The Greatest Sermon in History Part 18
To Judge or Not to Judge
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 13, 2004


Main Passage: Matthew 7:1-6 (NLT)


Anyone here ever eat bread? If so, I need to warn you it can be dangerous. I read some startling statistics about bread eaters this week. For instance…

  • 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. In the passage we looked at earlier, Jesus told us…

Matthew 7:1 (NLT)
Stop judging others…

And it’s true, we can make some pretty bad judgments, like linking a tea biscuit to organized crime. But did Jesus really mean that we can never, ever exercise judgment?

I believe this passage that we’re looking at this morning in the Greatest Sermon in History is one of the most misunderstood and most abused passages in the entire Bible. We look at this passage and at first glance we understand it to say, “You must never, under any circumstances, regardless of how much information you have gathered, exercise judgment. Doesn’t matter if your judgment is correct or not, you must not judge.” And if anyone ever does make a judgment, you pull out this verse and hit them with it… “Who are you to judge? Stop judging! The Bible says so!” The irony is, in telling someone that they’re wrong to judge, you’re judging. But we feel all self-righteous because we’ve been able to use the Bible to attack someone else.

Problem is, I don’t think that’s what Jesus was really saying. It’s true that Jesus said, “Stop judging others…”, but did He mean in every situation regardless of the circumstances? No, He didn’t. So what we’re going to do this morning is examine what Jesus was getting at, and we’re going to talk about how we can exercise proper judgment. The first thing Jesus was saying about judging others is…


Jesus on Judging:

1. Do not look down in self-righteous judgment.

Matthew 7:3 (NLT)
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”

That’s a pretty funny picture when you think about it. That’s some good middle-Eastern humor. Imagine a guy with a 2x4 stuck in his eye trying remove the dust out of your eye, all the while ignoring his own problem. (He just stands there with a “plank” look on his face.)

But how often do we tend to judge others in that same ridiculous way. We point out the faults in someone else and gloss over our own faults. We jump with condemnation when someone else makes a mistake, but if we did the same thing we’d expect to be treated with grace, patience, and forgiveness. It’s as if we look at people with bifocals. We look through the top to see ourselves, and it has a nice rosy tint to it. It covers up any flaws and we see past our shortcomings. But we look through the bottom and down our nose at others. And there’s nothing rosy about it. We clearly see all their faults and are quick to point them out. We even develop different languages to describe ourselves and others.

“I am firm; You are obstinate; He’s pig-headed. I have reconsidered; You have changed your mind; He’s gone back on his word.”
~ Bertrand Russell

“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

There are dangers in judging others in this way. Let me list three…

Dangers of Self-Righteous Judgment:

A. 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, concluded, “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.


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

Isn’t that a great definition of a hypocrite? Listen to what Jesus said…

Matthew 7:4-5 (NLT)
“How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 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.


C. Our judgments can come back to haunt us.

The simple fact is, you get what you give. We looked at Matthew 6:14-15 a few weeks ago…

Matthew 6:14-15 says,
“If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

So if you have a spirit of judgment and refuse to forgive others, then you remove yourself from a position to receive forgiveness from God for yourself. That’s pretty major.

And check out Matthew 7:2 again…

Matthew 7:2 (NLT)
“For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.”

What goes around comes around. You’ll get what you give from God and from others. 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)
“Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.”


So there are dangers involved in judging in a self-righteous, holier-than-thou way. That’s what Jesus is speaking against. Don’t judge others and ignore the same or even bigger problems in your own life. That’s hypocritical. That’s what the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day were doing. And remember, through most of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus instructs His followers not to be like these Pharisees, who judged others as if they themselves were beyond judgment.

But is that it? Is that all that Jesus had to say about judging? Well, since there are still some blanks in your notes, you can probably make the judgment that there’s more…


2. Do not turn a blind eye to sinfulness.

Many people would look at Jesus saying, “Do not judge” and conclude that it is wrong to judge at all. But I believe that’s a view arrived at by ignoring the context of this passage as well as the rest of Scripture. Because right within the passage we’re focusing on here this morning Jesus indicates that once we’ve taken care of the “plank” in our own eye we can see clearly to help remove the speck from another person’s eye.

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

So you don’t ignore the speck. You do deal with it, just not in a self-righteous way. Not without recognizing that you have issues of your own. Jesus goes on to say…

Matthew 7:6 (NLT)
“Don’t give what is holy to unholy people.”

Seems to me that requires judging. Otherwise, how do you ever identify who’s unholy?

Plus, later in Matthew 7 Jesus tells us that we can tell a good tree from a bad tree by the fruit it produces, and likewise we can tell a good person from a bad person by the actions they take. In other passages he warns us to identify and avoid false prophets, to test the spirits, and to discipline people who do wrong. One of the spiritual gifts, or special abilities that the Holy Spirit gives is the gift of discernment which, by it’s very nature, requires judgment.

Lewis Smedes is the professor emeritus of theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. In an article in Christianity Today (October 1, 2001), he wrote…

“It’s not the act of judging but the attitude with which we do it that God is most concerned about.”
~ Lewis B. Smedes

“Judgment, for Christians, is an important piece of work that God calls us to do, especially in a world going morally haywire.”
~ Lewis B. Smedes

There is a time for judging. Jesus wasn’t calling for the elimination of all judging and therefore an acceptance of everyone and everything. That’s the extreme. That’s excessive permissiveness. That’s the way our world thinks… “To each his own”… “No harm, no foul”… “Why can’t we all just get along”… “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”… “If no one gets hurt, it’s none of my business”… “live and let live.”

But that’s not what Jesus was saying. He was calling for proper judgment… done in the right way at the right time with the right motives.


3. Make proper judgments.

John 7:24 (NIV)
“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

How, do we do that?

A. Examine yourself first.

(Matthew 7:5; 1 Cor. 11:31; 2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Samuel 12)

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

2 Corinthians 13:5 (CEV)
“Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith.”

We’re challenged to turn the microscope on ourselves before we turn it on someone else.

In the Old Testament we’re told about how King David slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, and then arranged for the woman’s husband to be killed in battle. He then took her as his own wife. After all this took place, a prophet named Nathan came to David, telling him about a rich man who had a large number of cattle and sheep. When a traveler came to visit this rich man, the rich man was reluctant to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal. Instead, he thought about the one lamb that was owned by a poor man. This lamb was the only possession of any worth that the poor man had, and he had raised it like a part of his family. But the rich man snatched it away to prepare a meal for his visitor.

When King David heard this story from Nathan, he burned with anger, declaring that the man who did this deserved to die. And it was then that Nathan declared, “You are the man!” It’s amazing how easily David glossed over his sin and it was only made obvious to him when he thought he was judging someone else.

Before you judge others, examine yourself first. Temper your judgment with understanding and mercy.


B. Take the time to learn the facts.

James 1:19 (NLT)
My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

“A judge is not supposed to know anything about the facts of life until they have been presented in evidence and explained to him at least three times.”
~ Lord Chief Justice Parker, British judge

John Maxwell tells a story about a woman who went to a pet store and purchased a parrot to keep her company. She took the parrot home, but returned the next day with the report, “The parrot hasn’t said a word yet!”
“Does it have a mirror?” asked the storekeeper. “Parrots like to be able to look at themselves in the mirror.” So she bought the mirror and returned home.
The next day she was back, announcing the bird still wasn’t speaking.
“What about a ladder?” the storekeeper said. “Parrots enjoy walking up and down a ladder.” so she bought a ladder and returned home.
Sure enough, the next day she was back with the same story--still no talk.
“Does the parrot have a swing? Birds enjoy relaxing on a swing.” So she bought the swing and went home.
The next day she returned to announce the bird had died.
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that,” said the storekeeper. “Did the bird ever say anything before it died?”
“Yes,” the lady replied. “It said, ‘Don’t they sell any food down there?’”

It’s very easy for us to try to make judgments without really knowing the whole situation. It’s easy to make a quick judgment on a first impression, or to hold someone to something they did a long time ago without allowing for the possibility of growth and change. And it’s amazing what light a few facts can shine on our judgments.

There’s a saying…
“Be quick to judge yourself and slow to judge others.”

That’s good advice.


C. Show love and mercy.

(John 8:1-11)

The Bible tells the account of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. A crowd of people brought her to Jesus wanting Him to judge her. (Just out of curiosity, I wonder where the man was? I mean adultery does take two, doesn’t it?) Anyway, the crowd of people who brought the woman to Jesus wanted to have her stoned. In their minds, they had already judged and sentenced her. How did Jesus respond? Anyone remember?


John 8:7 (NLT)
“All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!”

The love and mercy that Jesus showed to the woman was in sharp contrast to the harsh, self-righteous judgment that the crowd showed.

From the reading and studying I’ve done, the Greek word that Jesus used for “judging” literally translated means “condemn.” That’s what we’re not supposed to do. But what we can do is lovingly correct, and there’s a big difference between condemn and correct. What does the Bible have to say about correcting?

Galatians 6:1 (CEV)
So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path.

2 Timothy 4:2 (CEV)
“You must correct people and point out their sins. But also cheer them up, and when you instruct them, always be patient.”

Is it possible to show mercy even while exercising judgment?

James 2:13 (CEV)
“But even in judgment, God is merciful!”

Matthew 5:7 (NLT)
“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

When William Gladstone was Treasurer of Great Britain, he sent down to the Treasury for certain statistics upon which he was to base his budget proposals. What he didn’t realize was that the statistician working there made a mistake. But Gladstone was so sure of the man’s accuracy that he did not take time to verify his figures. He went before the House of Commons and made his speech, basing his appeal on the incorrect figures that had been given him. His speech was no sooner published than the newspapers exposed its glaring inaccuracies. (Who would have thought that the media would do something like that.) Gladstone was naturally overwhelmed with embarrassment. He went to his office and sent at once for the statistician who was responsible for his humiliating situation. The man came, full of fear and shame, certain that he was going to lose his position. But, instead, Gladstone said: “I know how much you must be disturbed over what has happened, and I have sent for you to put you at your ease. For a long time you have been engaged in handling the intricacies of the national accounts, and this is the first mistake that you have made. I want to congratulate you and express to you my keen appreciation.” It took, a big man to do that. It took a merciful man to 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 He did it in a loving, merciful way that led to reconciliation and restoration, not condemnation. Let’s take a moment right now to pray that this same attitude will take root in our lives.



Copyright © 2004