Now we're turning again to Matthew's gospel, this time chapter 7. You will remember, I hope, that the Sermon on the Mount of our Lord Jesus Christ spans over three chapters of Matthew's gospel: chapter 5, chapter 6 and chapter 7. We're now in our eighteenth study, we are now entering into the first few verses of chapter 7 of Matthew.
Reading from verse 1, our Lord Jesus - and please do remember always, right throughout this sermon, that these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. What I seek to do, as a preacher of the word of God, is just to extract out of these words the meaning that the Lord Jesus Christ had in His preaching, inspired by the Spirit of God. We seek to know what Christ would tell us today: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you".
Let us pray: Our Father, we have come once again to Thy holy word. We know that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable but, our Father, these specifically are the words of Thy Son. We remember that from the excellent glory there were those words at the Mount of the Transfiguration: 'This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him'. Oh our Father, give us today hearts of meekness and humility to receive the engrafted word of God. Let us not transgress these principles by applying these words to other people; to our brothers and sisters in Christ that we can perhaps see in our gathering today; to members of our family, friends, loved ones. But Father, help us to ask ourselves: 'Do these words apply to me?'. Father, give us grace and humility to bow before Thy word and to obey. For we know that to trust and obey is the only way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Help me I pray, our Father. Fill me and anoint me to preach to the glory of Christ. Amen.
A typical Ulster family were driving home from church on a Lord's Day just like this. They were all together in the car. Father began to moan about the length of the preacher's sermon and about how boring it was. Then mother began to complain about how the organist, in the second line of the third hymn, was playing too loud. Then little sister, who is studying music at school, piped up that the soloist was flat in the third verse of her solo. Then granny began to complain that she couldn't see the preacher, and she couldn't hear what he was saying (needless to say she was sitting in the back row of the church). Then little Willy was hearing all that was going on in the background of the car, and he began to fuss about the woman who was sitting in front of him with the big hat, and he couldn't see anything that was going on. But just after a few moments' complaining, he nudged his dad in the ribs and said: 'But Dad, you've got to admit, it was a good show for 50p!'.
It'll take a minute for the penny to drop, but that was the offering that the family gave. We have a tendency in life, as believers, as human beings, to see the fault in everyone else and fail to see the faults in our own lives. In fact, perhaps as believers, as children of God, we have an acute sense of right and wrong. But in this sermon we have been learning, week after week, especially in chapters 6 and 7, how righteous acts that are seen in God's sight as very commendable can slowly slump into something that is ostentatious and hypocritical. We looked at fasting. We looked at almsgiving. We looked at praying. We are now coming today to look at judgement. We can see how we who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, we who have been made alive from dead works of unrighteousness and sin, can now discern somewhat what is wrong and what is right. But that gift of God's Holy Spirit can very easily fall into the danger of misjudgement. That is what I want to speak to you about today, and that is what the Lord Jesus is speaking of in these verses.
It is characteristic of human beings that many of us judge others and we miss ourselves. The old adage is well worn, and has been said many times but it is very true, that when you point the finger at others there are four pointing back. We hear it over and over again, but how true it is. We Christians tend to be experts at sorting everyone else out but ourselves.
There was once a cartoon character who was the dominant aggressive type, and he is philosophising alongside his friend who happens to be the opposite in character to him - he's quite quiet and passive. With unhesitating boldness, the stronger dominant one says to the weaker one: 'If I were in charge of the world, I would change everything'. A bit intimidated, the friend who is forced to listen says rather meekly: 'Uh, th-th-that wouldn't be easy. I mean, wh-where would you start?'. The dominant character turned right away to his friend, looked at him directly and said: 'I would start with you!'.
Friends, we laugh at these stories but we can be so like Job's friends: 'Wisdom will die with us'. We feel that perhaps we have the right, or even the ability, to sort everyone else's life out with the exception of our own. I think it is very characteristic perhaps of Ulster Christians, who pride themselves in their ability to critique others. We think to ourselves: 'There's nowhere in the world quite like Ulster. There's nowhere in the world quite like the church and believers here in Northern Ireland', or even, 'In me - no one is quite like me'. But the fact of the matter is: any fool can criticise, can condemn and can complain - and usually they do!
Doug Barnett (sp?) said these very wise words, listen to them carefully: 'Christians would never dream of intentionally running down other people with their cars. Then why do they do it with their tongues?'. C.A. Joyce says: 'Two things are very bad for the heart: running upstairs and running down people'. Do you ever meet people - you meet them all the time, especially in Christian circles - who say: 'Well, I just speak my mind'? Perhaps that's why there are so many people around us that have given away so many different bits of their mind, that they have nothing left!
Friends, we've got to take this very, very seriously, because the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ is that judgement is correct, but judgement should always begin with yourself. Then when you judge yourself you have earned the right, and you are in a better position to judge others. That's what the Lord is saying: 'Examine yourselves before you judge others. And when you examine yourselves, then and only then are you in a position to help others'. Learn to look at yourself rather than looking at others.
What is the reason why the Lord says this? The reason is simply this: in chapters 5 and 6, as I've already said, the Lord is speaking to us of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, righteous acts that should exceed the righteous acts of the Pharisees. Maybe, as you've been learning in chapters 5 and 6 how to do these things - and I hope that you're going away trying to implement them in your lives - by the time you come to chapter 7 there's a great danger that you're praying right, you're fasting right, you're giving right, you're doing all sorts of things right, and you think you've earned the right to look down your nose at someone else. See why the Lord leaves it until the last chapter! They may fall into the temptation of looking down at other believers.
Now before I go any further, the one thing I do not want to happen today is for you to apply this sermon to somebody else. Forget about it! For the illustration, the very crux and fundamental point in the whole sermon is not to do that! So please, right away, ignore, think that you're the only person in the Iron Hall this morning, and apply everything to yourself. You'll be the better for it, and so will your brother and sister in Christ.
Let's look at the teaching. The first thing that the Lord tells us is: 'Your judgement will become your judge', your judgement will become your judge. Verses 1 and 2: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye measure, it shall be measured to you again. Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye?", and then we have the illustration. But what the Lord is saying, what He is seeking to illustrate is this: God will judge you with the same standards that you judge others. Do you expect a lot from others? Do you? Well if you expect a lot from others, God will expect a lot from you. The Lord is saying, if you expect high standards of the church and the pastor and the elders and the missionaries and all your brothers and sisters in Christ, God will expect the same high standard of you. If you keep harping back to an age-old day of the glory of the church, and say to yourself, 'Christians today are not what they used to be', can I ask you: God will say to you, 'Are you today what Christians used to be?'. Do you see the danger of judging? It's not wrong now! But we've got to make sure that we are doing it according to the Lord's command.
The Lord is not saying - please don't get this into your mind - He is not saying that it is wrong to judge. Verse 1 is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted and misapplied verses in the whole of scripture. You get these airy-fairy liberal Christians continually pontificating this flowery phrase: 'Judge not that ye be not judged', and therefore they're imbibing and drinking in all the compromise and apostasy and false teaching that you can imagine. That is not what this verse means. I'll show you why. If you look at verse 15 the Lord says, in the same chapter: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits". How are you meant to know them by their fruits if you don't judge whether they're a wolf or whether they're one of the sheep? In fact, if you look at this very section that we're reading from, in verse 6 the Lord tells us: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you". How are we meant to follow that command if we don't realise who the dogs are? Who the swine are? We've got to discern, there's got to be a measure of judgement. The Bible calls it righteous judgement. It is the capacity in the believer to exercise wisdom and careful discernment, and it is sadly lacking today.
It is what the Lord spoke of in John 7 verse 24: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment". That is the theme of this sermon: don't be like the Pharisees that judge on the outward appearance, but judge righteously according to God's principles and God's laws. You can see the Lord judging in His life, and you might say, 'He had grounds to judge', but listen to the denouncing terms that He speaks to the Pharisees in, as hypocrites and as vipers. If you go to the apostle Paul you see how, when he writes to the Corinthians, he concludes that they are carnal, that they are babes in Christ, that they need to seek out the meat and maturity and spirituality. In Paul's last letter to the church he mentions Alexander, Demas and Hermogenes, and he warns the people of God against these people. In Acts chapter 13 and in verse 10, Paul's words to Elymas the sorcerer - listen to this for a judgement: "O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?". Go to the Old Testament and you see Nathan to David, and he uses judgement in the correct sense and discernment, as it is found by the Spirit of God, when he looks at David, after telling him the parable about the man and the little lamb, and he says: 'Thou art the man!'.
All of these people - now this is the thing to note - they all judged others, but here's the crux of the matter: they all had a righteousness of character that qualified them to judge the other. Do you see the difference? In the New Testament we are instructed to judge. We are instructed to judge when disputes arise. They should be settled in the church and not in the court of law. The local church is to judge the serious sins of its members and take appropriate action, according to Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5, and many other passages. We are to judge the doctrine and the teaching of teachers according to the word of God. We are to discern who are believers by the command: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?". How are you meant to know who to fellowship with if you don't discern who is a believer and who is an unbeliever? Judge those who have the qualifications of elders and deacons - that's how they are appointed. We are to discern people who are unruly, those who are divisive. We are told to mark them and avoid them; those who are faint hearted, those who are weak, and treat them accordingly. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:14: "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men". You've got to discern who needs comfort; you've got to discern who's weak to be strengthened; and you've got to discern who's unruly to rebuke them. It is right to judge.
Verse 2 talks about judgement and then it talks about measure. If the judgement is the standard or the harshness wherewith you judge, the measure is the amount of judgement that you give to another. What the Lord is asking us to do is consider, just like almsgiving and praying and fasting and righteous deeds, when you engage in the righteous act of discernment, when you are harsh upon another, when you pile on the measure of judgement that you like to, make sure that you're doing it righteously. I imagine that the large extent of our judgement is unrighteous. To err on the side of caution, just like swearing in the court of law - remember, we've seen week after week that the Lord is not making absolute prohibitions to these rules. When He says 'Judge not', it is not an absolute prohibition to judge. But what He is saying is: err on the side of caution. You are better not to judge than to judge unrighteously. You are better to be merciful than to be over-judgmental and critical. James outlines that in chapter 2 of his epistle verse 13, listen to what he says: 'Judgement is without mercy to him that hath shown no mercy'. Do you see it? If you judge another man, and you might judge him righteously, but if you don't show mercy - and even God shows mercy - God will judge you as you have judged, but if you choose to be merciful God will measure out mercy to you. Consequently, we find that James concludes his epistle with these words: 'Mercy glorifieth against judgement'. Mercy is more desirable in the child of God than a critical spirit, because you can't go wrong with mercy but you can go wrong in your judgement.
Let's turn for a moment to Romans 2, because it's important that we lay this foundation. We can't look at all the texts in scripture that deal with judgement and criticism, but always remember that the context of the Sermon on the Mount is the Lord's denunciation of the Pharasaical way of life. In Romans 2 the Lord, through the Holy Spirit in Paul the writer, is now directing his attention toward the Jew again, and specifically to the Pharasaical Jew who adheres to the law and the outward religion, rather than the religion of the heart. So remember that although it is to the Romans, he is now referring to the Jew. Verses 1 and 2: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things". Then go to verse 21: "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?". Do you see it? You're telling someone else to do something. Do you do it? "Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law" - you see the Jew - "through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written".
What were the Pharisees doing? What were the Jews, even among the Gentiles, doing? I'll tell you what they were doing. They were playing God! A great deal of the evangelical strain of Christianity tries, in their little leather shoes, to play God. My friend, the sooner or later we realise the truth of the beatitude: 'Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy', the better off we will be. The Pharisees judged themselves wrongly. They thought they were the 'bee's knees'. They judged other people around them, the Jewish people, wrongly. More importantly than all of that, they judged the Lord Jesus Christ Himself wrongly. Your judgement will become your judge.
Secondly, your eye trouble blurs your judgement - your eye trouble blurs your judgement. Verses 3 and 4, we have this illustration: "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye" - or the sawdust, or the speck of wood - "but considerest not the beam" - or the plank - "that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?". Finding fault is not difficult to those who are determined to find it, but there are people - and remember, don't apply it to anybody else - who are so obsessed with others that they miss the bigger problems in their own life. Usually their complaining spirit over petty things betrays a cover-up of their own greater problems. I believe the Lord had the Pharisees in mind. They were finding fault with others, but they were missing their own state of condemnation before a holy God. They couldn't see it.
Their eye trouble blurred their judgement in two ways. First, they were blind to their own faults. Richard Glover said well: 'None are such critics of small faults as those who are guilty of grave ones'. The blind guide is one thing, but a blind optician is absolutely ridiculous! You know, we're so serious when we look at the word of God. I believe the Lord is being humorous here. The Lord could be humorous! Think of this: a man walking down the road with a plank hanging out of his eye and going over to a little man [in] whom you can hardly see the speck at all, and telling him: 'You've a little speck in your eye and I'll get it out for you'. Do you see it? Guy King says: 'Humour was part of the human in Him'. What He is doing, as Spurgeon could say, as He was preaching, as any great preacher ought to do, He was tickling the oyster so that He could put the knife in! He is showing us the ridiculous nature of what it is to judge others when we are blind to our own faults. It is like the horse that is blinkered and cannot see anything because its focus is directed toward one thing specifically. And when you are looking to the problems, the faults, the failures - legitimate though they may be - in people that have let you down, you miss what a great sinner you are yourself. You become blind to your own faults.
That is the first way that eye trouble, and I use that as a pun: 'I trouble', can blur your judgement. The second way is 'tunnel vision to others' faults'. If this 'I trouble' - me and mine and self - causes you to be blind to your own faults, the other side of the coin is that it gives you a tunnel vision to the faults of others. Dean Alford says that this word here, 'beholdest', in verse 3 - "why beholdest thou" - in the Greek language suggests 'to stare'. If you picture this man with a big plank hanging out of his eye, and he is staring at his brother's little speck! You've seen it - people staring, and the more they stare, and the more they gaze upon an object - it wouldn't matter whether it was an inanimate silly piece of rock or something, if you stood for long enough staring at it, people would stop and stare with you. The Greek word means exactly that. As you stare and gaze at this object, your brothers and sisters gaze also. That is not to be the spirit of the child of God, drawing attention to the sins, the inadequacies, the backslidings of others.
How different it is from the words of Peter: "And above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity shall cover a multitude of sins." But we do what 1 Corinthians 13 says we ought not to do: we take pleasure in the sins of others. Do you see it? It's not wrong to judge, but I'm going to try as much I can to err on the side of mercy from now on. Do you know why? Because I know what a big sinner I really am. I don't know enough, but I'm learning more and more every day. My friend, rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his grubby thumb on the scales. Human nature usually tries to pull other people down so that you can build yourself up above them. Do you know, Christian, it is not necessary to blow out the flame and the light of another's, to let yours shine? It's not needed, for that is Pharasaical. That is not Christianity! The Pharisees judged others to make themselves look good. You remember the Pharisee and the publican - both went up to the temple to pray and the Pharisee says, 'I'm glad I'm not like anybody else. I'm glad I'm not that old publican there!'. It made him feel good, but it was the old publican that went to his home justified! God desires not sacrifice and offering, but a broken and a contrite heart He will not despise.
The Christian should judge themselves to make others look good, not judge others to make themselves look good. Your judgement will become your judge, your 'I trouble' blurs your judgement, and thirdly: your self-surgery, or your self-judgement, will heal others. In fact, it will heal everyone including yourself. Verse 5: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye". You're a hypocrite! I mean, if we counted how many times that word crops up in the Sermon on the Mount! That's the theme of it - be a real Christian! Get rid of this Northern Ireland evangelical hypocrisy with all the talk, all the right phrases, all the right doctrines and charts and diagrams! Get rid of it! For it is hypocrisy - pretending to be what you are not; claiming to be righteous, yet condemning the unrighteous who are more righteous than you are righteous! How do you avoid it? I'll tell you how to avoid it. The Lord tells you: take the mote out of your own eye first. First! When you're looking for faults, child of God, do you know where to look? In the mirror! When you're going to judge your neighbour, do it when you're in front of the mirror because the neighbour is you.
Oh, if we judged ourselves! For the critic who starts with himself will have no time to take on outside contracts, for he'll have enough work on himself to keep him going. What I'm talking about here is not a perpetual autopsy to keep looking into yourself and be introvert, and forget about the forgiveness that is in Christ. What I am talking about is to confess your sins and be done with it. You don't want to keep analysing everything in your life, but what you do need is a healthy regular examination of your spiritual stance before God, especially when you're about to judge somebody else.
Your self-surgery is helpful and heals others, first of all because your vision is clear. Do you see it? Your vision is clear. If you take the plank out of your own eye you'll be able to see better yourself. We've had vision talked about already in this Sermon - chapter 6 and verses 22 and 23: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil", or diseased, "thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!". The Lord is saying that you've got to have good eyesight. Remember, we were told recently in our Sermon to refocus our vision. My friend, you can't have vision if you've a plank hanging out of your eye. Some in this Hall may have a chip on their shoulder rather than a plank hanging out of their eye, and it's doing you no good and it's doing no good to those that are around you.
Your vision is clear. You have true focus, and as Paul said to the Corinthians, "If you would judge yourself you would not be judged". But not only is your vision made clear, but other's vision is cleared through you. When you take the plank out of your own eye, you can see clearly to take the mote out of your brother's eye. This is the very proof that judgement is not wrong, because the reason that the Lord is instructing us to get rid of the plank in our eye is so that we can help our brother. In fact, it would be wrong not to help our brother when we have done that, but we must do it first. First "thine own", and then theirs!
But it's to be done in a certain way, and here's where I go wrong many-a-time. It's not just the fact that we judge people, it's the way we judge. We go to somebody and we say: 'You've got a bit of sawdust in your eye', and we pull a pitchfork out of our bag, and we're ready to just dig it out. We use a hammer to squash a fly. Friends, the word of God tells us that this exercise of judgement is to be done lovingly and tenderly, realising that 'there but for the grace of God go I, and I am what I am through the grace of God'. Paul said, "Speaking the truth in love". John Owen, the great theologian, said: "The nature and end of judgement must be corrective, not vindictive; for healing, not destruction". Do you see it? When you've been healed you'll not want to judge another to get the boot in, and to get one over. You'll want to judge to help your brother in trouble.
When someone has something in their eye you have to be very delicate when you're taking it out, don't you? We must be delicate. We can do more damage when we're trying to speck out of a brother's eye than the sin in itself, with our impatience and our insensitivity. The problem that the Lord is addressing here - He knows humanity so well - is that usually those who do the correcting are those who think they are pure, but are openly walking around with a 2 by 4 hanging out of their eyes. Everybody sees it, except them of course. My friend, I have been touched - this is very corrective and devastating to our hearts - but I have been touched by the fact of how we are to look after one another in love with regards to this discernment and judgement. If we are to help one another we have got to get ourselves right.
The Lord's words to Peter in Luke 22 verse 32 were this: "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren". 'When thou art converted' - don't try to tell me that he wasn't saved at that point. It's not what it's talking about. It's talking about after his backsliding, when he had turned and repented. You could substitute 'repentance', He is saying repentance is imperative, a continued repentance in your life, because we have a responsibility to one another. Repentance toward God in faith is so important, but repentance is important for each other, for then when we have repented we are in a position to take out the motes in others' eyes.
As I thought of this I was led to passages in the New Testament - and with this I finish - where we are exhorted to live for one another. Please take this to your heart. We are told to wash one another's feet; we are told to be devoted to one another in brotherly love; to give preference to one another in honour; to be of the same mind toward one another; to pursue the building up of one another; to accept one another; to admonish one another; care for one another; serve one another through love; bear one another's burdens; show forbearance and patience toward one another; be kind to one another; forgive one another; speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; be subject to one another; regard one another as more important than yourself; do not lie to one another; teach one another; comfort one another; encourage one another; be at peace with one another; consider one another; pursue good to one another; do not speak against one another; confess your faults to one another; pray for one another; be hospitable to one another; clothe yourself with humility toward one another. Why? Do you want a summary of it all? Here it is: "This is My commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you".
Let's bow our heads. I'm sorry if I have judged any of you unrighteously. My dilemma is the words of the Lord: "Love as I have loved you". How do we do that? It must be only through the Holy Spirit. Friends, we need to patch up a lot of problems. It's hard to go and say 'sorry'. It's even harder to go when it wasn't your fault. Friends, this above all things can hinder blessing.
Help us, Holy Father, to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ, who sought not His own, our Father, that was equal with God, but thought it not something to be grasped at, but made Himself of no reputation, took the form of a servant, became a man, and humbled Himself, became obedient unto the cross. Thank You for such an example, but more than that: thank You for such a Saviour. Thank You for such a Holy Spirit who is able to live Christ's life in us. Lord, help us to be poor of spirit, to be meek and to be merciful so that the Holy Ghost of God may take control of our lives and live this victorious life here and now in this old world. To the glory of Christ we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighteenth tape in his 'Sermon On The Mount' series, titled "Misjudgement" - Transcribed by Trevor Veale, Preach The Word.
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