Matthew 7:1-14, 24-29
(watch here: https://youtu.be/91I-_w3MFB0)
1‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
6‘Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
7‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
12‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
13‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
24‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’
28Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Perhaps you’ve heard the one about a young couple who moved into a new neighborhood.
The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean,” she said. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. About a month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: “Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” The husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
Ah, how easy it is to be so foolish, especially when it comes to judging our neighbors. We think we know more or better. We think our ways of thinking or doing things are the right ways. And sometimes we do know more about certain subjects than others. Sometimes our ways of thinking and doing things are the right ways. But none of us knows all there is to know about everything. None of us thinks or does the right thing all the time. We are all limited in our abilities and deeply flawed. Only God is capable of knowing everything and doing the right thing all the time. When we judge others we fail to acknowledge our own limitations and sinfulness. We forget that the limitations and sins of others are no better or worse than our own limitations and sins. They are simply theirs and ours are ours. And since God is the only one who knows everything and is completely without sin, shouldn’t He be the only one to judge us? Of course!
This morning we’re continuing through Jesus’ teachings from his Sermon on the Mount with this profound lesson on the judgment and judging others. Nestled in the middle of his passage is the so-called “Golden Rule”—”do to others as you would have them do to you.” And we quickly jump to this idea of judging especially since the preceding verses are about judging others. We can’t help be hear, “don’t judge others lest you want to be judged.” But is that what the Golden Rule is about? No, it’s about doing the right thing by your neighbor. It’s about serving and helping your neighbor. None of us is an island unto ourselves. We all need help sometimes. We all have our own sins and limitations and we need to be taught new, alternative ways of behaving and thinking. We need to share our wisdom and abilities to resist temptations with each other so that we become less limited and sinful. Jesus’ rule is about building your neighbor up, not tearing them down. Jesus is encouraging us, not instilling fear within us. There is enough fear in the world. We certainly don’t need God adding any more to it!
Recall what we discussed last week concerning God’s deep appreciation for relationships. God himself is in relationship existing as the Holy Trinity. The three entities-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-each play off of each other to fulfill the overall responsibility of creating new life. Because God is in relationship, so, too, must we be in relationship with God and with each other. Jesus is teaching us how to stay in relationship by serving each other.
And Jesus isn’t the only one in Scripture to caution us about judging each other. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?” (2:1-3) If we think we can condemn others for their sins and limitations, God is quick to condemn us for our own. It shows him we care very little about staying in relationship with our neighbor and He’s less likely to want to stay in relationship with us. Later in his letter, Paul asks, “Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then, each of us will be accountable to God.” (14:10-13) We all must stand before God and answer for the lives we lived here in this world. Did we serve our neighbor? Did we share God’s love and mercy with our neighbor? Did we stay in relationship with our neighbor? These are what God will judge us for. Paul offers good advice in his letter to the Romans, “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (12:16-18)
There was a time in our church when it was common to teach judgment. It was a time of fear and doubt. And though we must fear God’s judgment, we mustn’t let it paralyze us from serving God and our neighbor. We must gladly serve, not fearfully. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” A nice, neat synopsis of the gospel. We often forget the importance of the very next verse, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus didn’t come into the world to judge it for all its wickedness and sorrow. No, God came into our world to save it…to serve it…to love it. God came as yet another way to stay in relationship. Let us be less concerned with judging each other and more concerned with serving each other. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (4:29) Let us seek to overcome each other’s limitations and sinfulness together. In doing so, we welcome God in our midst. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.