June 16th, 2024 | Series: Sermon on the Mount – Part 3

Based on Jesus’ teachings, this sermon focuses on avoiding judgment and hypercriticism, encouraging self-reflection and curiosity in our interactions with others.

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Sermon Content

Good morning, friends. How are you guys today? My name’s Alex, one of the pastors here if you’re visiting. It’s great to have you here. We’d love to meet you afterwards. Please come say hi. Have a good conversation about yeah, we’d love to help you on your journey to figure out if South is a place that you might want to land, or just to have a good conversation.

Either way, I’m going to read a passage in a second, but I love occasionally just to update you on something that happens just in the life of the church or perhaps in the life of the staff here. On our staff team building day, we decided the other day to, to go fly fishing. We went out and some of them caught some Some great fish.

Aaron Bjorklund was, it turns out, a fantastic fisherman. And way to go. Angela Dern caught a ton of fish. Of course, the problem with fly fishing is it’s not particularly a team building activity, more one of like competition and snark and all of those different things. And so I just wanted to share that all this went on and then there was Who is clearly not happy about the situation.

He’s wearing a great hat, but but not happy about the situation. I’ve learned apparently in fly fishing, for those of you out there, you can confirm or deny this. You’re allowed to use this language in fly fishing. I caught two, but only landed one. That’s nonsense. In proper fishing, You only catch the fish, count the fish you eat.

It’s like just, you can’t put them back and count them. But anyway, we went, we had a great time. It was a lot of fun. We got to enjoy each other’s company and somewhere, hopefully we built some team atmosphere. I’m going to leave that awkward picture of me up in the background. As I read read this text for you, do not judge or you too will be judged for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.

For those of you judging my picture right now, remember that.

And with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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 was a plank in your own eye, the imagery here is just one.

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. Jesus, as we open this text, we would love to know what you’re saying to us as a community, as followers of you in this 21st century, in this area of the world. Please speak to our hearts.

For those of us that find Christians, maybe on the fringe we find Christians, somewhat obnoxious, please remind us of what your way really looks like. God, we give you permission to mess with the internal workings of our hearts. Thank you that you’re present here to bring comfort to the afflicted and as always to bring affliction to the comfortable.

Help us to do more of what it says on that sign outside each and every day. Amen. Amen. We are back in the Sermon on the Mount. How many of you have been around long enough to remember when we did the Sermon on the Mount? Quite a few of you, hopefully. So we spent three months from September through to the end of November last year to Looking at the first chunk of the Sermon on the Mount chapter 5 of Matthew’s Biography of Jesus life.

Then we took a pause for the Advent season. We came back for season 2 in January We looked at chapter 6 of Matthew’s biography of the life of Jesus and now finally we’re coming like to the conclusion we’re into chapter 7 the first final chunk. We’ll be in this for about five weeks to wrap this up.

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus biggest bulk teaching in Scripture. If you were to begin reading the gospel accounts, the biographies of Jesus life, and just start from the beginning of Matthew, this is the first of Jesus teachings that you would come across. And it is profound, it is rich. Even outside of the church, on a sociological level, people look at Jesus teaching and say, this is some of the highest standard ethical teaching that we have anywhere.

Jesus comes after us hard. If you find yourself to be on the, perhaps we’ll say it like this. If you find yourself to be on the more liberal side, if you find yourself to be on the more conservative side, if you find yourself to be on the perhaps Democrat side or the Republican side, Jesus will say stuff in the Sermon on the Mount.

that will irritate both of you. Jesus says stuff that is hard for us to hear. He has big asks. He has a very strong sexual ethic. He also has a very strong sense of how the weakest and poorest in society should be cared for. He doesn’t pull punches. This is profound, deep ethical teaching. Some people have described the Sermon on the Mount as a new way to be human.

Other people have called it Jesus Kingdom Manifesto. He’s laying out what his kingdom looks like and what terms it works. Some people have said it’s a guide to human flourishing. Live this way and you’ll live a rich, flourishing life. Others have said it’s a beginner’s guide to the kingdom of heaven.

All of those are instructive on, as to just what Jesus is trying to do here. And now we land in chapter 7 and we start with these words. Do not judge. This section of the Sermon on the Mount has some sayings of Jesus that are the, what you might call them pithy sayings. They’re very memorable. They grab our attention.

This is perhaps the most pithy of all of them. Do not judge has been for some people the central idea of what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. That makes it. on the surface, somewhat dangerous. There’s this concept in sociology called totalization. It’s when you look at something, an idea, perhaps, or a person, perhaps a political candidate, and you find one idea that to you comes to summarize everything that person believes.

And this is one of the things that happens in Matthew chapter 7, verse 1. The idea of do not judge is taken as the central idea. Here’s where it gets a little challenging. There’s a perception of Christians in the world around us that looks something like this. The first and second characteristics in an IPSA study associated with Christians were judgmental and hypocritical.

One in four non Christians said that modern day Christianity is no longer like Jesus. The idea of do not judge is so central to the broad understanding of Jesus teaching that people look at the church and say, huh, these people are judgmental. They are not like the person that founded our faith. That says that if you’re a follower of Jesus that you are part of something that’s called an image problem in the wider world.

The survey goes on to ask a number of other questions and check out some of this data that to me was just fascinating. When Christians were asked about Christians, Almost all the traits they mentioned were positive. It took until trait number nine to get to judgmental with 19 percent of Christians.

Christians don’t think Christians are judgmental. When asked about other religions, the data was somewhat mixed. But then non religious people, when asked about Christianity, they had seven un not good traits before they had a single positive trait. Hypocritical, judgmental, self righteous, arrogant, unforgiving, selfish and disrespectful.

These were all things people outside of the church said about people like you and I. Jesus said, do not judge. The perception is. That we, as followers of Jesus, do that a lot. Do not judge, on the surface, ties more into what modern society might say than what the church might say. You might translate do not judge somewhere, something like this.

Don’t comment on my life. Don’t have an opinion on my actions. This is a lyric from Chris Brown. So please don’t judge me, and I won’t judge you. Because it could get ugly before it gets beautiful. Please don’t judge me, and I won’t judge you. It’s like the quid pro quo, right? You just let people do what they want to do.

Maybe another idiom that we might use is, live and let live. Just let it go. When Jesus says, do not judge, is he tying in with what the wider world might say? Perhaps you’ve heard this comment from people. Jesus wouldn’t judge me. After all, he said, do not judge. Perhaps the leap there becomes this. Jesus has no sense of right and wrong.

Jesus wouldn’t say my actions were bad. Jesus is all good with everything. It’s Christians that have a problem. If that’s the meaning of do not judge, here’s my question, maybe some tension. Are people outside church more like Jesus than those inside church? After all, he said, do not judge. Now we get into some of the issues with reading Jesus just like this, and I think I’m gonna talk a little bit more about this statement, and I think there’s some yes’s and some no’s to this statement that we’ll get to in a minute.

When we take Jesus statement, do not judge, to simply mean you can’t comment on people’s actions we immediately run into some problems, especially in the texts that follow this text. In Matthew chapter 7 verse 6, that we won’t have time for today, Aaron and I will hopefully get to it on the podcast, we’re told, do not give dogs what is sacred.

Jesus is asking us already to make a determination about whether some people are worth being given something. And again, what those somethings are, we’ll have to wait until Thursday. In verse 15, we’re told to watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.

Jesus clearly expects his followers to be able to make some discernment about people in general that seems to tie to the idea of faith. of judging. Paul, one of Jesus earliest followers, will specifically say, it’s not my business to judge those who are not part of the church. God will judge them. But you must judge the people who are part of the church.

Interesting. Paul’s take on judging is this. We are supposed to do that for each other. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, I’m supposed to have some sense of what your actions are. But for people outside of the church. That, that’s a, that, that’s a God thing. God gets to make decisions there.

This text has been super important to me in my understanding of what my job is as a pastor in this community. Occasionally people will come to me and say this, can’t you talk more about how bad society is in general? We want to hear how mad God is at the world around us. And my premise has always been this, My call, my job, is to talk to people like you and me about what it is to follow Jesus.

There is a call to people outside of the church to invite them into this thing, but until people make that decision, in actual fact, how they act has nothing to do with me. My job, my call, is to say this is what it means to follow Jesus if you have chosen to do that. Amen. Paul says, when he unpacks some of Jesus teaching, that actually no judgment happens inside the church.

We’re not supposed to take judgmental actions towards people outside of the church. What does Jesus mean then? There’s some questions about what it means to judge, and we have a whole outside world that says what Jesus said, do not judge, don’t judge us. And Paul says, don’t judge those outside of the church.

How do we obey? this teaching as followers of Jesus in the 21st century. So here’s part of the problem. As I see it, the word judge today in English has what’s called a really small semantic range. It’s really come to mean just one thing. When we say don’t judge me, we mean this. Don’t talk about my actions.

Don’t say the things I do are good or bad. And that’s part of what judge means in a Greek first century context. But it’s not all of what it means. In actual fact, the semantic range of the word judge or krino in Greek is so broad in the first century, it means all sorts of things. It could mean simply make an observation.

It could mean bringing to trial in a courtroom setting. It also means to separate. To separate people, perhaps. Not just their actions, but the person themselves into people that are good, people that are bad, people that are perhaps condemned by God, people who are approved of by God. It can mean all of these different things.

Here’s some commentaries that might just unpack some of the heartbeat of what Jesus is saying. They were helpful, illuminating to me as I was looking at this. Scott McKnight said, says this, Christians can pronounce, that is good, or that is wrong. If the idea that you shouldn’t judge has led you to say you can never make a comment on an action, that’s not the heartbeat of what Jesus is saying.

But here’s what he does say. You are not to say, you are condemned by God. That’s not a call that you and I get to make about someone’s actions. We just don’t know. T. W. Manson says this, The whole business of judging persons, not actions, but people, is in God’s hands. Only He knows what is in men’s hearts.

Amy Jill Levine says this, One way of reframing his statement is to move from do not judge to do not be judgmental, fault finding. Hypercritical. Therefore, do not judge means do not put yourself in the role of God. It does mean do not presume to know what is in someone’s heart. In the message version, Eugene Peterson says don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults, unless of course you want the same treatment.

The Wycliffe version, and this is great old English, this is, yeah, this is rock star stuff. Do not ye deem. that you be not deemed. It’s this idea of having a full understanding of what is going on. Hagner in his version says, do not judge unfairly. Yes, you be, lest you be judged in the same way. The heartbeat of what Jesus is teaching seems to be this.

You and I would include myself in this a lot, have a tendency to look at the outward and believe we see the inward. We have a tendency to look at the outward, an action, an appearance, and we believe we see the heart. the inside, the workings that are going on behind the scenes. We take that action.

We take that appearance and we use it to categorize. We’ll get to that in just a moment. And we see this happen all the time in us, in society around us. A few weeks ago, I went to the zoo. I went, look at Leo there. She’s quite a cute kid, man. I apologize for my hat, but his hat’s awesome. Look at that. It just looks so great.

I went with a couple of friends on staff, with Aaron and Sean, two of our staff members, and we went because it just so happened that all of our wives serve on the MOPS leadership team. MOPS is this incredible ministry that the church runs. Yes, some shout out for MOPS, I love it. It pulls people in, it makes an invite, it is just such a gift to the church.

If you are looking for a place to serve, MOPS. On Wednesdays in the morning in the new year in September, then I know they would love to hear from you. It’s just such a gift to this So invite there for you, but they happen to be away on a mops retreat doing great mops work and the Three of us went to the zoo with our kids and we’ve been wandering around for a while and we happen to walk past a group of mums and I walked first and then Aaron walked second then Sean walked last and as this group of mums walked past these group of dads, they happened to comment, I think I just saw three dads in a row.

It was like, to them, this deep surprise in a place that is moms with their kids and grandparents with their kids. It’s dads are with their kids? Huh, how weird are they? Are they getting paid for this babysitting activity? Is this like a, where are those moms? What’s going on? Are they off living a life of Riley or something like that?

And then Consequently, perhaps the next judgment of, why isn’t my husband or my boyfriend taking his kids to the zoo? There’s all sorts of layers to that different encounter. They saw three dads and perhaps There’s all of these potential judgments that follow. We see all of those different elements at play in society.

This isn’t just a human idea. This happens all the time in scripture, too. This is a chapter from 1 Samuel 16. This person, Samuel, that we’re about to read about, is the wisest person of his time. He’s the most closely connected to God of anybody who is living. in the Jewish world at this time. And he’s given the task of appointing a new king.

All he knows is that this king will be one of the sons of a man named Jesse. And so Samuel, this deeply spiritual person, arrives at the scene and sees the first of Jesse’s sons, and sees that he is tall and good looking, and says this, Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord. He sees a good looking tall man and says he should be in charge Perhaps the most scary thing about this passage is this is already Happened a few chapters before they have a man called Saul who is tall and good looking and they say, huh Saul should be the king and now Samuel the most spiritual person of his time Does exactly the same thing and God’s response to him is telling.

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. God doesn’t make decisions based on what is on the outside. He is able to read men’s heart. He knows what is on the inside.

Here’s our big tension, and this happens all the time. Our internal critic. puts people into categories. We see an action, see the way they look, and we automatically move to they are good, they are bad. Not their actions are good or bad, that’s a different type of judgment that, that we are supposed to be able to make, but no, they are condemned, they are not condemned.

God likes them or loves them. God doesn’t like them perhaps or love them. We do this often, we do it regularly. As Jesus continues his teaching he says this, for in the same way you judge others you will be judged and with the same measure you use you will be judged. It will be measured to you if you can remember back to chapter six We talked about this in terms of scales We talked about how we attempted to make judgments around a scale system in terms of our forgiveness of other people Someone does something wrong to us, it tips the scales in our favor.

We do something wrong in the other direction, it tips them the other way. Jesus goes back to the same imagery of measures. The harshness, the criticalness of your measure, that might potentially be done to you. The question that is left lingering is this, who does this judging? And there’s a couple of options up for grabs.

One is that it’s others. The same level of your critique of others will be applied to you by others. Perhaps not in reality, but maybe just in your own mind. Have you ever noticed that when you live in a hypercritical space, your assumption is that everybody else has been hypercritical of you? When you notice and judge everyone around you, you have an internal sense that everybody might be judging you to.

Here’s what I think happens in our minds on a psychological level. A hypercritical observation of others leads to an assumption that others observe us hypercritically. It’s a circle that self perpetuates. It keeps going on and on. That’s one option. But it seems like the one in Jesus mind is that.

That actually God applies that same judgment to us. That our desire to read into everything that other people might be doing. Somewhere the same thing is applied. Jesus just leaves that to linger there. Just leaves it to hit home. Then he goes on to pull out a wonderful metaphor that I just love. You’re gonna love this if you’ve not come across it before.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust? You’re In your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye. Catch this for an image. 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. He just leaves us with this image of someone who somehow has a plank actually in their eye just floating around like every time they turn their head this thing just whips around a golden retriever’s tail and it just it’s just taking people out and This person is attempting to do intricate surgery on a person who has some minor speck in their eye.

He takes our way of being and suggests it might be true that there are lots of things that we are unaware of that are outside of the way of Jesus. And yet we’re very quick to point out the ways that other people are outside of the way of Jesus. You hypocrite. This is the only time Jesus uses the word hypocrite of his own disciples.

Regularly uses it of Jewish leaders, of Pharisees, Sadducees, but this is the only time he says to his followers, listening to his teaching, you may be acting in a hypocritical way. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck. Expect from your brother’s eye, work with God on transformation for yourself.

Be self aware because the transformed you will be much more help in aiding others in moving on their journey than the untransformed you. Jesus leaves this as a possibility. Jesus presents the possibility that incredibly we are both hypercritical and hypocritical. We are deeply critical of others while not holding ourselves.

to the same standards. Which leaves me wondering this. Is it possible that our hypercritical attitude at times is a cover for our own hypocrisy? Her own brokenness. Just the other day, I was taking a nice walk through the green space in Highlands Ranch and I happened to come across a couple, probably in their early 30s, who were walking next to each other, both on their phones, just reading away.

And as soon as I saw them, I went, tied to their phones. Incredible. Can’t even look at this beautiful nature around us. Despite the fact that I’d done the same thing just a few moments before, my own screen time suggests I have no reason to critique others. And yet, something about the ability to do that, maybe for a moment, just makes me feel just a little bit better about myself.

My sister has owned me. to regularly doing this. Watching her family be on screens at the same moment she is on a screen and then sneakily turning her phone off and moving it away from her and then going Ugh, all of you on screens it’s just awful isn’t it? No one can just have a conversation anymore.

Somewhere at times I think our hypercritical tendencies come from our own sense of not having lives that mirror Jesus. in quite the way that we would like. It’s easy for us to point out the flaws that we see around us. Jesus image is comic, this plank just waving around like a golden retriever’s tail.

But his invitation, I would say, is serious. He invites us to some serious reflection. If Jesus teaching is this, That we are supposed to be able to discern right from wrong, but we are never supposed to put ourselves in the place of God by deciding who is in God’s favor and who is out. We’re never supposed to take God’s place in assuming that we can read people’s hearts and intentions.

What are we supposed to do to obey Jesus teaching? And I have a couple of things for you. I think we’re invited to practice one thing that Jesus says, you remember that one thing he says, and then we’re invited to do one thing that he does, that he models for us. First is this, Jesus invites us verbally to a practice of self reflection.

He says don’t be un self aware. When you’re critical of others, recognize for a moment that there might be similar tendencies in you. Be careful about criticizing others when there might be a whole list of ways that your life and my life doesn’t match up to the way of Jesus. Be willing to judge yourself by the same standard that you judge others.

Just be self aware. Do that character check. Do the hard work of matching your life up to the way of Jesus. Do the hard work of asking God by His Spirit to work in you and bring transformation to you. That’s what he says. That’s what he asks us to do. To remove the planks from our own eyes before playing with specks in other people’s eyes.

And then he models this, which I love, one of my favorite things about Jesus. Jesus models curiosity. He doesn’t play the critic. He is infinitely curious about the people around him. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus asks over 300 questions. 300. About a hundred of those questions are how and why questions. He even asks blind people if they want to see and lame people if they want to walk.

If you were Jesus and you knew that you had the powers to heal the blind, the power to see the lame walk, How many of you, and I include myself in this, how many of you would think to ask whether they wanted that? We assume, right? We just make that movement and yet Jesus in his brilliance is infinitely curious.

about what people want. He comes alongside them, and incredibly, this son of God, who seems to have the ability to know men’s hearts, is one of the things that John’s gospel says about him. He comes alongside them, and he asks questions. He is infinitely more curious than I am about what makes people tick, and how they work.

Some people have said that one of the big losses of the modern society especially, but perhaps all societies, is that we don’t have time to see each other. The character Emily in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town says this, let’s really look at one another. It goes so fast, life goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.

I didn’t realize. Oh earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life? While they live it, every minute. We don’t have space to observe, we don’t have space to be curious, and yet Jesus walks around the Judean wilderness at around three miles an hour, primarily asking questions.

He asks more questions than he’s asked, and of the questions he’s asked, he only answers seven. Directly. 7. Jesus was infinitely interested in the people that he engaged with and I would suggest we could learn from his modeling of that. We get to be curious. And that perhaps is best explained fully through this wonderful clip from a show called Ted Lasso.

To give you a premise for this, Ted Lasso is an American football coach that has come to England to coach soccer, or football. And in this scene you’re about to see, he’s got into an argument with one of the co owners of the club about how they’re able to interact with the club, what role they get to play.

And so they end up betting the future of the club on a game of darts. And this is Ted hustling the guy into a game of darts and you get to see the final moment of that here. One of the beautiful things I think we can learn both from this clip, but primarily from Jesus, is this. When tempted to play the critic, when feeling critical, choose to be curious.

When you see the world operating in a way that seems out of whack with the way of Jesus, choose to ask questions. When you engage with someone and are convinced that you know the heart behind the action, choose curiosity. When tempted to be judgmental, choose to remind yourself that you don’t always have all the information.

That we get to say an action is wrong and an action is right, but we never get to say a heart is right or a heart is wrong. That information is God’s alone. Some questions for you to process. As Aaron and the team lead us in this song. This song is going to ask you to reflect on God’s love for you, and then also His infinite love for others around you.

The questions are these. In what ways am I hypercritical? What ways am I judgmental of those around me, especially of their heartbeat, their motivations, their way of being? In what ways is that a cover? for my own actions, my own discomfort with how I live out the way of Jesus. How will I practice self reflection this week?

Where can I practice curiosity? Let’s pray. Jesus, as you lead us in some space for reflection, thank that you love us infinitely. You know all men’s hearts. You knew them when you walked this earth. And you chose to ask more questions than you were asked. You chose to ask how and why. You chose to know people even when the answer to their problem seems obvious.

You built relationships with people from all sorts of parts of society. You welcomed in those that society had marginalized. You moved the center to them. You said that they were loved. Even when their actions were wrong.

Help us to model what you did. Help us to obey your teaching. Help us to be self reflective, self aware. Help us to be curious. For those of us that are in relationship with people of whom we might say their actions are wrong, help us to refrain from judging their hearts. Help us to leave that with you.

Thank you for those around us in whom you are doing deep work, unaware to us.

God help us to repent of our hypercritical attitudes, of our judgmentalism.

Help us to show the world around us what you really look like.

Thank you Jesus.

As the team lead us in a song, if you’d like prayer for something, perhaps something to do with a sermon, perhaps disconnect it. Perhaps you need prayer for healing. Perhaps you need prayer for a healing of a heart. The prayer team will be around. They’ll be dotted at the back over there in the spaces here.

They would love to pray with you. We ask them to do this because they love to pray for people.

So perhaps there’s something that’s just burning there after this teaching. Maybe you’d like someone to just say a word of confession to, just to own some of your struggles with some of these things.

Perhaps you’ve been hurt by the criticism of others. That wound is still deep. And now you feel like it’s a self perpetuating cycle. You feel more judgmental and you feel others are judging you. One of the reasons we invite people to pray is because God just moves in incredible ways in those moments.

So as Aaron and the team leaders, feel free to reflect and respond as he calls you. Amen.