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THE DANGERS FACING THE WISE AND GODLY MAN (Matthew 7:1-27, Luke 6:37-49)

It seems that the Lord is changing the subject rather abruptly, yet Luke's narrative (Luke 6:27-42) shows that the
ideas of this chapter have a close logical connection with the principles that Matthew has introduced earlier
(Matthew 5:43-48).

To Jesus, any religion which leads men to harsh judgment and scorn of others must necessarily be false, because
of its lack of love and its legalistic self-righteousness.

Correction of others can not be an expression of love if it does not lead to real repentance.  We are often tempted
to use our powers of discriminating judgment to harmful purposes rather than use them for helping others.  So, after
He preached against premature, unloving judgment, He balanced His instruction with a clever, proverbial antithesis
(Matthew 7:6).

Matthew 7:1 Judge not that ye be not judged.  This prohibition is evidence of Jesus' return to the subject of love, as
shown by Luke's close connection (Luke 6:35-37).
1) Matthew 7 - Judging
Just like the command to rebuke one's neighbor, rather than let him destroy himself, must be obeyed in the
framework of love.  Otherwise, the opposite effect is produced.  Instead of leading one's neighbor to see his own sin
and repent of it, we cause him to start looking for our sins to judge us.

It is not the ACT of judging in itself which is at stake here, but the SPIRIT of the judge, for Jesus later commands that
judgment be made in many areas of life (Matthew 7:12-27).  He also immediately qualifies His prohibition with
exhortations and prohibitions, which touch only the spirit and attitude of the one who does the judging (Luke
6:36-38).

This ban on judging is no easy-going tolerance of evil, for the Lord requires that we form an opinion about the
conduct of others in light of all that He will reveal about evil.
Jesus means only unmerciful criticism or judgment.  Luke (Luke 6:36-38) records this prohibition in the context of
personal mercifulness (James 4:11-12).  The evil He forbids is condemnation based upon suspicion and surmises,
insufficient evidence or upon unloving opinions or sheer ill will.  He is talking about those judgments which are
motivated by no real purpose to help the object of the criticism and which are more often nothing but smug
self-righteousness.  Jesus is hitting hard at the love of finding fault, that secret joy felt when one discovers another's
failures.

To judge or criticize another is to put oneself in a position superior to, and removed from, the one he criticizes.  But
as long as we are men, we do not enjoy that privileged position.

To judge implies knowledge of the standard by which the judgment is given.  Knowledge of the standard requires
perfect fulfillment of its requirements.  Strict justice requires that every fault, every sin, every indiscretion be
accounted for (James 2:9-11), but mercy could waive the sentence (James 2:13).
Humility on our part is what Jesus wants, because only through it could He save us from the conceit, hypocrisy and
self-righteousness involved in rebuking others (Ezra 9:5-15, Nehemiah 1:4-7, Psalms 106:6, Isaiah 6:5, Jeremiah
3:25, Daniel 9:3-20).

Matthew 7:3 Jesus describes a man with a rafter sticking out of his eye who tries to get a good look at his brother's
eye to remove something almost invisible.  The Lord emphasizes the ridiculous character of the hypercritical censor
who would condemn others without realizing or admitting his own failures.  The lesson stings:  he who has a serious
and disgusting character fault but overlooks it and goes around offering his services to one who has some small
fault is exactly what the Lord called him:  hypocrite.

A beam is any fault, any sin, and any inconsistency with the truth that hinders correct, righteous judgment.  One of
the biggest beams is one's inability to form a correct judgment.  This is true because the judge usually possesses
an attitude that disqualifies him for doing the best for those who are the objects of his criticism.
Another beam in our eye is the possibility of our condemning in others what is not really sin.  Jesus and Paul were
condemned for revealing God's true will as against the popular views of the day.

Another beam may be our tendency to judge ourselves and others, not according to perfect justice, but by that
standard which we ourselves have reached.

Consider not does not mean that the judge concealed his sin; it means that, for the moment, he had conveniently
forgotten it.
Luke (Luke 6:39-40) records two sparkling proverbs that Jesus used to illustrate this basic principle of judgment:
    1) Blind leading the blind:  both fall into the pit.  Before offering our leadership to others, we must first examine
    our own conscience lest we be mere hypocrites who want to provide more direction to other sinners.  In this
    context, this proverb has nothing to do with our being blind men who follow blind guides (as in Matthew 15:14),
    but with our being morally unqualified to be such guides as we pretend to be.  The point is not:  Beware of blind
    leadership, but Beware of giving blind leadership.
    2) Disciple not above teacher, but when perfected will be like him.  A disciple will not get closer to the truth than
    the teacher does; and therefore teachers must beware of being blind and uninstructed, especially with regard
    to knowledge of self.  The disciple will not excel his master; at the best he will only equal him.  And, if the
    master has faults, the disciple will be likely to copy them.

The more critical we are of ourselves, the more merciful we will tend to be toward the failures of others.

Jesus never denied the necessity to form a critical opinion.  True love demands help by an admonition (see on
Matthew 7:1), but all should proceed from an entirely different spirit, and when painfully conscious of personal
weaknesses.
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