[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
Materialism has been a focus of our Lord in His sermon from verses 25 through 34. Clearly, we have a problem with materialism, anxiety and good old paranoia otherwise the Lord would not spend nine verses on the subject. These emotions are focused upon people, places, things and even events – all of which are seldom, if ever, within our control. In the days that our Lord ministered, there was a great strain on people to simply survive. There was no Family Services Center; there were no welfare programs, and any extra money people had was hidden for fear the tax collector would take it, whether legitimately or not. All governments did then was take and take, promise and promise. It was a form of Chicago, or gangster-style shakedown for protection. “You give us money and we won’t rough you up. We’ll even protect you from other governments.” That was the Roman way. Jesus tells His audience, all of which are in bondage, to not worry about that stuff. What Jesus addresses in these verses is the exact opposite of what religious authorities of the day practiced. A short review is in order to provide a better understanding about Christ’s illustrations.
In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus contrasts the Pharisees righteousness with true righteousness. Where the Pharisees want nothing to do with divine intent and everything to do with outward appearance, Jesus says it is the heart that is the root of the matter; your heart defines who you are. Personal relationships, how to deal with people, sensitivities to their needs and a real love for others are at the core of “thou shalt not commit adultery” and “thou shalt not murder.” Inside this construct of sensitivity and love, we are admonished not to even call someone an idiot because we could injure them. Jesus tells us that our relationships one with another are so important that unless your heart is right with others, you cannot properly worship God (Matt 15:3-6)
In chapter six verses 1-18 Jesus then goes on to describe what we look like to God – how our righteousness looks before God. The specific examples given (giving, praying, forgiveness, fasting) deal with personal worship practices between you and God. No one else needs to see your piety. It is not what you do or appear to do, but what drives you to do it. What drives you to appear godly – your own attempt to be noticed as such, or a true change of heart by the Holy Spirit? The Pharisees tended to be existential – showing piety, but possessing no true righteousness (Matt 15:7-8).
In the last section of verses (6:19-34), Jesus addresses our righteousness as it relates to possessions. The Pharisees had a tendency to be greedy (Matt 15:5). They collected precious and valuable items for the purpose of wealth, not for their feigned piety. In Matthew 15:14 Jesus sums up the ministry of the false prophets of His day (the Pharisees and scribes), when He says “they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” The Lord is teaching with authority. When He convicted people for their sins, He did so at the risk of persecution. It is no different from you today. No one likes to hear the truth, especially if it is contrary to their personal life or what they want to believe. It means admitting they can be wrong. If people can be wrong about one thing, they can be wrong about many others. That introduces a very messy and complex possibility.
With Christians, we have already admitted our error and that, in fact, we can and will commit more wrongs, introduce more errors and fail in life with others even more in the future. We relish forgiveness because we know we are imperfect. We also issue forgiveness freely because we know how imperfect we are. What a huge difference between a Christian operating from a convicted soul and the unsaved desirous of nothing but elevating their own ego.
With that background, we come to our scriptures for today, Matthew 7:1-2. Pharisees were judgmental. Truthfully, they knew the capabilities of man’s sinful heart. They knew that being friends with the world means we are at enmity with God (Jas 4:4). They knew that man’s heart is sick (Jer 17:9). Simply sighting the hundreds of extra rules they instituted to legislate purity in Jerusalem shows the Pharisees knew people would sin. The problem is that the hearts of the Pharisees were not angry about sin, but angry with the people of Israel. Their anger turned to judgmentalism and elitism. They did not trust the people and they did not love the people. In fact, they thought they needed to lord over them because the people were incapable of making proper decisions themselves. They had forgotten their place as ministers and had become judges instead. Pharisees no longer discerned between good and bad, but judged everyone guilty without evidence.
Chris and I were watching a show the other night. A couple of young kids set out to find their friend in some high mountainous country. The two kids were only 10 or 11. Their friend was a mid- 20’s guy who had been seen in their town when he visited. When the kids went missing, the whole town assumed this young man had something to do with the kids’ disappearance. When the young man went into town to notify them that the kids were just fine, he was pounced upon by police officers, arrested and finger printed. One elder lady had stirred up such a mess that the whole town followed the officers into the police station. They demanded justice. They demanded from the young man to know where the kids were. They wanted him held accountable. Throughout the whole ordeal, he told them the truth, that they were safe at his cabin in the mountains. In truth, these two young kids had made this 19-mile wilderness trek on their own with a full-grown lion as a companion, and found their friend tending his herd of sheep. The young man had nothing to do with it but was guilty in their eyes of something heinous.
Many movie plots use these types of false assumptions that seem to get innocent people into trouble. Unfortunately, they tell a very sad truth about our society – that people believe that whatever the individual was accused of could actually happen. Worse yet, that man is capable of the evil that is assumed. People know the capacity for wickedness in man. They also know that looks are deceiving.
Christian, I pray you understand that “in judging others, you judge yourself.” Very often Christians get very cynical as well. Many get very legalistic or pressing with their ideas of how another Christian’s life should be led. Christians are sinful beings just like the rest of the world and sin in their thoughts just like the rest of the world. Christians believe in obeying the rules and that others should obey rules too, but legalism can be judgmental and your rules, if not scriptural, are judgmental.
Though the movies present interesting examples in fiction, there are a number of actual examples in real life that have resulted in people’s lives being destroyed or distorted or their character impugned.
I. Condemn Not (Verse 1)
This scripture carries a command from the Lord to not be judgmental. We are not to be harsh, rash, unloving and thinking evil of others where no evil seems to be implied. This thought process, to not be judgmental, is associated with a promise that we, in turn, will not be judged in the same way. The word used here, “krinō” translates to the idea that one concludes after thinking, makes a decision and takes a position. There are basically three forms of “krinō:”
- First, a decision or conclusion to take a position based upon arbitrary information or thought.
- Second, a decision that one person is better than another in such a way as to show preference for one over another or to shun one to covet another’s companionship.
- Third, krinō means to place greater value in someone purely for personal gain.
For instance, one might make the incorrect assumption that a child would or would not do something. We recently experienced this in our family. One child told us that the other had excluded them from playing – literally told them they could not play with the group. Initially, the accusation was discounted as impossible because this child is known to have a sensitive heart. Then when the other child was confronted, she confessed. The thought was that this child is always sensitive to her sister, therefore her sister had to be lying about this incident, therefore resulting in our improperly accusing her sister. The sister accused of lying was actually punished for the lie until the confession took place. There was a tremendous round of forgiveness and love requested from and given to the falsely accused child.
In a more horrendous example, we have Richard Jewell who was erroneously charged in the 1996 Olympic bombing. The events surrounding his accusation resulted in the phrase, “person of interest” or “alleged” with respect to investigations, especially high profile ones. Mr. Jewell was actually a hero who discovered the bomb and moved many to safety. FBI profiling labeled him as a prime “person of interest,” and he suffered public humiliation as his name was plastered throughout the news media, his home searched, background intimately investigated and life completely disrupted as swarms of media assaulted him even going to the grocery store. He filed suit against a number of people including CNN, NBC, Piedmont College, New York Post and Cox Enterprises (owner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). He received settlements in all cases. The actual bomber, Eric Rudolph, confessed in 2005.
The word “krinō” is also used to indicate a preference – to determine something to be better than something else is. We can find this in the workaholic who regularly forsakes time with their family because work is “too important.” Individuals working on Christmas or other holidays exemplify this judgmentalism. People actually develop a sense that they are most comfortable in the office instead of home among their family.
Another destructive form of this judgmentalism is when individuals affiliate themselves with organizations purely for their benefit. Some even come to church or get involved with a certain church to further their personal goals. Certain ministries are high profile. Therefore, saying or having evidence that you are affiliated with that ministry bolsters your resume’. People also seek positions of leadership in a church for the same reasons.
The word “krinō” also indicates an imposed higher value or correctness in the decision. This is where we dump one friend in favor of another simply for advantage. The friend of choice may have more money, they may be better politically connected, there may be a job in the future. Regardless, choosing friends purely out of benefit for yourself is being judgmental against one, in favor of the other. Once again, this is typified in the individual aspiring for some high level office that wants to be associated with the “right people” or go to the “right church” or be seen in the “right circles.” Those who seek the “right” places, people and environments for their own gain will soon discover just how shallow that life truly is. Many at those events are thinking the same thing and when a need truly arises, those “right” people will vanish like food from your fingers when offered to Sweet Pea, our dog.
Regardless of the occasion, any form of this judgmentalism results in injury to those being judged as evil, unworthy or of lesser value. If we really boil this down we can use the word “krinō” for racism and anti-Semitism. Krinō also describes why people murder children. The child in their womb is judged less important than their freedom, their ego, their fears or their societal status. Krinō describes why people in some churches want to cultivate relationships with wealthy individuals and ignore the needy of their community.
Krinō has a cause and effect. It is a decision to exclude some for an arbitrary reason. A person manifesting krinō results in ignoring others because they are of no benefit. He or she also accuses individuals purely from supposition and without any real evidence. These actions directly affect the victim by either falsely accusing them or in extreme cases assassinating their character – in essence murdering them publicly or socially.
What does this scripture NOT say? This scripture does not say that you cannot make a decision about association and a possible impact to your testimony. In other words, you do not have to go into bars and witness to the sinner in a sin filled environment to prove that you are not judgmental. You do not have to use foul language to be accepted. You can speak up when foul language is used in your presence and express your distaste. You can disassociate yourself from certain music, events, even people and other things without being judgmental. The Christian has to make decisions on who and what they are going to be affiliated with, based upon their relationship with God and the commandments in the Word of God. This is not krinō. Krinō is directly related to labeling and victimizing people for no other reason than a personal idiosyncrasy, fictitious thought or some arbitrary but indeterminate reason.
A number of unbelievers have attempted to quote this verse to me when I stated my family or I would not be affiliated with a certain activity because it was just wrong. Their response was, “Ah Ah Ah! Judge not or you’ll be judged.” Far too often the infidel, like their master Satan, attempts to use scripture against the believer. Unfortunately, just like their master, they misuse it, distort it and misquote it in an effort to tempt the believer into sin. By the way, that in itself is krinō. The tempter is being judgmental and saying, essentially, “See, I’m better than you because I can associate with anyone or anything I want.” That is accusatory and indicts the Christian from a position of supposition without real facts or the acceptance of facts to support the accusation.
Do not make judgments about people. The worst violation of this command, I believe, is when a church makes a decision not to reach out to people and minister to them because they are not “worth it.” We see very heart sickening rationalizations from those violating this command. Here are some examples.
- Those people do not come to services; they only attend the Bible study.
- Those people do not tithe, why does the pastor spend so much time on them?
- Those people don’t have a dime, why does the church expend so many resources to help them?
- Those people …
That is right folks – those people. We would all do well to remember that we are “those people” to some people… just as some people are “those people” to us.
For the ones who consider others unworthy, unvalued or outside our social comfort zones, there is also a consequence associated with their krinō.
II. Or Be Condemned (Verse 2)
The key word in this verse is “krima” which is a noun indicating “judgment, decision, evaluation.”[i] It is a legal word used to describe the action taken in a case or lawsuit. This judgment is a decision concerning a question of legal right or wrong. It determines the innocence or guilt of the perpetrator. It is not an accusation; in the case of guilt, this word is used to describe the actual punishment or retribution that will be levied upon the perpetrator of the crime. Andrew Pixley[ii] was “krinō” (judged) guilty of murder and his “krima” (judgment) was the gas chamber.
What this means to us as sinners and believers is equally condemning. Barnes notes:
“This was a proverb among the Jews. It expressed a truth; and Christ did not hesitate to adopt it as conveying his own sentiments. It refers no less to the way in which men will judge of us, than to the rule by which God will judge us. See 2 Sam. 22:27; Mark 4:24; James 2:13… Mete. Measure. You shall be judged by the same rule which you apply to others.”[iii]
Judgmental people, because of their lack of forgiveness, meekness, mercy and their propensity to incite argument (our natural response to judgmentalism is to argue our worth or innocence) shows little love in their social activity. According to Carson, this “testifies to his own arrogance and impenitence, by which he shuts himself out from God’s forgiveness.”[iv]
Custer makes an excellent point in his commentary concerning the word “mete” meaning measure. The wording here indicates someone who is measuring out grain and fills the cup to the top, then swipes off any extra. There is no abundance, no heaping amount – only exactly what is given and nothing more. Where God wants to give to us in abundance, and have our cup overflow, our judgmentalism scrapes off any extra blessing that we could otherwise receive.[v] We suffer because of our own judgmentalism here on earth, only to face divine judgment in the future.
Another issue we must contend with here is forgiveness. We are supposed to love one another as Christ loves us, giving of ourselves for one another. We are not supposed to be given over to comparing our personal preferences to those of others. That is judgmentalism. Nor are we supposed to impose our personal preferences upon others and judge them based on our own desires. This is judgmentalism as well. We are supposed to love one another unreservedly, even as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal 2:20). We are supposed to be the most understanding individuals that this world can know (Matt 5:9).
Understanding, meekness and forgiveness do not lend themselves to gullibility, but are exercised out of wisdom. This wisdom is first born in our understanding of the personal worth we possess for the Lord without His first saving us; fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are understanding, meek and forgiving because He was first all of those things. He understood our inability to reconcile ourselves with the Father. He lowered Himself to man’s level in meekness to affect the reconciliation we could not accomplish. He died on the cross at Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins. One who truly understands this cannot be judgmental, or they should expect judgmentalism from our Lord in return.
What are you worth to the Lord? Have you considered that your worth is only equal to your submission? In this instance, we are pointing more toward our utilitarian value to God. However, worth is still a valid statement on a universal plane. Everyone, dead in trespasses and sins and lost to the world, is worth the life of Christ. He died for all. That is the beginning level of worth. After that, our worth increases with each act of submission. It is a blessing that our value to God never drops below a certain point, it never digresses past Christ’s salvation. However, we can take joy in knowing that worth increases with each level of submission. As one submits more to God through His Son, one is worth more and can be used more of God for His Son, and the Holy Spirit has more effect upon that broken and contrite heart. Our worth to God is tied directly to our level of submission. If we do not submit at all, we are at the lowest level of worth we can ever be to God. If others could see that we are worth the life of His Son even at our lowest!
Have you also considered that your value to God exists in direct proportion to your faith in Him? We are often too stuck on ourselves. In many cases, Christians are stuck on the “I’m saved” kick and think that is all that counts. “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior; I’m good.” That short sightedness says that God is not worth their time to worship on Sunday as they exclude themselves from the gathering of the saints. It sets that individual in direct violation of Matthew 7:1 – AND THE SIN IS DIRECTED AT GOD! What a sad commentary for an individual who can think of nothing but themselves, even in salvation.
What will happen to those folks who treat others only with self-interest in mind? They will receive what they give in reciprocation. You reap what you sow (Job 4:8).
If you attempt to impose your lifestyle, to judge others by your personal desires, or to impose your personal attitudes upon others, your judgmentalism (krinō) will receive its reward in judgment (krima). Your krima will either be at the Great White Throne if you do not know the Savior, or at the Judgment (bēma – a place where the judge sits) Seat of Christ. At either place, you will receive the judgment that you first gave in judgmentalism. For your wicked krinō (judgmentalism), you will receive your just krima (judgment or punishment).
[i] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Editors, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, United Bible Societies: New York 1989 2nd ed. Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc.ver. 3.6.
[iii] Albert Barnes’, Notes on the New Testament, Public Domain Derived from an electronic text from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org, Formatted and corrected by OakTree Software, Inc. ver 1.0
[iv] D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Matthew, vol 8. Frank E. Gæbelein, gen. ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervon, 1984, 184.
[v] Stewart Custer, The Gospel of the King: A Commentary on Matthew (Greenville: BJU Press, 2005), 108.