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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am Worship service, 2017-11-26

Text: Matthew 7:1-5

We Singaporeans are well-known for complaining. It is so common to hear complaints about our congested roads, our public transport, COE prices, expensive housing, the hot weather, the wet weather, lousy service, and the latest hot topic – the upcoming tax increase. A recent study of over 30,000 e-commerce customer reviews has revealed that Singaporeans are the ‘Complain Kings’ of Southeast Asia. We produce the most number of complaints in this region – more than one-third. The study also revealed that we are 25% more likely than Malaysians to ‘yell’ by writing our complaints in large CAPITAL letters, and that the highest number of refund requests are made by Singaporeans.

 

Is this a good thing to be proud of? No, it is actually a health hazard. In one episode of Pulse, an Emmy Award-winning health magazine show, Dr Robert Hales said, “They found in long-term studies of both men and women that those who complain a lot and have a negativistic attitude toward life have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks actually before the age of 60.” 

 

And that’s not all. Those who complain at lot may also be a hazard to others. People usually avoid them because they like to find fault. But how about ourselves? Do we tend to find fault with others? Do we often complain to them and criticize them a lot? Do people tend to avoid us? I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we may have to admit that this fault-finding spirit is quite prevalent even among Christians. Sometimes we are too quick to criticise others for something they did or said without considering the cause of it or the context of it. We notice that someone has stopped coming to church for some time, and we immediately think that he has left the faith. The actual reason is that he is physically unwell. Sometimes when a person tries to correct us in order to help us improve and grow spiritually, we misjudge his motives and we think that he has turned against us.

 

Sometimes we judge people wrongly because of their outward appearance or their place of origin. For instance, when Philip told Nathaniel in John 1:45 that they had found the Messiah and that He was from Nazareth, Nathaniel’s immediate response was, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” The same tendency is found in the prejudice which the Pharisees had against Jesus. In John 7:52, they made a totally unfounded judgment about Him, just because He was from Galilee. Whenever we judge someone according to where he comes from, or according to certain things he had done in his past, without making an effort to know what he really is, and what he is doing now, then we fall into the same fault-finding sin that the Pharisees were guilty of.

 

And because it is so easy for us to fall into this sin, the Lord Jesus gave strong words of warning against it in His Sermon on the Mount. This morning, we will learn three lessons from this warning in Matthew 7:1-5.

  1. The Danger of Our Own Condemnation (vv. 1,2)

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. The words “Judge not” here literally means “do not be always judging.” This does not mean that we should never ever judge someone. Sometimes we really need to exercise good judgment and discernment. In the courts of Law, judges have to make sound judgments based on the evidence presented to them.

 

In fact, the strict moral distinctions drawn by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount require us to make right judgments. Look for instance at v.6 of our text. Here Jesus Himself speaks of the need to identify some people as dogs and swine. And in vv.15 He warns against false prophets who must be judged according to their fruits and rebuked. Elsewhere Jesus demands that people make the right judgment. He said this in John 7:24“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” All of this means that some kinds of “judging” are not only legitimate, but are in fact necessary.

 

What then did Jesus mean when He said, “Judge not” in v.1? He was talking about a habit of finding fault in others. It is all right to judge, but not to be judgmental. Sometimes a person may be doing things out of ignorance, because he really does not know any better. One example of this is Apollos when he came to preach at Ephesus – Aquila and Priscilla took him aside privately after they had heard him preach, because something that he said was not right. And Apollos was grateful for the correction he received from them (Acts 18:24-28). But what if Aquila and Priscilla had been judgemental, criticised him and written him off him as a false teacher? Then Apollos would never be corrected.

 

Let us look at two other passages of scripture that echo this warning. Each of them gives reasons against being judgmental: Romans 14:10-13 “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought [despise] thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”

 

The context of this passage is that there were some Christians who used certain specific practices like eating meat, and the celebration of certain days as a standard for judging others. Today, this might be like someone who says to you, “Do you celebrate Christmas? I don’t. I think that all good Christians never celebrate Christmas.” Here Paul says that God is the only one who is qualified to make such judgments. If we make such judgments we would then be putting ourselves in the place of God. None of us should dare to do that! That’s idolatry of the worst kind and God will judge us for it.

 

Let us therefore be careful not to judge any brother in Christ on the basis of something he does or does not do, if it does not violate any commandment of God. In moral and doctrinal matters, we need to correct people carefully. Thus, if I see a Christian bowing down to worship an idol, or telling a lie, then I would have to admonish him humbly and lovingly. But if the issue is nota moral one, we must be careful not to become judgmental, or else we would usurp God’s authority.

 

Another passage that shows this is James 4:11-12 – “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” This verse gives us another important reason why it is wrong to be judgmental: Because it is not done in the right spirit - the spirit of love. The law that is mentioned four times here is the one given in Leviticus 19:18“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” To judge your neighbour is to violate this law.

 

Now this does not mean that when we love someone, we would never tell him if he has done wrong. 1 Corinthians 13:6 tells us that love “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.”It would be very unloving to let a brother continue to live in sin when we know of it. We should rather speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and encourage him to obey God’s Word and repent of his sins.  If we ever need to correct a brother, let us make sure that we do it with love, with his best interests at heart. Otherwise we may fall into the sin of becoming proud and self-righteous.

 

We now return to our text in Matthew 7 to see another reason why it is so dangerous to judge someone. We read in verse 2: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Here Jesus says that before we judge others, we must always remember that the very same standards which we use against them will be used against us. Therefore we should never apply standards to others that we would not first apply to ourselves. God will judge us by the same standards that we use to judge others.

Unfortunately there are some who have double standards – one which they use for judging others, and one for judging themselves: They impose very high standards and heavy burdens on others, but do not even attempt to keep to those standards themselves.

 

One illustration of this can be found in John 8:3-9 – the passage about the woman who was caught in adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus and judged that she should be stoned to death, according to the Law of Moses. What did Jesus do? He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” When the scribes and Pharisees heard that, they were convicted by their own conscience that they too had not lived perfectly according to the Law of Moses. Then every one of them walked away one by one, not willing to make judgement of her anymore.

 

There is one good practice we can carry out whenever we are about to judge someone who falls into sin: That is to ask if we would judge ourselves by the same standards with which we are judging him. And if we judge ourselves by these standards, would we be found guilty too? If I had to tell someone that he has sin in his life that he needs to repent of, I must ask myself if I have the same sins or worse sins in my own life that I need to repent of. In other words, I must put myself in the dock and judge myself first. If we all do this, I think that we would soon come to realise, that very often, what we need to do for others is to be merciful to them rather than to make judgments against them. Since God has been merciful to us in dealing with our sins, then we must be merciful to others in dealing with their sins.

 

We observe that according to the latter part of v.2 the measure that we mete to others is the measure we will receive. What is this measure all about? Some ancient rabbis used to say that God has two “measures” for judging the world – mercy and justice. Jesus could have been using the same language here, but He adapted it to His own purposes. He who insists on showing justice without mercy for others will not receive mercy when he is judged. This is also stated in James 2:13 – “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

 

Therefore when Jesus says, “Judge not” in Matthew 7:1 He is not telling us to just shut our eyes to the faults of others and pretend that they are not there, but rather to be generous in showing mercy toward them, while dealing with their faults in an appropriate manner. We are to speak gently, tactfully and personally to them. We do this, because we realise that we are no different from others. We are after all, sinners saved by grace. We are what we are, wholly by the grace of God, and not through our own merit or strenuous efforts.

  1. The Difficulty of Our Own Imperfection (vv. 3, 4)

This is seen in v.3: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” We must recognise that there is a figure of speech employed here. It does not mean that a person can literally have a huge beam or wooden plank stuck in his eye! And it would of course be quite impossible for anyone to be aware of a tiny speck of dirt stuck in someone’s eye and not be aware that he has a beam stuck in his own eye. Just imagine an eye surgeon trying to do a very delicate operation with a pole sticking out of his head. This is clearly a hyperbole, an intended exaggeration. Now a hyperbole is always used for the effect of expressing intensity of feeling. And from this we can understand the intensity of the dislike or disgust that Jesus had for this sin of fault-finding.

 

So let us learn well from this illustration: The mote (or tiny little speck) stuck in the brother’s eye here stands for the sin in his life that we are judging him for. And the beam that is in our own eye stands for the sin in our own life. The point is that just as it is absurd for beam-eyed man to attempt to help the speck-eyed man, it is absurd for a man with glaring sins in his life to find fault with another who has lesser sins in his life. His own sins prevent him from being objective about the sins of others. It not only impairs his vision as to the guilt or innocence of others, it also disqualifies him from passing judgments on others.

 

Now, Jesus does not say it is wrong to help your brother who has sin in his life, but it is wrong for a person with worse sins in his own life to offer this kind of help. He makes accusations of sin in others, when what is so glaringly obvious in his own life is not dealt with. His own sins will keep getting in the way, and he will just mess up everything!

 

So what should he do? Following v.5, he must first deal with the sin in his own life. Then after doing that, he would be in a position to help others who have sinned, since his vision would no longer be impaired. This teaches us the necessity of keeping our lives clean from sin if we want to be of help to others. How do we do this? By constant self-examination and confession of all known sins and by asking God to reveal all our unknown sins. Please do not let any sin continue to dwell in your life, unrepented and unconfessed. 1 John 1:9 tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

One example of a person who had to deal with sin in his own life was King David. 2 Samuel 12:1-12 records what took place about a year after king David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed in order to marry her. David had covered up his sin so well that he thought that no one knew about it. But the Lord who knows all things knew about this sin and sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. Now this is how Nathan brought up the subject: He told David a story about two men, one rich and the other poor. When a traveler came to visit the rich man, the rich man entertained him, but instead of taking a sheep from his own abundant flocks, he took the lamb, which was the only possession of the poor man, and used it as food for his guest.

 

Look at David’s immediate response to this – “And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:” Here we see David attempting to judge the sin of the rich man in the story, when he himself was worthy to be judged for an even greater sin. David with the huge beam in his own eye wanted to remove the speck in the rich man’s eye! Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” This would have the same impact as saying, “Excuse me your majesty, but can’t you see that you have a beam sticking out of your own eye?” The rest of the chapter tells us that David repented of his sin and was forgiven. Psalm 51 records theprayer of confession that David made. Only then was he qualified to help others to deal with their sin.

 

Dearly beloved, let me ask you this question. Is there some secret sin in your life that you are still committing? Some sin that no one knows about except you, and that you have not repented of, but still persist in doing? As long as you have not dealt with that sin, you are just like David before he confessed his sin. And as long as you are in this state, you cannot be effective as a Christian. You will feel the weight of God’s heavy hand upon you. Your ministry to others will be very limited. How can you help your fellow brothers and sisters to grow in love and purity, if you still have this sin, this beam stuck in your eye?

 

If this is the state of your soul, please don’t delay to do something about. Act upon it right now! Listen to what Jesus said in v.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.”  

  1. The Demand for Our Own Reformation (v. 5)

The world is so full of sins today which need to be cleared away, but the right place for us to begin acting upon this is right within ourselves – we must deal first with our own faults. Whenever you hear any message from God’s Word don’t think how it applies to others, but say, “Lord, is it I?” When you succeed in dealing with your own faults, then you will be in a position to help others in their struggles with sin. This does not mean that we must first reach a state of sinless perfection in order to help others – we can never do that. But we must keep short accounts with God and leave no outstanding debts of unconfessed sins.

 

Let us make every effort to cleanse ourselves, for the sake of being ready and able to help those who fall into sin. For if all of us turn out to be casualties needing help in the spiritual battle field, who is there left to render first aid? None! Let us look at Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” This restoration of a brother is not an option, but a command. We must render help to those who are overtaken in a fault. It is therefore imperative for us to keep ourselves well spiritually, in order to remain qualified to help restore those who have sinned. And in the process of restoring them, let us be careful to maintain a spirit of meekness and not have a fault-finding spirit.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

January 7 & 14 - The Power of Faith

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:22