Faith that Gets Its Hands Dirty part 10
Judge Knot
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 16, 2008


Main Passage: James 4:11-12

Anyone here ever eat bread? If so, I need to warn you it can be dangerous. Here… let me tell you about it…

•    More than 98% of convicted felons are bread users.
•    One half of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
•    Back in the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average lifespan was less than 50 years, infant mortality rates were unacceptably high, many women died in childbirth, and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations.
•    More than 90% of all violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.
•    Bread is made from a substance called dough. It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse.
•    Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after as little as two days.
•    Bread is often a “gateway” food item, leading the user to “harder” items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter, and even cold cuts.
•    Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than 90% water, it follows that eating bread could lead to your body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning you into a soggy, gooey bread-pudding person.
•    Newborn babies can choke on bread.
•    Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.

So bread can be dangerous. How can be combat the dangers of bread? Here are a few suggestions…

•    Prohibit the sale of bread to minors.
•    Develop an international “Just Say No to Toast” campaign, complete with celebrity TV spots and bumper stickers.
•    Institute a 300% federal tax on all bread to pay for all the societal ills we have associated with bread.
•    No animal or human images, nor any primary colors (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage.
•    Establish “bread-free” zones around schools.
(~ from the Internet)

There, doesn’t that all sound reasonable? I think we can do it. I think we can put an end to the tragic use of bread in our society. Now, with that out of the way, we’re going to talk about judging this morning. You know, jumping to conclusions, making false assumptions, being overly critical… judging.

This is the next part in our message series called “Faith that Gets Its Hands Dirty”, all about developing a faith that’s not afraid to get involved in the messiness of life. And there’s nothing messier than the way we judge and criticize and slander and tear each other apart.

In that passage we looked at earlier in James chapter 4, James said…

James 4:11 (NLT)
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law.

What James says here really echoes what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7…

Matthew 7:1-2 (NLT)
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

Pretty clear isn’t it? But still, we like to judge other people, don’t we? I mean, sure, people everywhere tend to judge each other. But Jesus wasn’t talking to just anyone. He was talking to His disciples. And James – he was writing to a group of believers. He was writing to the Church. Even within the Church – where we should be the most loving and the most gracious and the most accepting – even here we tend to judge.

And the result is that Christians, whether they deserve it or not, have the reputation of being some of the most judgmental people on the face of the planet. Sadly, in some cases, that probably is deserved. Not in all cases, but in many. So we make it a regular practice to judge others, but if someone else dare judge us, boy, watch out! “Who are you to judge me? Stop judging! You’re not the judge of me. Look, the Bible says so!”

Problem is, I don’t think that’s what the Bible is really saying. It’s true that Jesus said, “Do not judge others…”, but did He mean in every situation regardless of the circumstances? No, He didn’t. All you have to do is read the surrounding verses in Matthew chapter 6 and 8 and you’ll discover that there are plenty of times that Jesus said that we are you use some proper, well-informed judgment. You do need to exercise some discernment. You will have to make some judgment calls. So that Bible does not put an all out ban on using good judgment. But what it does ban is using critical, unjust, uninformed, self-righteous judgment. That’s the specific kind of judgment James and Jesus are telling us to avoid. So that’s the kind of judgment we’re going to be talking about this morning. So let’s start by talking about why we do it. Why do we seem to enjoy judging others so much?

Why Do We Judge?

1.    It makes us feel superior

And who doesn’t like that, right? I mean, we all like to feel like we’re better than others. And judging others helps us to feel that way.

Just look at the political ads that come out during election seasons. What are they like? Many of them are all about tearing down the opposition in order to make themselves look better, right? Politicians behave that way, and you and I behave that way when we start to tear others down to make ourselves look better.

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Well, I would never...”, “When I was their age…” ”That’s not the way I would do it” “If they were my children they’d learn some manners...” We like to judge the way people do their jobs and mange their finances and raise their children and keep their house and just about anything else you can think of, and the overarching theme is always “I do it better than them. If they want to do it right, they need to become more like me.” And what we’re doing when we do that is, we’re putting ourselves up on a pedestal. We’re elevating ourselves over them. We’re showing just how superior we are. That comes from a sense of self-righteousness within us, and that’s something God condemns.

Jesus had a great way of illustrating this…

Matthew 7:3-4 (NLT)
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”

That’s a pretty funny picture Jesus paints. Think about it. Imagine someone walking around with a two-by-four sticking out of their eye but choosing to ignore it. He just stands there with a “plank” look on his face. Instead, he’s all concerned about the speck of sawdust in your eye. That’s what self-righteous judgment is like – we draw attention to someone else’s problems while ignoring our own.

“Every vice has two names; and we call it by its flattering and minimizing one when we commit it, and by its ugly one when our neighbour does it.”
~ Alexander MacLaren

I’m bold, you’re offensive. I’m decisive, you’re pig-headed. I’m fun-loving, you’re irresponsible. That’s the way we act – you’ve got problems, I’m okay. I’m better than you. That’s a self-righteous form of judgment that makes us feel superior. But look at what Jesus said right after that whole log/speck thing…

Matthew 7:5 (NLT)
“Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Jesus says, “Don’t ignore your own problems. Don’t deny your weaknesses. Take care of them first. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to extend a little compassion towards someone else. You’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t say to completely ignore the speck in your friend’s eye… there is a time to exercise some judgment… but He says to address the problems in your own life first so you don’t act all self-righteous and holier-than-thou. You’re not acting out of a feeling of superiority.

Another reason that I think we tend to judge others is simply because we know we can get away with it.

2.    We know we can get away with it

It’s a given in this world that people are going to judge, people are going to criticize, people are going to slander. And so we’ve come to accept it. It’s just part of life.

But just because it’s common doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it right for you and it doesn’t make it right for me. We don’t have to participate in the world’s standard of judging and backbiting and backstabbing.

Don't slander and judge others just because other people expect you to do it and are eager to have you do it. Don’t give in to that and don’t start thinking it’s okay. Because it’s not. You don’t have to participate in it and you don’t have to condone it. So whenever anyone starts to do it in your presence, let them know that you don't agree with what they are doing. Listen for the warning signs… key phrases--phrases like:

"I don't mean to criticize, but..."
"Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but..."
"Stop me if I'm wrong, but..."
"I have a lot of respect for him, but..."
"I'm not running him down, but..."

Just because other people accept this that doesn't mean that you should. Just because you can get away with it doesn’t mean you should.

Oh, and do you know the worst one? “I’m going to tell you all about his problems so you can pray for him.” You know, hiding your judging and your gossiping by disguising it as a prayer request.

You can generally get away with judging people, especially if you disguise it in some way. But just because you can get away with it doesn’t mean you should.

3.    It lets us play God

That’s what James said…

James 4:12 (NLT)
God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge… So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

God and God alone is the judge. So when you and I start to judge others, what we’re really doing is pushing Him aside and setting ourselves in His place. We’re playing God.

What’s Wrong With Judging?

A.    It breaks the law of love

James 4:11 (NIV)
Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

So James says that if you judge someone then you are essentially breaking the law. But what law is he talking about? Well, it’s the law James talked about a couple chapters earlier.

James 2:8 (NLT)
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So James is saying that if you judge, then you are not acting out of love. You wouldn’t want someone to judge you, so you shouldn’t judge them.

B.    We make quick, unfair and uninformed evaluations

•    In 1876, a Western Union internal memo stated, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
•    In 1895, Lord Kelvin, president of Britain’s Royal Society, declared, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” He also believed “radio has no future” (1897) and “X-rays are a hoax” (1900).
•    In 1899, Charles Duell, director of the U.S. Patent Office, told President McKinley that “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
•    “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can’t dance.” No, I’m not describing myself. That’s what an MGM executive said about Fred Astaire in 1928. (Apparently I have more in common with Fred Astaire than I thought.)
•    In 1932, Albert Einstein decreed, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.”
•    1943. Thomas Watson Sr., chairman of IBM Corp. said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
•    “You’d better learn secretarial work or else get married.” That’s how Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency, advised would-be model Marilyn Monroe in 1944.
•    In 1954 Jim Denny, the manager of the Grand Ole Opry fired Elvis Presley after just one performance, telling him “You ain’t goin’ nowhere... Son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
•    When Grease opened off-Broadway in February of 1972, the critics said “It’s a disaster.  Close it.”
•    In 1977, the vice president of the United States, Walter Mondale, sent a letter of reference to a minister praising him, saying: “Knowing of your congregation’s deep involvement in the major social and constitutional issues of our country is a great inspiration to me.” This minister used this letter of reference, presenting it to the government of Guyana where he set up a religious commune. And on November 18, 1978, this minister, Rev. Jim Jones of the People’s Temple, ordered his followers to drink cyanide-laced punch. The death toll was 913, including 276 children.
•    In 1981, Bill Gates stated, “640k ought to be enough for anybody.”

It’s amazing how wrong all those first impressions were. How often do you and I make judgments that are as far off the mark as those?

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Some of you may have seen the movie “Legally Blonde.” In that movie, Reese Witherspoon plays a blonde who decides to go to Harvard Law School. She’s from a different background than the others at the school, she comes off as more than a little ditzy, and she just seems out of place. Of course, everyone else picks up on this immediately and treats her that way. One of the reviews for this film said…

“Though we might question the validity of such a message in real life, the truth is that every person is far more than the superficial categories in which our first-impression stereotypes place them.”
~ Review of Legally Blonde by Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman

The point is, things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Don’t make quick, unfair and uninformed evaluations.

C.    We hold others to a stricter standard than we hold ourselves

Isn’t that a great definition of a hypocrite?

Chuck Swindoll, in his book Grace Awakening, tells about a Connecticut city where fifty-three residents of a certain neighbourhood signed a petition to stop reckless driving on their streets. The police set a watch involving two squad cars parked inconspicuously at different locations. A few nights later five violators had been caught. All five of them had signed the petition! Apparently they weren’t willing to live up to the same standards they expected others to.

D.    Our judgments can come back to haunt us

The simple fact is, you get what you give.  Check out Matthew 7:2… In verse 1 Jesus said “Do not judge”, and then He adds…

Matthew 7:2 (NLT)
“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

What goes around comes around. People will treat you the same way you treat them. If you’re lenient with others, they’ll be lenient with you. But if you’re harsh with others, they’ll be harsh with you. You can see this to be true by looking at your own life. If someone’s really critical to you, don’t you find that you have a hard time not being critical of them? Or if someone is kind to you, even if you don’t like them at first, don’t you find that you come around and actually start liking them and returning their acts of kindness? Our judgments will reflect back on us.

There’s a sobering story told about a Persian judge in the 6th century B.C. who accepted a bribe to render an unjust verdict. When King Cambysses heard about this, he ordered the judge executed and skinned. The judge’s skin was then tanned and used to upholster the chair on which other judges sat as a powerful reminder to keep judgments fair.

Luke 6:37 (NLT)
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”

So there are dangers involved in judging in a self-righteous, holier-than-thou way. That’s what the Bible speaks against. Don’t judge others harshly and without mercy while all the while ignoring the same or even bigger problems in your own life. That’s hypocritical, and it can come back to haunt us.

How Can I Break the Habit of Judging?
1.  Remember that I'll be judged by the same standards that I use to judge other people.  
If you want something to help you show a little compassion, remember this one.

Matthew 7:1-2 (The Message)
“Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.”

The way we judge others is the same way we will be judged. The harshness we use is the harshness that will be used against us. If you want something to help you break the habit of talking critically about other people, remember that. What you dish out will be dished back to you. What you sow you're going to reap.

That by itself should motivate you to stop that nasty habit of judging others. But there’s more…

2.  Remember that I will be accountable to God.
Romans 14:12-13 (NLT)
Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other.

You're not accountable to me in the ultimate sense of every area of your life. And I don't have to report to you, either. Sorry. But one day we're all going to stand before God and we will be accountable to Him. God is going to know our deeds, our motives, our thoughts, our attitudes… and remember, He and He alone is The Judge.

So how is God going to judge?  He's going to judge honestly, fairly, truthfully. It won't be based on lies, or rumors, or third hand passed down stuff… His judgment will be based on the facts. He will judge impartially and fairly.

Now, in our court system, it seems some people get off lighter than others.  Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair. And that's true. Sometimes there are miscarriages of justice. But not so with God. The Bible never said that the world would be fair, but God is fair and one day He’s going to settle the score.

We will all be accountable to God. And one of the things He’s going to hold us accountable for is how we judge and condemn others. He’s instructed us not to treat others that way, and knowing that you’re going to be held accountable for that should motivate you to show mercy instead of judgment.

3.     Remember how much God has been merciful to me.

When you first become a Christian you understand how much you're forgiven. It's the most thrilling experience and you're really grateful for it. You know just how merciful God has been to you.

But sometimes that changes for people. The longer you're a Christian, the more likely you are to begin to take it for granted.

Kind of like the boss who decides to give everybody in the company a $500 bonus at Christmas time. He didn’t have to do it, and everybody is thrilled and very grateful. The second year comes around and the boss looks at the books and decides to do it again -- a second $500 bonus. But by the third you’re expecting it, you’re counting on it, you’ve already spent the money, and you start to think you deserve it. You forget that it’s a bonus.

So what if the boss decides not to give the bonus that year? If he did that to you, you’d probably be a little upset.

And unfortunately, it can be the same way with God. We can forget just how merciful He has been to us. We can even start to think that we deserve it. And when that happens, that’s precisely when we become more critical and judgmental of others.

But if you can remember how much mercy you have received, you will be more merciful. If you can remember how much you’ve been forgiven, you’ll be more forgiving. If you can remember how much compassion you have received, you will be more compassionate. If you can remember the amazing grace that God has extended to you, you can’t help but to extend some grace to others.

We’re going to sing about that amazing grace here as we finish, but before we do that…

Would you close your eyes for a minute? Let me ask you, what are you going to do about this? Are you a person who tends to judge people harshly, without knowing all the facts? Do you refuse to give people the benefit of the doubt? Do you hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself? You need to know, that’s hypocritical. If that describes you, then take a moment right now in silent prayer to ask God to forgive you. And if you have harmed someone with your harsh judgment, you need to call them this afternoon and make amends.

For all of us, we should all pray that our attitude toward others will reflect the attitude of Jesus. Philippians 2 says “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Yes, Jesus judged people, but not in a harsh, critical, unmerciful way. He did it in a loving, merciful way that led to reconciliation and restoration, not condemnation. So let’s take a moment right now to pray that this same attitude will take root in our lives.

[Note: This message series uses a variety of source materials, primarily "A Faith that Worls" by Rick Warren, "Faith for Pedestrians" by Laurence Croswell, and "James: Hands-On Christianity" by Charles Swindoll.]



Copyright © 2008