Explore one of history’s most powerful messages, the Sermon on the Mount at Gateway Church in Austin.
Jesus unveils the essence of living in God’s Kingdom. This message isn’t mere idealism; it’s an invitation to live a life shaped by love, compassion, and righteousness. It’s not just a guide; it’s a transformational journey into the heart of humanity. Are you ready to step into this extraordinary way of living?
If Jesus was serious, then the way we see God, ourselves, and others, must change.
Work through these discussion questions and do a deeper dive into the message with your family, roommates, or community group.
Message Notes by Jon Eng:
Getting those judge-y eyes is never a good feeling. You can feel the GAZE bearing down on you.
It doesn’t matter if it’s something that you regret, something that the other person misread, or something you poured your resources and energy into and it ended up not working out… Regardless of the circumstances, those cold eyes, those whispers behind your back, the ostracization from your peers or your family, all of those things amounted to a kind of judgment that was heavy-handed and overbearing.
Have you ever felt the gaze of that kind of judgment before?
We’ve all been there. Whether it was with a parent when you were younger, a teacher, or one of your co-workers or a boss.
I’m curious….What happened? What was that instance for you?
What were you doing before you received that judgment?
How did you feel right afterwards?
How did others see you, treat you?
Today, we’re continuing in our series, “What if Jesus was Serious?” and we’re going after God’s thoughts around judgment but also God’s heart for us to step into our full humanity. Throughout the past several weeks, we’ve been walking through the Sermon on the Mount, encountering Jesus’ heart for us and wrestling with some of his most challenging and confusing sayings. If you’ve missed some of the messages, go online [gatewaychurch.com, YouTube.com/gatewaychurchaustin] and check them out.
As we opened today, we read, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” It’s pretty plain talk, and yet we can misapply it.
Some of us love this verse. When we feel like others are judging us, we’ll throw this down – to keep others at length and to protect our egos. But it’s important for us to consider what Jesus truly means here, because it has the potential to change everything about how I see God, myself, and others.
Put another way:
If Jesus was serious, then instead of seething with judgment, we need eyes to start seeing with love.
When Jesus says, “do not judge,” he’s reiterating what he shared earlier in the Sermon on the Mount.
In the 5th beatitude, Jesus shares, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
And what Jesus shares about judgment here is almost a re-introduction of this idea, but said in the inverse.
Those who are merciful will be shown mercy….But those who judge will be judged.
The beatitude illustrates God’s character and God’s desires for us – God is FULL of mercy, and God intends for us to live in that mercy – to experience it and to show it and live out towards others.
One way of defining mercy is that we withhold our judgment towards others. It’s a generous posture that chooses to see the imago Dei, the image of God, in those who offend us, and it’s an ongoing practice that says I’m not going to give others what I think they may deserve….
If that’s how we define mercy – withholding judgment from others who may deserve it, being oriented toward forgiveness…then it’s also important for us to define judgment.
Judgment can be understood in a lot of different ways these days, so let’s first talk about what Jesus is NOT talking about.
- Jesus isn’t saying let’s toss out discernment and wisdom.
- Jesus isn’t talking accountability. At Gateway, we talk extensively here about living connected and being there for one another. And it’s clear that every society needs accountability on the legal level.
- And he isn’t advocating for a kind of universal acceptance that turns a blind eye to evil or injustice. In fact, Jesus wants us to respect differences and love others who may believe, think, and live differently than us.
So what is judging?
According to Jesus, judging refers to condemning others in our hearts, when we’re being hypercritical of others….viewing others as less-human, giving others that judge-y gaze, that look of death.
When someone is condemned, it leads to paralysis, fear and self-doubt. Have you ever felt those things? Those same things happen to people when we become hypercritical of them. We end up tearing down the other person, focusing on the mistake so much that we lose sight of protecting and preserving the person’s dignity. Both condemnation and hypercriticism are not from the heart of God.
When we think about what it means to be fully human together, it’s important to look at God’s posture towards us because God models what true humanity looks like.
What we find in the scriptures is that God calls us from a place of conviction, not condemnation. And if it’s true that God doesn’t lead from a place of condemnation or judgment, then neither should we.
But this is where it gets a bit tricky…if you’re following along, it seems like there’s a contradiction. In the very same breath, Jesus issues a warning: Don’t judge, or you too will be judged. So which one is it? Is God judging us or not?
One day, God will judge all of us, but not in the way you might think..
- God is the only one who rightly serves as judge over us b/c God is holy and righteous and just, and scripture tells us that there will be a time when God judges all of us.
- What we have to understand, even on that day, is this:God desires for no one to face condemnation. Instead, God desires for everyone to experience God’s grace and God’s mercy
- But the reality is some will choose against it. And that choice leads them to face a judgment where God essentially says, “I am fully giving you what you’ve wanted and what you’ve chosen for yourself – a life apart from ME. A life apart from my goodness, my faithfulness, my love.” God loves us enough not to force our hand.
Heaven is in the presence of God, and we can experience on this side of heaven and in the next because Jesus made a way for us be in God’s Presence. Jesus conquered sin, shame, and death by dying on the cross.
Hell is being disconnected from the loving presence of God, and we can experience a glimpse of hell on earth. That’s not God’s heart for you. God’s presence, love, relationship are available to all of us. And out of God’s essence and character, God seeks to love you, not condemn you.
And in that vein, Jesus teaches that for those of us who judge and condemn others, We’re in danger of hell itself because we don’t have God’s heart inside of us.
And the warning actually gets worse. He says, “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 7:2
So what’s this measure that Jesus is talking about?
Jesus is pointing to the measures his culture would use to figure out how much grain or salt you’re buying. It’s like how we measure things by the teaspoon, tablespoon, or cups.
Here’s Jesus’ point: however you judge others, that same measure will be used against you, and I don’t know about you, but that puts a little bit of that healthy fear inside of me.
Think about this for a second: If God were to judge you today based on your measure, would you experience an abundance of mercy or an abundance of condemnation and judgment?
“The tone of your life is going to become the tone of your judgment.”– R.K. Hughes
“How rarely we weigh our neighbor in the same balance in which we weigh ourselves”– Thomas Kempis
This puts a damper on judging others, doesn’t it?:
If Jesus was serious, then condemning others has no place in the kingdom of God.
Religion, self-righteousness, and abuse of power are always a recipe for disaster, and if we’re taking Jesus seriously, then we have to begin with humility and charity.
Are you willing to see the best in others, even when it appears that they are acting from the worst of themselves?
This doesn’t mean that we throw out discernment or wisdom or stop pursuing justice.
Instead, it means that we need God to help protect our hearts from condemning or judging others, or making them less human. Jesus then goes on to use a couple illustrations to drive home his point: The first illustration hinges on us having self-awareness, seeing ourselves rightly.
“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
You and I are no better than the person sitting next to us.
Do we have the self-awareness to realize that we may actually have a plank in our eyes?
Or are we so focused on the speck in the eye of another that when we try to remove it, we end up clubbing someone with the plank in ours?
Instead of judging others with our eyes and in our hearts, invite God to reveal the places in your life that may need to be healed or confessed.
If you don’t know where to start, try praying this prayer from the Psalms:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24
All of us need help seeing ourselves and others clearly and rightly. We can all benefit from regularly asking God to search us, nd we can all benefit from asking trusted and healthy people in our lives for feedback.
This leads us to the second illustration that Jesus uses, one of the most confusing sayings Jesus offers. Theologians and scholars have debated it for centuries.
“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 turn and tear you to pieces. – Matthew 7:6
Who are the dogs? What’s sacred? Who are the pigs? What are the pearls? One interpretation that I think is worth considering is this:
There will be people in our lives and in our world who won’t want to hear God’s truth and God’s heart for them.
God’s truth, the gospel – That’s what’s of great value. That’s what’s sacred. And if people aren’t open to it, if they haven’t accepted it, then they’re either closed to it altogether, or not in the right space or season right now.
For any of us to try and force something where there is no openness is like throwing expensive pearls to pigs, or giving to dogs your most sacred possession and thinking they’re not going to chew it to bits.
- I’ve got a 14-week old puppy….trust me, it doesn’t go well!
- Or if you don’t have pets, let’s talk about our little ones. No one is giving a 4 year old a Rolex… it’ll have elmers glue and sprinkles by 3pm, might look tasty, but it’s not going down well.
Jesus isn’t saying that the people around us are dogs or pigs. Instead it’s about the gospel. The gospel is sacred, God’s truth is invaluable, like pearls….but only to the person who is ready to receive God’s leadership in their lives.
For anyone else, it’s like giving a rolex to a toddler…it’s just not a good move.
- For those of us who follow Jesus, we have to guard against judging others or trying to impose our beliefs on others. We’re called to love, not impose.
- And if you’re with us today, in this room or online, and you’ve experienced others judging you or trying to force their beliefs on you, I just want to say that I’m so sorry. But hear my heart when I say this: don’t let the judgments of others keep you from experiencing God’s goodness and life.
We can’t expect someone who doesn’t follow Jesus to follow the ethics of Jesus.
At the same time, we need to remember this: none of us are ultimately better than anyone else. Apart from God’s grace, we’re all just one or two steps away from being our worst version of self. It’s easy to forget this…..except when your dog has chewed up all your socks for the 10th time and you’re seeing red.
For those of us who have been following Jesus, if we’re not careful, we can think of ourselves better than others. We can become a bit overzealous.
Jesus is here today reminding us that people are not projects. We’re called to love others and use our discernment, to meet people where they’re at, not where we want them to be, and to walk alongside them in love, just like Jesus calls us to.
If Jesus was serious, then instead of seething with judgment, we need eyes to start seeing with love.
What if we all decided to eliminate judgment in our hearts?
The truth is, we wouldn’t get very far, because we’re too inclined towards judgment. We have hearts that are already too broken from evil and from our own choices. Something happens to our hearts over time when we judge others….and we’ve all judged others…and every time we do, we become less human because of it. We need Jesus to heal us.
That’s exactly where Jesus points us next. It seems like a sudden shift when Jesus teaches us how to pray, but it’s very connected.
Jesus says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 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? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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! – Mathew 7:7-11
To heal our hearts and help us become people filled with mercy instead of judgment,
Jesus turns to prayer. Or more specifically, he turns to God the Father.
Why? Because he knows that for so many of us, how judge one another, how we show up in these broken ways with others comes from a place of woundedness. I know God as Father or parent can be difficult for some of us. It might be because of the neglect we encountered growing up.Or for some of us, it was abuse – emotional, physical, or spiritual.
God wants to come alongside you and heal and restore you as the perfect, loving, and trustworthy Father.
Jesus redirects us back to the goodness of God, to encounter God through prayer. To drive home his point, Jesus makes an argument that’s a bit unexpected. He roots the goodness of God in the fact that even the biggest jerk out there, and I know we all know someone who fits the bill, even that person has a soft spot for their kids.
Even though we struggle with evil inside of us, Jesus says, we all know how to give good gifts to your children! And are there exceptions? yes. But Jesus isn’t focusing on those. Jesus reminds us: Even jerks get it….so how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.
Do you know that you can ask God the Father for anything? God doesn’t put any boundaries on what we can ask for. It’s an invitation towards freedom. Just like in a healthy child-parent relationship, the child feels free to ask anything. So we too can ask God for anything.
We can trust that God, as a good Father, will know what is best for us, Especially when we don’t know what is best. So sometimes God will answer yes, other times, God will say no, or not right now. But we have to start asking and praying and connecting with God.
Otherwise, we end up answering NO when God may want to say yes.
“You miss 100% of the prayers you don’t pray”– Mark Batterson
As we experience God’s goodness more, we become more familiar with God’s heart.
“The problem is not that we are too eager to ask for wrong things. The problem is that we are not nearly eager enough to ask for the right things.”– N.T. Wright
Prayer is an action that depends on trusting and resting in God’s goodness, and when we begin to know God, how we see God, ourselves, and others starts to change. The hardness of our hearts begins to thaw, we release our judgments (because we’ve encountered a God who doesn’t lead with judgment ), and we start to see others with new eyes.
This section is sandwiched between the section before it on not judging, and the Golden Rule right after it.
Jesus is showing us that there’s a better way to relate to each other. Rather than judging and manipulating to get our own way, Jesus teaches us to go to God, to know and experience the Father’s love, To grow in self-awareness, to heal, to learn humility. And from that place, we begin to live out our new humanity.
We’ve covered a pretty dense part of the sermon on the mount today, and this is where Jesus lands the plane for us, by sharing what many have called the Golden Rule.
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
No matter what your background may be, the Golden Rule probably sounds familiar.There’s a version of it in most religions, but what sets it apart in the Christian faith is that it is rooted in the notion that we can only do this out of the overflow of God’s goodness in our lives.
Left to our own devices, we can only aspire to live out the Golden Rule….
For most of us, even as we acknowledge how good this teaching is,
We know that we live a step or two below it….and that’s at best…
- For some of us, we live at the level of what some call the “silver rule”: Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”
- Where the golden rule is progressive and active, always calling us towards action (it’s literally a verb), the silver rule settles for self-preservation and disengagement.
- Don’t get me wrong. The silver rule can still bring about good. Choosing not to act on our base motivations can bring about good, or at least stave-off some evil from entering into our world. But it doesn’t invite or invoke a more beautiful future. It isn’t creative in that sense.
For others of us, though, when we’re really being honest…
It’s not about the golden rule or the silver rule.
We’re just out here hustlin’ and we live at the level of the wooden rule – an eye for an eye…..
And when we live at that base level, Gandhi said it best:
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world is blind.”
If Jesus was serious, then the Golden rule is not passive, but rather an active lifestyle.
12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
- Jesus invites us into a life that actively seeks the best of others always. It makes us stop and think, “If I was ______ in this moment what would I want done/said to me.”
- Or when you sense that judgment is welling up in your heart towards ______, what if we paused and asked, in the words of Dr. Becky Kennedy, a clinical psychologist, “What’s the most generous interpretation (MGI) of ______’s behavior?
This requires empathy, self-awareness, and eyes that see with love instead of judgment.
How much of the division and hurt in our world and lives if we took Jesus seriously and stopped living reactive lives, but instead paused proactively and sought the best for those around us?
It isn’t about simply “doing no harm” or “tolerating” each other.
Jesus gives a 3rd option of doing the BEST for that person by putting ourselves in their place.
We can’t do this on our own. It’s impossible to live out the Golden Rule on our own.
But with God, the impossible is possible!
- Are you going back to the Cross daily? It’s the place where Jesus looked at me and you. He didn’t judge you or condemn you into a changed life, He loved us into one!
- When we go back to the Cross, we see- he did it for someone as messed up and broken and sinful as me.
Jesus’ hands and feet and body bore the weight of that judgment, God’s perfect justice to eliminate the power of sin and death over every individual. The gift of God’s grace and forgiveness is already available to you and me today. Jesus faced the ultimate judgment so you and I would never have to. Instead, we can be free and transformed, and bring his kingdom here and now.
So how do you battle judgment? You look at the Cross and ask for new eyes. You look in the mirror and you ask God to remove anything in you that is blocking His best for your life. And you choose to be filled with God’s love so that you can see and love others.
If Jesus was serious, then instead of seething with judgment, let God give you new eyes to start seeing with love.
[Psalm 139:23-24 as benediciton]
CP Note: you can also connect this to God as a good Father.