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Before you Judge

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Before You Judge (Matthew 7:1-6)

Jesus calls for the highest moral standard imaginable in His sermon. How shall we react to those who do not meet that standard? The natural tendency is to act with criticism. The disciples' mandate is to refrain from judgment until I have first judged myself. Before you judge, there are words you should remember.

Remember the Prohibition Against Judgment

We must know the definition of the judgment Christ prohibits. He does not prohibit the judicial process of the courts. That the Christian is to respect (Rom. 13). Neither does He prohibit the discerning use of our moral capacities. We must react to the impure, the immoral, and the unjust. He Himself did so. What He does prohibit is the censorious, harsh, self-congratulatory seeking of faults in others. He condemns the attitude that is judgmental. The character of His followers is not to be marked by a judgmental spirit. He Himself did not judge when He might have done so (John 8). He did not judge you when He might have done so.

We must know the motivation that keeps us from judging. As we judge, so shall we be judged. That is true on the human level. Haman is always hung on his own gallows. If you usurp the prerogative of God, your fellows will expect you to be as consistent as God. But Jesus' reference is primarily to God's judgment. At the final court, our own judgment will be conditioned by our attitude toward others. If we have been generous, we will find generosity. If we have been harshly critical, we shall find scrupulous examination by Him who knows how to do it best. His Beatitude reminds us that if we are merciful, we shall receive mercy. His prayer reminds us that we will be forgiven only as we forgive. You will meet what you have been at the judgment.

Remember the Admonition for Judgment

Jesus does not tell us to exercise no judgment. He does remind us that examination of self is always prior. The humorous exaggeration between a speck of dust and a plank of wood contrasts those who judge the trivial in others while neglecting the tremendous in their own lives. Jesus labels this as hypocrisy. The fault is not in our inability to see ourselves, but our unwillingness to see ourselves.

Confrontation with a brother then becomes possible. First judge yourselves; then confront your brother. I am my brother's keeper. Nowhere did Jesus say to leave sin neglected in the life of a brother. Just as a splinter in the eye can be irritating and dangerous, sin in the life of my brother can be spiritually blinding to him. When I have first dealt with sin in my own life, I am to turn to him in a spirit of grace and help (Gal. 6). We are not to accuse our brother, but neither are we to excuse our brother.

Remember the Concession About Judgment

Moral discrimination is necessary. Saints are not simpletons. To refrain from a judgmental spirit is not to refrain from moral discriminations. The prohibition against judgment is not an excuse for moral laziness.

Christ reminds you of your possession. You possess a treasure. He calls it "that which is holy, . . . pearls" (v. 6, KJV). Your experience of God's kingdom and grace is nothing less than a priceless treasure.

Christ reminds you of your caution. The world may not respect your treasure. No wise man parades his most treasured possessions indiscriminately before all men. Some men live on the moral level of dogs and swine. To the Jews, those brute beasts represented all that was unclean and loathed. The wild scavenger dogs cannot even appreciate the food you throw them. Swine would think that pearls were peas. They would trample your treasure and then turn on you! There is a time to refrain from speaking of holy things. You are to judge when that time is at hand. There is even a time to shake the dust off your feet and go on (Acts 13). The message is as simple as it is necessary: judge yourself, restore your brother, and respect your treasure.

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