March 22, 2020
7 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
As you know, in an effort to practice ‘social distancing’ and do what we can to flatten the curve and slow down the spread of the coronavirus, or Covid-19, to be more precise, we’ve been encouraged to stay home as much as we can. And while this has maybe made our lives a bit busier in some ways as we find our bearings and adjust to this new normal, it of course also has many of us trying to figure out what exactly are we going to do with all this extra time at home. Maybe for some of us we pass the time by knitting, or reading a book, or practicing an instrument, calling our friends and family more often, maybe it’s dusting off the craft project that you’ve been putting off for a few months now, or maybe for some, we’re watching Netflix more than ever before.
If you’re unfamiliar with what Netflix is, imagine having Dillon Video, and its entire selection of movies and entertainment all available on your TV screen, right there from the comfort of your own home. That’s Netflix. And like many people, I love it. There’s an endless amount of things to choose from and it’s all so very convenient. But yet, I have one major problem with Netflix, and that is, whenever you watch for an hour or so it asks you this simple, yet obnoxious question, where it asks, “Are you still watching?” Now, why do they ask me that? It feels unnecessary and to be honest, a bit insulting if you ask me. Yes, yes, I am still watching. Also, don’t they want me to keep watching? Isn’t that its very purpose? It feels like Netflix has all of a sudden gone from being the fun uncle to being a strict parent and in that moment, I feel deeply judged for having watched as long as I have. And if you find yourself judging me for watching so much Netflix to the point that it asks me if I want to keep watching, well, fair enough, but who’s to say I wasn’t watching a highly educational documentary in the first place?
Anyway, I’m getting off track. Over the past couple months our church has been going through what is arguably Jesus’s most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount. And as we continue into Matthew 7, we come to a passage that is all about judging, or rather not judging, as Jesus begins by saying, ‘Do not judge.’
Here’s exactly what he says. This is Matthew 7.1-5 …
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
Now, at first glance, this passage doesn’t seem all that timely and relevant given our present moment and our fears surrounding the coronavirus. And I’ll be honest, I wondered if it would be best for us to look at a different scripture altogether. Last week we looked at the end of Matthew chapter 6, the passage that comes immediately before this one, where Jesus tells us to not worry, but rather to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. Now that’s a timely message. That is undoubtedly a relevant message for us here and now. But this one, a passage about not judging each other, well, at first glance maybe not so much.
But even still, I want us to look at it anyway, as I think there’s an important word for us here and I’ll try and draw some connections between this scripture and our present moment as we go.
Jesus begins by saying, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
Now, to be clear, when Jesus, says, ‘Do not judge,’ he’s not saying that you and I are forbidden from ever saying something critical about someone or ever sharing a disapproving word with them. After all, sometimes gently making someone aware of their faults is the most loving thing we can do, especially when said in the context of a trusted friendship or relationship.
Rather, what Jesus is getting at here when he says, ‘Do not judge,’ is, don’t be overly harsh with someone. Don’t assume the worst of them. Don’t condemn them by pronouncing an unnecessary judgment on them based on one small mistake or misstep.
So for example, say as a parent, you see another parent, yelling at their kid. There may be a space and time to gently coach or correct them afterwards. That all is well and good. But say you walk away from that incident and conclude to yourself, ‘Wow, what a terrible parent,’ just because of that one moment, well, that would be to judge them. And Lord knows, if the roles were reversed you would hope they wouldn’t make that conclusion of you. Jesus says, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.’
Here are a couple more examples, a couple ways I’ve seen this play out just in the past couple weeks regarding the coronavirus and how different people have responded to it with different senses of urgency.
As you’ve seen both on the news or maybe even in person when you’re at the grocery store recently, a lot of people have been loading up on groceries and all sorts of stuff really, to the point that stores are having to ration and limit people to certain amounts. So here’s my question – what do think when you hear about this or see this in person? Maybe we think those people are being greedy, and you know what, maybe that’s true, but here’s what’s probably really going on … they’re scared. They’re fearful. And so maybe, just maybe those are the very people that most need us to come alongside them and reassure them, rather than judge.
Or maybe you’ve seen the reports of thousands people ignoring the plea to stay home and instead are flooding the beaches of Florida because it’s Spring Break after all. I’ll admit, I find their actions deeply frustrating, as we continue to learn just how important it is for us to practice social distancing for the sake of slowing the spread of this virus. But for me to conclude that they’re inheritantly selfish and entitled, well, I wonder if Jesus would say that’s to go a step too far by judging them.
So all that said, to judge someone doesn’t mean that we’re never allowed to say a disapproving word of someone, but rather that we wouldn’t condemn someone or come to an unnecessary or unduly harsh conclusion about them.
But yet, if there are times where it’s appropriate to gently correct someone of their faults, how exactly, or when exactly do we do this?
Well, to answer this question, Jesus continues on by using a very vivid illustration, where he says,
3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
You can see what Jesus is getting at here and in many ways, this is the signature reason why Jesus says, ‘Do not judge.’And that is, we often have a tendency, to see the small sins and faults of other people, that little speck of sawdust, and make a huge deal out of it, while at the same time manage to be completely oblivious and blind to our own, much bigger sins and faults which are the size of a Redwood. And if you are finding this illustration humorous in any way, well, that’s kind of the point. Jesus is using humor in a convicting way here, showing just how comical and absurd we can be sometimes in our own hypocrisy.
I remember one time I was in a group and someone asked the question, ‘What is your pet peeve?’ and I said, ‘My pet peeve is when people complain.’ And people started laughing. And it took me a minute to understand why. After all, people who complain are just the worst I thought. And then I finally realized what had happened - I was complaining myself (although isn’t that the premise of the pet peeve question in the first place?).
I think Pastor John Stott says it well, when he says, ‘We have a fatal tendency to exaggerate the faults of others and minimize the gravity of our own.’
And so in light of all that, Jesus finishes by saying, ‘First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.’
You see, there is a time and place to gently help people see their sins and faults, but before that happens, we first have to do the hard work of being willing to see our own, which demands that we humble ourselves and of course requires a great deal of self-awareness and self-reflection.
And a part of me wonders if God wants to use this season in our lives to do just that. Where I wonder if to some extent God wants to use this massive interruption and this particular moment in our lives for our good and for our growth – not only to cultivate within us a greater love for our neighbors and deeper sense of gratitude for all He has given us, but maybe also a chance to look inward, to contemplate, to reflect, to really think about what kind of people we want to be on the other side.
You may remember this story from about 10 years ago, 33 miners in Chile got trapped in a mine when their mine collapsed in on them. And it took 69 days to rescue them all. That is a long time to wait. And it would have been easy for them to simply, albeit anxiously, wait for the moment that the would see the light of day again. But what was really cool was many of them started to ask questions like, "How come I wasn't a better husband? How come I wasn't a better father? How come my priorities were over here instead of over there?" Most of them experienced Jesus's presence in some way and in the end a lot of transformation happened when they were in that mine waiting to be rescued. You see, in their waiting, they looked ahead to the person they wanted to be on the other side.
Now for what it’s worth, our situation is not quite like theirs, after all, they were trapped in a mine and here we are sitting on the couch, eating dinner and watching Netflix. Although, if you’re a parent trying to figure out how to fill the day, homeschooling your kids, feeling claustrophobic in your own home, you may feel trapped to some extent, but anyway, that’s not the point …
The point is this – I think many of us right now feel like our lives are stuck on pause, put on hold as we try and figure out where this is all headed. And I think our tendency is to wonder if this is all a waste of time and simply wait this one out, when rather, I think we ought to ask, God, what do you want to do in me and through me in this season? God, where is there sin in my life that is keeping me distant from you? In what areas of my life do I need to change or grow?
I’m not sure who said this, but there’s the quote, ‘Don’t waste your suffering.’ I love that. And while suffering may be too strong of a word for what we are experiencing in this present moment, you get the idea. Don’t waste your quarantine. Don’t waste this self-isolated, social distancing moment.
I pray that Jesus would use this season, whether it’s 2 weeks or 2 months or Lord only knows how long, that he would use this season to make us more like him. To make us more gentle, more compassionate, more courageous, more generous, more grateful and more patient. That he would use this season to make us into a more devoted husband or wife or parent, a more faithful employee or employer, a more committed friend, and a more loving neighbor. To help us to better see what’s truly meaningful in life and what’s ultimately meaningless. To help us grow in our love and knowledge of Him. Jesus we pray that you would use this season to do just that, that we would be changed people on the other side.