Date: May 13, 2018 Audio: Transcript:
The Cookie Thief
A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
with several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be…
grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,
which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,
as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”
With each cookie she took, he took one too,
when only one was left, she wondered what he’d do.
With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,
he took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other,
she snatched it from him and thought…oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,
why he didn’t even show any gratitude!
She had never known when she had been so galled,
and sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,
refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.
She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,
then she sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped in surprise,
there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.
If mine are here, she moaned in despair,
the others were his, and he tried to share.
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.
Friends, that poem by Valerie Cox is supposedly based on a true story and is a wonderful reminder of how we sometimes misjudge others. I suspect we have all been guilty of assuming things about another person which were not really true.
Friends, this morning we take a look at a warning Jesus gives us about judging others. Our journey through Luke’s gospel brings us to 6:37-42 (page 863 in the pew Bibles). Frankly, this is kind of a tough passage. It is not really easy to understand and even more difficult to obey. Yet, I know God has some important things to say to us through His Word today. So let’s pause and pray we would be able to hear and heed what He says.
Luke 6:37-38 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over – will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
So, what does Jesus mean when he says, “Do not judge”? Well, it is helpful to realize what Jesus does not mean. This verse is sometimes misused and abused as a shield to protect evil.
For example, when a man who was physically abusing his wife was confronted by his pastor, he responded, “Hey, you cannot judge me.” Jesus would respond, “He sure can and should!”
The Lord certainly doesn’t want us to become moral relativists where we become incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong. This is becoming an issue in our culture today, where many Christians hesitate to affirm various teachings from the Bible because they don’t want to be considered politically incorrect.
This is obvious on various TV talk shows. The discussion will be some type of sexual activity prohibited in the Bible, such as polygamy. Often, someone in the audience will say, “Well, what you are doing would not be right for me, but I cannot judge you and say it is wrong for you.”
Rather than laugh at what is really an irrational statement, the rest of the audience almost always applauds. Being tolerant of behavior that one may personally consider immoral is often considered a virtue, and being judgmental is frequently seen as one of the worst vices.
Yet, it is clear that Jesus does not mean to prevent us from distinguishing between good and evil, or discerning right from wrong.
In the next verses (43-45), Jesus says we can tell whether a tree is good or bad by whether the fruit is good or bad. Of course, he is not really concerned about trees, but about people.
The character of a person is revealed by his/her actions. Jesus says we have to be able to tell the difference between good actions and bad actions. Hebrews 5:14 says the mark of maturity is being able to distinguish between good and evil. An inability to discern right from wrong means one is ethically challenged. We must also remember that Jesus’ command not to judge doesn’t mean Christians should not admonish or correct someone.
Matthew 18:15 – If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
Nor is Jesus prohibiting the church from exercising discipline when someone refuses to repent and persists in a certain sin.
1 Corinthians 5:12 – It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.
Some folks say, “Well, that is the Apostle Paul, not Jesus.” Friends, that doesn’t matter. Both are speaking the very words of God. Yes, Paul is talking about the church as a body, while when Jesus says, “Do not judge,” he is addressing individuals. However, the word “judge” is also the same word in Greek and can have different meanings in different contexts, just like many other terms. Okay, enough of what Jesus doesn’t mean. What does Jesus mean when he says, “Do not judge”?
- Well, part of what Jesus is talking about is a critical attitude where we assume the worst about other people and don’t give them the benefit of the doubt.
I know one pastor that fell into that trap when he discovered a man in the congregation was making $1500 a week, but never put more than $10 in the church offering plate.
So, the pastor confronted the man about his lack of generosity. He was a brave pastor. Yet, then he learned that before the man had become a Christian, he had accumulated huge debt because of his deceased wife’s medical bills. He was using the bulk of his income to pay off the money he owed. In fact, his budget included less than $200 a month for food.
Friends, we are often guilty of “judging” when we are speculative about someone’s motives. We can observe a person’s actions. Perhaps we can discern whether what that individual did in a particular situation was appropriate or not. But when we start speculating as to why someone does something, we are usually starting to judge.
For example, I may observe that my friend Joe is not in church this morning. Assuming my observation is correct, that is a fact, and there is nothing wrong with noting facts, and often nothing wrong with reporting them. But, it would be judgmental and wrong to say or even think, “I bet the reason Joe wasn’t at church this morning is because he was out partying late last night.” Or, “I guess that shows Joe isn’t really committed to the Lord.” Or, “I think Joe stayed home because he is holding a grudge against Sue and doesn’t want to see her.”
One time I was a bit irritated with a fellow because he missed a committee meeting when just a couple hours earlier he had assured me he would be there. Later, I found out the reason he missed the meeting was because he had to go to the emergency room after he accidentally cut himself and needed some stitches. Friends, we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt. “Do not judge.”
And then Jesus says if we don’t judge, we won’t be judged, implying if we do judge others, we ourselves will be judged. It is not clear whether Jesus means we will be judged by other people or by God, but I suspect both are true.
If we have a critical or judgmental attitude, it is not a surprise if people don’t give us the benefit of the doubt. A critical/judgmental person is also in grave danger of experiencing God’s judgment.
Now, don’t be confused. We certainly don’t earn God’s salvation by avoiding being judgmental. Yet, I believe Jesus is confident that a person who has truly experienced his grace and forgiveness will become less critical and judgmental as the Holy Spirit works in his/her life.
A critical, judgmental person may indeed be a Christian and be truly saved, but if someone has that type of attitude, there is indeed reason to question whether that profession of faith is genuine. Believers in Jesus should be characterized by an attitude of generosity. A generosity which sows the seeds of its own rewards.
Luke 6:37b-38 – “Forgive, and you will be forgiven, and it will be given to you; a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over – will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
When we give other people a break, they will often reciprocate and give us a break. And when our generosity is a product of the work of God’s Spirit in our lives, we can be assured that we will enjoy God’s grace and mercy throughout eternity.
- When Jesus tells us not to judge, he means we should not focus on others’ faults while ignoring our own.
In our day, as I noted, people are often so concerned with tolerance and celebrating diversity that they are unwilling to distinguish between right and wrong.
It was a bit different in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees were a dominant force in first century Jewish society. As far as these religious leaders were concerned, there were two ways to do things: their way or the wrong way.
They decided that because Jesus was able to command demons to come out of a man, he himself must be a demon. That is pretty judgmental. What made the Pharisees’ attitude especially obnoxious is that, though they were quick to criticize others, they seemed to see themselves as God’s gift to the world. They were blatant hypocrites, condemning the shortcomings of others, but ignoring their own sins.
So, Jesus has some words for the Pharisees and anyone who shares their critical attitude. Incidentally, modern Pharisees show up at Baptist churches sometimes, so this may apply to some of us in this room.
Luke 6:41 – “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam of wood in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye.”
This is a wonderful analogy! How silly that someone would worry about a small splinter in someone else’s eye when they have a log sticking out of their own!
And yet, that is what people do sometimes. The Pharisees would get bent out of shape when someone failed to follow all the intricate interpretations of the Old Testament law. Remember, they became very upset when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath because they saw that as working on the Sabbath, which they said was forbidden.
Yet, as Jesus pointed out, the Pharisees themselves often ignored the whole purpose of the law, which was love. Love God and love other people. They had a habit of majoring on the minors and ignoring many of the majors. Or as Jesus puts it, “You Pharisees tithe your spices. You maybe give 10% of your oregano to the Lord.”
Matthew 23:23b – Yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faith.
This type of hypocrisy has been seen with some Baptist pastors in our country, at least not too long ago. These men were horrified if someone in their congregation had a can of beer in the refrigerator, but they would attend a KKK rally and offer prayer.
I have known Christians who get very upset about someone listening to what they consider inappropriate music, yet that person is willing to “shade the truth,” which is a nice way to say, “lie,” in order to make some extra money in a business deal.
Focusing on splinters in the eyes of others can especially be a problem when we are dealing with the people closest to us. We often have high expectations of our spouse, children or other people at church. Because we have high expectations, we may be quick to notice when they have a splinter in their eye, a flaw in their character or behavior. It can be frustrating when we realize that someone is not as perfect as we would like them to be.
Some of you may remember the first time you realized that your spouse had flaws. Though we may not like to admit it, some of us went through courtship convinced our spouse-to-be was the most wonderful person on the planet. We adored him/her. There is nothing wrong with that.
But then, after being married for a few years, we started to recognize some imperfections. We started to realize that he/she can do and say things which are irritating, inconsiderate, stupid, or all three. We began to see all sorts of splinters in our spouse’s eye. Yet, rather than decide we made a mistake marrying such an imperfect individual, we need to take a look in the mirror. We need to take a long look in the mirror. We need to recognize that each of us not only has some faults, but deep down is terribly flawed.
One of the reasons why it is so important for us to become aware of the depth and extent of our own sinfulness is it helps us to see the sins of others in a different and less judgmental light.
One of the reasons why it is so important to realize that we never deserve or earn God’s favor, but are simply recipients of his amazing grace in Jesus Christ, is that it helps us remember that we are no better, and really not very different, from people around us who don’t seem very nice.
Oh yes, by God’s grace we should be striving to become more and more the person the Lord wants us to be. Yet, the further we go down that road, the less we will focus on what is in our neighbor’s eye. We will be more concerned about what is in our own.
Now, I want to again note that Jesus is not saying we should never confront another person about his/her sin. The analogy is good. If you have a log in your eye, you certainly should not be worried about someone else’s splinter.
A man who has a porn addiction should not be criticizing a friend who watches an R-rated movie. At the same time, those with splinters in their eyes should often confront those who have logs in theirs.
Just because I am not perfect, which I am not, doesn’t mean that I cannot tell a man who is having a sexual affair, “Hey, bud, what you are doing is wrong. You are sinning against your wife and against God. You need to repent of your sin.”
We need to remember that any sin, whether it is robbing a bank or sharing a piece of gossip is equal in the sense that every and any sin separates us from God and his holiness. Yet, certain sins do much greater harm to the people around us and to ourselves than other sins do.
To paraphrase “Animal Farm,” – All sins are equal, but some sins are more equal than others.
That statement may not seem very logical, but it reflects important truth. Spiritual maturity involves not just being able to distinguish between good and evil, but also between splinters and logs.
There are two more verses in this passage I have not mentioned.
Luke 6:39-40 – He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
How do these verses fit this passage about judging? There are various dimensions to what Jesus says and a variety of explanations about what he says. However, I believe his main point is clear.
- Until we have learned this very basic lesson about not judging other people, about not focusing on the faults of others while ignoring our own, until we truly understand that, we are like a blind man trying to lead another blind man.
If you have a judgmental attitude, if you go around worrying about a splinter in someone else’s eye, if you focus on the faults of other people while ignoring your own, you really are not going to be much spiritual help to anyone else. You will be like a blind man, stumbling along, trying to lead another blind man along a path which neither of you know.
I think Jesus is saying that avoiding a judgmental attitude, focusing on your own faults instead of those of the people around you, is a quality or characteristic that is part of the foundation for a Christian life. Until we develop a non-judgmental attitude, it is going to very much hinder our spiritual growth and walk with the Lord.
So, how can someone avoid being a judgmental person?
To be frank, I am pretty sure that some folks here fall into that category most of the time, while most of us fall into that category some of the time. Many of us can be judgmental in certain situations.
So, what do you do when we find ourselves with a judgmental attitude? Well, don’t just ignore it. Don’t pretend it’s no big deal. This morning we have heard Jesus’ very clear warnings against judging other people.
So, what do you do if we find ourselves having a judgmental attitude?
Well, the remedy is to apply the gospel to your life.
That starts by reminding yourself about your own sinfulness and how totally undeserving you are of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Then you remind yourself of what Jesus has done for us. Through his death and resurrection, he brings free and full forgiveness to all who, by God’s grace, turn to him and place their trust in him.
And then you need to ask yourself these questions: If God has shown me such magnificent grace and mercy, why don’t I give this other person the benefit of the doubt? Why do I assume her motives and intentions were wrong? Why do I focus on his faults and flaws, when God has graciously forgiven my sins through Jesus?
Focusing on the gospel also means you will be more concerned about your own sins than the sins of others.
Years ago, my friend RV Hodge said something which stuck in my mind and has been very helpful. After a co-worker in Hibbing apologized to him for using profanity, RV responded, “Thank you, but I need to worry more about what comes out of my mouth than what comes out of yours.”
Friends, that is true for me too. I need to worry what comes out of my mouth more than what comes from someone else’s.
Oh, the increasing coarseness of language in our culture is something that I find rather distressing. I am disturbed by the profanity and crude language people use, whether it is on TV or in the grocery store.
Profanity almost never, if ever, comes out of my mouth. Yet, unkind words sometimes do. Words rooted in anger, words which cut others down, words which unfairly criticize, words which are judgmental come out of my mouth sometimes. I know those words need to be a bigger concern to me than the profanity someone else may be using.
Friends, may the Lord enable those of us who have experienced God’s grace to not judge, but to share this grace with others today and in the days ahead.