgment is careful and caring. It is humble and helpful. It knows its lane. It recognizes God as God.
Do you struggle with being judgmental? Are you more likely to condemn the sins of others than confess your own? Do you find more joy in putting down than lifting up? Does justice feel safer than mercy? Does putting someone in their place feel better than drawing them into yours? If so, then you need a new heart, one humbled before God and filled with his love.
Strangely, only the Judge of all people can give us a heart for all people. Only when we recognize what we truly deserve from that God the Judge, and then see that judgment placed on Jesus instead of us, only then can we find that humble heart. The one who said, “judge not”, “condemn not”, was the same one who was judged and condemned for prideful, judgmental hypocrites like us. Only Jesus Christ has the power to forgive and remove the “speck” and “log” of sin forever. Only he can transform us, by his grace alone, through faith alone.
Some of us need to repent of the judgmentalism we've talked about this morning. If we're honest, we recognize ways in which we have contributed to the stereotype that most Christians are judgmental. But we also know that part of the world's response to Christians and the word of God comes from the fact that sinners love their sin. In many cases, even when we speak the truth in love, with humility, people will take offense. And therefore, some will label us judgmental.
We must be sure that we are not offensive. We must strive for a clear conscience in that regard. But we shouldn't be surprised when the message through us is offensive; the message of a holy God to those who prefer the darkness; the message of a righteous King to rebels like us. The bad news of sin should always come with a double dose of the Good News of grace. But even still, we know many will hate God's judgment.
And yet, wonderfully, others will acknowledge their sin in light of God's word and grace. And as we just talked about, that grace is our only hope, isn't it? Only he can bring that change to our hearts, hearts so often prone to judgmentalism.
Will you trust him this morning for that change? Let's pray in light of these things.