Oct. 16,2007; Part 5 of TBD
Focus Text: Matthew 7.1-20
Do you agree that it would be a terrible thing to put words into Jesus’ mouth? What about claiming that He said one thing when in fact He said another? How would this be different from telling a lie about Him? Or, would it be different? Yet, day after day many people, some of them with totally blasé attitudes, put words into the mouth of Jesus, the Unique and Unequaled Teacher. Let’s see how they affront our Savior.
Let’s start by quoting the best known verse in the Bible (this is my opinion based on years of experience). Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7.1). I personally have heard almost every stripe of human being quote this verse; it is known by every infidel, agnostic, atheist, and immoral person in the world (maybe a slight hyperbole, but not much of one). Let a believer bring the favorite vice of a willful sinner to his/her attention, and all of a sudden the sinner becomes a “preacher of righteousness,” condemning the harsh and unloving ways of the believer who had the audacity to judge him/her!
What is wrong with this picture? Plenty! Among other things, the person who so abuses this verse engages in self-contradictory rhetoric in judging one who judges him by telling him not to judge! Ignorance and absurdity gone to seed! But far beyond the offense to the sensibilities of those who attempt to live righteously, the willful sinner who makes such a statement puts words into the mouth of the very Son of God! Jesus clearly did not prohibit all judging; rather, He condemned a particular type of judging. The context of the cited verse demands this conclusion. In almost the same breath in which Jesus said, “Judge not…,” He also said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” (Matthew 7.6). The most unskillful interpreter understands that Jesus was not speaking of literal dogs and swine; rather, he was speaking of unrighteous and hardened sinners!
Continuing, Jesus charged His followers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7.15-20). It is obvious that for the followers of Jesus to “…beware of false prophets,” they had to become fruit inspectors! Fruit inspectors who follow Jesus’ commandments pass judgment, but they pass unbiased and informed judgments, avoiding prejudiced and hypocritical decisions!
I suppose it is possible that on the Day of Judgment, some sinner could stand in Jesus’ face and say, “I thought You said not to judge!” But, somehow I just don’t think it will happen. Even the simplest of minds know that judging is an essential part of living! For those who seek to follow the teachings of the Unique and Unequaled Teacher, they will seek to judge in the same manner and with the same precautions as He did!
1. Why is it self-contradictory for someone to accuse another of violating Jesus’ “law against judging”?
2. Who or what are the dogs and swine in the focus text? How are believers to treat them?
3. How could one possibly beware of a false prophet without the ability and authority to judge?
4. What precautions ought we to take when we undertake the fearful task of judging another human being? What motives must be present? What motives must be absent?
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