At Gateway Church in Austin, we are going through a series through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). I spoke at the South Campus, and John Burke spoke at the McNeil campus. We shared some of the following insights on Matthew 7:1-12.
“The kingdoms of this world use force, coercion, manipulation, condemnation to get our way. However, the ways of the Kingdom of God are accepting, trusting, forgiving, and yielding our natural way to seek God’s will and ways first. As a result, He can lead us to overcome evil with good. Jesus introduced this new way to live in the Sermon on the Mount.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Intrinsically, we know this is the right way to live, so why don’t we live this out?
We can be blinded by our own judgments.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2
We fall into this trap way more than we realize—we’re just blinded to it. Being judgmental keeps us from loving others as we want to be loved.
But why do we do this?
- We all judge, we’re just not very self-aware about how often we do it or why we do it.
- We do it to make ourselves feel better because we’re not fully relying on God for our sense of value.
- We also do it to distance ourselves from the truth about ourselves.
- Often the most critical, judgmental people are the least able to receive criticism.
- With things we hate in others, we judge ourselves.
If we’re not blinded by our judgments, then we can see how much we all need God’s mercy and help to change.
What we need is greater humility. What we need is for God to remove the blinders so we can see ourselves clearly. If all of us would truly judge ourselves rightly—and allow God access to change us—we’d all be better off. The portal through which Heaven invades earth is the portal of a humble, honest, willing heart. The world changes, when God changes me.
That’s what Jesus goes on to say: “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? 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? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
If we would focus on asking God to help us see ourselves clearly and change us just as much as we want to change others. That would truly be productive! Just do a little experiment this week. Every time you see something that needs fixing or changing or correcting in another person—stop and pray, “God first show me the Logs you want to take out of my eye, change me like I want to change them.” If we would work on ourselves as much as we want others to work on themselves, all our problems would be solved, wouldn’t they?
When Jesus says “Do not Judge” he’s not saying “Never point out anything wrong.” That would NOT actually be a very unloving thing. Correct any followers of mine who sin, and forgive the ones who say they are sorry. Luke 17:3
When Jesus saw hypocrisy in the religious leaders, he confronted it.
We are to discern and make value judgments, and even lovingly correct one another—but we are not to be judgmental (as in devaluing) or condemning (as in acting like they’re beyond God’s mercy), nor forcing—but rather going to that person in humility, self-awareness, asking rather than forcing.
This next thing Jesus says can be confusing, but if understood in context—gives us insight into how to avoid judging, and yet be helpful with each other’s specks. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6
Jesus is not giving you ammo to say “these people are just pigs, they’re dogs.” No, he’s saying, “If you have something sacred or valuable and you give it to a dog or pig, it’s going to be of no value to them. Dogs don’t read the scriptures and pigs don’t wear pearls.” In the context of what Jesus is saying about correcting and helping others, he isn’t saying some people are pigs and don’t deserve your pearls of wisdom. The point is that if they are not in a state to be helped or benefited by listening— don’t force it. Jesus is using this metaphor to show that forcing truth on someone is useless, and potentially dangerous. The point is not that you are wasting the pearl, but that you are not really being helpful at all. It could actually backfire and cause them to want to attack you when you force your truth on them.
If we are people who force our pearls of wisdom on others (trying to control or change behavior with our many words and arguments or threats), even if we think we have the best of intentions—it closes the portal through which God’s heavenly ways can flow. That’s why these ways of condemning, manipulating, controlling, forcing stifle growth. Because what we are actually doing with our justly deserved condemnations and our wonderful solutions, more often than not, We are taking responsibility out of their hands, and out of God’s hands, and trying to bring them under our control.
So what are we supposed to do then to help each other heal and grow? How do we speak truth in love? ASK! Ask God, and then ask them. Jesus continues: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:7-12
What Jesus is saying is this: Life’s too short to spend it constantly critical of others—trying to prove your own worth by looking down or judging others. Life’s too short to ruin your relationships by being critical, controlling, and manipulative—trying to change people to get what you want. But life’s also too short to not be involved truly helping one another grow to be more loving, productive people. But how do we do this—we don’t force our Pearls of change on them, we request—we Ask, first of God – to fill us up so we don’t need to condemn, or force others. He’s good. He wants to give us good things, so we can freely give good gifts to others. So we can overcome evil with good.
As Dallas Willard said so wisely, “Asking is the great law of the spiritual world through which things are accomplished in cooperation with God and yet in harmony with the freedom and worth of every individual.” When something bugs us and we sense a judging, critical attitude rising up—Ask—ask God to help you see yourself clearly. Ask God to help you see the masterpiece He sees in that person. Ask God how you can best love them like YOU would want to be loved, and then go and request of that person the changes you think will truly benefit them. And then trust their free-will response into God’s hands, and you let God change you into a person who can love them even if they never change! That’s how Heaven invades earth—that’s how we live the Golden Rule.”
Watch the entire message here: