Pastor Steve Mechem
Matthew 7:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbors eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
It is blunt,
It is straight froward
It is a matter of fact statement.
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
Don’t judge, or you will be judged.
And you will be judged the same way you judge.
Pretty straightforward. And yet, in almost every discussion we have about Jesus’ words, we get off into the weeds. After all, we say, we all have to make judgments, evaluations, numerous times a day.
You judge whether the sales person is honest with you when he tells you that you are making the deal of a lifetime.
You evaluate people as you make decisions about hiring and firing and promoting, or about letting someone into your house.
You evaluate situations to determine if they are worth your involvement.
We make evaluations, judgements every day, but that isn't what Jesus is talking about.
When Jesus talks about judging, it is purely a negative connotation. Judgement, as used here, means to make negative assumptions about another with no real evidence.
To judge is to declare with words, or actions, or attitudes that the person being judged is inadequate.
The judger esteems the judgee as less than him.
The judger declares the judgee a loser, a louse.
The judger reacts to the judgee as insignificant, not worthy of respect.
The judger deems the judgee as beneath her.
The one being judged is a sinner, is guilty, is a malcontent.
The judger determines the judgee as someone who is dangerous, someone to fear, someone to avoid, someone to loathe.
The problem, however, is that the judger doesn’t really know the judgee, and makes judgements based on stereotypes, or appearances, or misinformation, or misrepresentations.
Jesus says, if we choose to judge others on this basis, we deserve to be judged the same way.
By what criteria, or basis would you not want to be judged by others?
This will be a group exercise. Fill in the blank to this statement.
Don’t judge me based on…
the color of my skin
the language I speak
the clothes I where
where I live
my religious belief
my employment status
who I love
my cell phone habits
my baseball team affiliation
If I don’t want to be judged by these criteria, then it is necessary that I not judge, prejudge others by the same criteria.
Judging others. Jesus says stop it.
Foreigners, immigrants, refugees, strangers, - stop judging what you do not know
Brown people, black people, white people, everybody in between- stop judging when you haven't had the same experiences
Old people, young people, - stop judging based on stereotypes
Gay people, trans people, straight people- stop judging what you don't understand
Biker, hippy, polished, dignified- stop judging based on preconceived notions.
turban wearing, Hijab wearing, top hat wearing- stop judging because it's different.
Ok, Ok, I get it.
But what about those daily responsibilities of life that cause us to make decisions and evaluations about people around us. How can we do this and be faithful to Jesus’ command to not judge?
If I can't judge people by stereotype or rumor or misinformation, how should I judge them?
In Doctor King’s 1963 “I have a dream speech,” he makes the now famous statement, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Content of Character
not stereotype, not misinformation, not rumor- content of character
And even as I evaluate people based on the content of their character, I do so with graciousness and kindness, knowing that my content of character is not as solid as I would like it to be.
So how do I evaluate people based on character and not stereotype?
Well first, I get to know them. The decision that somebody is or isn’t trustworthy cannot be made without actually knowing them. It takes time to learn about somebody, to get to know them personally and look beyond the first impressions or prejudices that I bring to a relationship.
We like to say “It is hard to hate up close.” The more deeply I get to know individuals, the harder it is to judge them based on ridiculous stereotypes. I am convinced that most people’s issues with folks of other religious backgrounds, or ethnicities, or different sexualities would dissipate with the simple act of connection and relationship. As we come to know people who are different than us, the stereotypes are diminished and preconceived ideas are proven incorrect.
Secondly, I accept people who are different than I am. I don’t have to understand those differences. I simply accept them as the way folks are, folks created in the image of God. The Rule says to Treat others as I want to be treated, to Respect others as I want them to respect me. It really is that simple.
Thirdly, I get to know people and accept people and I take the further step of developing relationships with people. Life looks different as we sup together, as we play together, as we laugh together, as we experience life together.
And finally, I will purposely choose not to gossip about people. Knowing that gossip is just another way to judge, I will say no to gossip. I won’t spread stereotypes, I wont pigeonhole, I won't tell ethnic or racist or sexist jokes, I will refuse to label. I will look more deeply into people than crass prejudices would allow.
Jesus declares that we are not to judge, and follows that declaration with some compelling questions,“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
It really is a funny sight- a person blinded by some object trying to remove a much smaller object out of the eye of another. “Get your sight back first” says Jesus.
That log in our eye, beyond all the other inadequacies it might be, is certainly the temptation to judge others based on stereo types and misinformation.
And getting clear eyesight when it comes to judging is a life-long pursuit of shaking off prejudices while getting know and accept people who are different than we are.
I will leave you with this thought from pastor Caleb Miller, “At the end of the day… I’d rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude.”