WHO AM I TO JUDGE?
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I know this morning that many made their way out very early in order to celebrate that one holiday that is not "officially" on the calendar, Black Friday. I went one time, several years ago, I have not healed from that experience. Well, let's get back to work on the Gospel of Matthew. We have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount. This discourse began at chapter five, verse three and continues to chapter seven, verse twenty-nine. I will not look at the entire sermon, just as I will not cover the entire Gospel of Matthew. But, I assure you that by the time we get done with all four gospels we will have a very good picture of all of them.
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged...Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:1a,3)
Before Jesus warns against making judgements Jesus encourages folks not to worry. Wow, quite a contrast in subject matter, isn't it? Jesus is using short statements in order to get his points across. In fact, Jesus even uses proverbs. What is a proverb? Well, we have looked at the Book of Proverbs in the Bible already. If you recall, a proverb is a short saying. Jesus says; "do not throw your pearls to pigs." (or cast your pearls before the swine). This is a proverb, or a short saying of the day. We have our own proverbs such as the one I have heard from an early age: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Well, Jesus is warning against judgement. The Jewish Rabbis taught that there were six great works which brought a man credit both in this world and the world to come. What were they? Study, visiting the sick, devotion to prayer, education of children (educating regarding the Law), hospitality, and thinking the best of others. In order for Jesus to further his point he uses humor. In most sermons a preacher will often use some sort of illustration. Sometimes the illustrations are humorous. I once asked my preaching professor in seminary when was a good time in the sermon to use humor. His answer was: "There is never a good time to use humor in a sermon." He said this with no expression on his face. Well, Jesus would have failed the class. Why? When Jesus says: "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:4) Jesus is using humor. Imagine such a scene being acted out.
This passage is yet another reminder of how hard Jesus' words are. Judgement takes place each and every day in our world. We make judgments all the time. I was just reading where another spokesperson for the anti-gay/lesbian movement was caught having sex with...a person of the same sex. How many times has this happened? I've often said, and I stand firm on this, if a person is constantly harping against something, there is a major problem. I remember one certain tele-evangelist constantly referring to prostitutes in his sermons. (Back when I used to listen to him, and other TV Personalities/preachers) Well, I guess in the end he proved he knew a lot about them. Jesus uses that word again that he used regarding those who do their alms for praise, pray long, loud and ludicrous prayers, and fast for pity...hypocrites.
Can one make a moral judgement? Well, you may have heard folks quote another passage form the Bible that comes to us from the Apostle Paul: "know them which labour (labor) among you." (I Thessalonians 5:12) Well, the interpretation here is problematic. The Greek word for "to know" is, again, an intimate word. Here it could also be interpreted, as it is in the NRSV and the NIV, "to respect." The NIV reads, "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you." Well, regardless of which interpretation we go by, we do understand that it is imperative that we make certain judgements. The Apostle Paul often had to make tough moral judgements. We will discover this later when we get to his writings. Today, churches have to make judgments. There are folks who can not be in leadership in the church. There was a case when a list was passed around the congregation for folks to sign up to do children's sermons. (never do this by the way) A man signed up. This man was a registered sex offender. The pastor had to tell this man that he could not do the children's messages, because of who he was. Did the pastor pass judgement? No! Should we just let anyone who walks through our doors do anything in the church? Well, hopefully at some point these folks will make valuable leaders. But, if someone walks into our church and says, "I love working with youth. God has called me to work with youth. Here I am! I'm an answer to all your prayers." There will be those who are delighted that this person showed up on the doorstep. There will be those willing to hand this person the keys to the youth room. But, if this ever happens, see red flags flashing before your eyes. For the sake of our children, youth, and everyone we must make judgement in cases such as this. Judgement is a difficult word. Sometimes, I find myself making judgements and then I discover that while I am pointing a finger at that person, there are four more pointing back at me. At the same time, our society depends on folks making the correct judgments.
Well, there is more to say about this, but, we'll save it for another day and time. Monday we will continue looking at the Gospel of Matthew. Please join me. -Pastor Rick