Jesus Speaks on Judgment (A Study on the Sermon on the Mount)

Matthew 7:1-5

Psychologists tell us we use defense mechanisms to defend ourselves. One of them is projection or attributing to others the undesirable characteristics we have. Such as a television evangelist who is caught in a sin he so adamantly rebukes. Or people who criticize others for gossiping, but do the same thing themselves.

In these verses, Jesus speaks on hypocritical and unjust judging or criticizing. It is something we have all been guilty of at one time or another. Probably more times than we care to admit. Our natural tendency is to look for the bad in others. We choose to dig up dirt rather than uplift and bury.

Media sources are certainly good at digging up dirt. All a person must do is announce they are running for office!

When we unfairly judge, we forget we have dirt in our past also. All of us have skeletons in our closets. It is not our responsibility to resurrect skeletons, but to uplift those around us.

Jesus is not saying we are never to criticize, evaluate, or make judgments. Jesus is saying it is our responsibility to evaluate and, if necessary, to make a judgment about what is right and wrong.  Not to do this is what has led to the situational ethics that are so prevalent. We must judge between what is sinful and what is not. Had not the church Reformers of the sixteenth century made judgments about church life and its corruptions, the Protestant Reformation would never have taken place.

Unjust Judgement Shows an Erroneous View of God

Jesus directed this criticism toward the religious leaders. Most of Christ’s rebukes were against the religious not the wicked. Their judgments were wrong and unrighteous. They judged so much because they thought they were better than most people and made their own standard of religion and morality.

Many Jews had replaced the authority of Scripture with the traditions of the religious leaders. They were very judgmental and looked down on those not affiliated with their elite group. Their judgments were hypocritical and based on outward and external appearances.

One example is the story Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18). The Pharisee thanked God he was not a sinner like everyone else, especially the tax collector. He boasted of his service, fasting, and tithing. The tax collector would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but cried out to God for mercy.

Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t speak against sin. Preachers, prophets, teachers, and Christians have always done this. It is a part of our responsibility. Neither is Jesus condemning courts of law. Confronting sin shows love because we know the consequences.

But judging and criticizing unjustly shows an erroneous view of God. God judges with mercy and righteousness. He is fair. He judges according to the standards he has established, and these are pure and holy.

Our judgment is often like the religious leaders. We tend to judge by our standards and traditions. We would do well to consult God’s Word more often and let it say what it says. When we must judge, we should do so by God’s standards.

Condemning others causes us to play God. God is the final court, not us. We will all stand before him for the final account, not before each other. We should make sure we don’t make judgments only God is qualified to make.

Dr. Barnhouse says we should ask two questions when we have to make judgments: “Does such criticism arise because there is profound grief over sin?” and “Is the critic moved by the fact that God is outraged and that great wrong is done?”

Unjust Judgment Shows an Erroneous View of Others

Jesus condemns hypocritical judgment. He warns against judging others because they don’t measure up to our standards. He condemns unmerciful, self-righteous, and egotistical judgment.

This kind of judgment is done because we think we are superior. We think we perfectly measure up to God’s standards. However, no one has ever done this except Christ.

Judging like this is easy and common. We judge by the kind of clothes others wear or how they dress. We judge by the social class they come from or by the race or ethnic background they are.

But we all stand before God as sinners. Race, social standing, or ethnic background doesn’t matter. If not for God’s grace, we would all be doomed.

The story is told of a corrupt judge in ancient Persia who accepted a bribe for a false verdict. When his act was discovered, King Cambyses ordered him executed and skinned. His skin was used to cover the judgment seat. All future judges had to render verdicts while sitting on the skin.

Unjust Judgment Shows an Erroneous View of Ourselves

Jesus warns against looking at the speck and not seeing the plank. He also warns against offering to remove the speck.

When we do this, we become hypocrites. We should first remove the plank from our eyes. After dealing with our faults, we can then help others.

This kind of judging makes the sin of the critic greater than the sin of the one criticized. Self-righteousness makes us justify what we say and do and criticize others for the same things. We must first take care of our sins. We must practice what we preach. We should never criticize until we have walked in the person’s shoes.

Martin Wiles
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