Eye Surgery for Eye Surgeons: Jesus and Judging (Matthew Sermon 20 of 151)
June 13, 1999 | Andrew Davis
War Against the Flesh, Works of the Flesh
We are continuing our study on the Sermon on the Mount with a very important sermon, a very important message, I think, especially for this day and age that we are living in. I would like to begin by telling you a story of a mission trip that I made, I have referred to it in the past, to Pakistan. In the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan is the prettiest place I have ever seen in the world. Now, I am not saying there are not prettier places somewhere, I'm just telling you I have never seen a prettier place than the Hunza Valley. The Hunza Valley is surrounded by the Karakoram Mountains, which are well over 20,000 feet high, the second highest mountains in the world, behind only the Himalayas. Those mountains are snow-capped year round, and the Indus River just flows right down through them into a little, beautiful valley that is nourished by artificial irrigation and is green year round. There are cherry trees there, and I remember sitting and having a quiet time under a cherry tree, eating as many of them as I wanted, smelling the fragrance and looking at this beautiful valley as it went and spread out in front of me. It was just incredible.
I think you're picturing some times when you have seen things like that, when you have been up on a mountain and seen beauty. This was a beautiful, beautiful place. What I didn't know was that on the opposite side of valley was a young girl, about 10 years old. She was a native to that area. And she had a certain problem with her eyes. Now we were there to do an eye camp. We were there with a British surgeon who went, took his vacation time every year and set up an eye camp and did eye surgery for those who needed it and gave glasses, cataract surgery, eye drops, whatever was necessary. He had been doing this for a number of years, so the people from miles around flocked to this eye camp. It is free of charge, of course. But this young girl had an affliction known as trichiasis, which was some kind of a parasite that infected her eyelids and caused her eyelids to grow inward, so that her eyelashes touched the surface of her eye with every blink. I can't even imagine that kind of pain. When I get one eyelash in my eye, everything stops. Can any of you testify to that? If you get one eyelash in your eye, your world stops until you get it out. Well, this young girl had all her eyelashes rubbing every time on the surface of her eye. It was abrading it and gradually she would have gone blind if that problem had not been solved.
Why do I talk about this kind of eye surgery? Because Jesus himself in the passage that we are looking at today, talks about a kind of an eye procedure, taking a speck or a splinter out of a brother's eye. Now, because this passage is so frequently taken out of context and used improperly, it is very important for us to understand it. But I'm going to tell you right away what I'm going to say. Jesus wants this eye procedure done, but he wants it done by humble, gentle, eye surgeons. So the process here is that first the eye surgeons need to have some eye surgery done on themselves before they are fit and able to do that procedure to others, and that's where we are coming from.
Let's read these verses together. Matthew 7:1-6, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, 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 is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."
This section of Matthew, of Matthew 7, culminates the Sermon on the Mount. And this last series of teachings may seem unrelated one to another, but they are not unrelated. I believe that the theme of Matthew 7 is a preparation for judgment day, and as we move on in this chapter you are going to see that more and more clearly. Now of course, all of the Sermon on the Mount has been preparing us for judgement day, hasn't it? But here we get right to the issue of judging. And in the first section of chapter seven, verses 1-12, there are really three dangers that Jesus alludes to, leading to one golden rule. The first danger is the danger of judgmentalism, verses 1-5. The second is the danger of an undiscriminating heart, the inability to discern or to judge from one to the other. And then the third, verses 7-11, the danger of lacking a child-like, persistent, trusting faith. All of that culminates, as we will see next week in the Golden Rule, "Do to others what you would have them do to you." At that point then Jesus sets before his hearers consistently a choice, a decision that needs to be made. There are two paths, one leading to eternal life, one leading to eternal destruction. There are two trees, one bearing good fruit, one bearing evil fruit. Two claims, one who says, "Lord, Lord" and has deeds to support it. One who says, "Lord, Lord" and has no deeds to support it. And then ultimately, two houses. One built on a solid foundation, which will last the test of judgement day. And then one built on sand, which will not last the test of judgement day. And that is how the entire chapter lays out before us.
I.The Only Sin Left in America: Intolerance
So we come right at this beginning to this injunction, so famously put, "Judge not, lest you be judged." Now, I think it is so important for us to understand this principle because I think it may be the only Bible verse that some people know. I have heard it quoted, I have heard it discussed. This has become maybe the only verse left in America. And therefore, the only sin left in America is the sin of intolerance. We are very tolerant people, have you noticed that? We are becoming more and more tolerant as time goes on. Now, tolerance in some cases is a good thing, but tolerance of sin is never a good thing. God does not tolerate sin. God deals with it quite directly. But we are called upon to be tolerant, to “judge not, lest we be judged.” And in this way, one can excuse almost any heinous crime. “We shouldn't judge this person, we shouldn't judge that person.” We still wrestle with, "Maybe we still should judge Hitler, okay, but nobody else, alright? He is in a special category, alright?" See, the point is that we are really wrestling with this issue of “is there any right and wrong anymore in America?” And so this verse is very important for us to understand, because it is quoted. It is cited so frequently. "Judge not, lest you be judged."
The only true villains I think left in America are those men and women of principle who truly believe something. And if you are willing to stand up and say something about it, you are going to hear this verse not too very much long after that. "Judge not, lest you be judged." And that includes also doctrinal convictions. If you have firm convictions that come from Scripture, you are supposed to mute them, kind of keep them under control. Keep them quiet. We don't want division, we don't want disagreement. We want peace; we want harmony in the body. What we really want is openness, not close-mindedness. “Minds are like parachutes, they function best if they're open.” You may have seen that bumper sticker. That's a beautiful bumper sticker of the spirit of our age. We are looking for openness and that means including any kind of lifestyle, any way of thinking. But is that what God says? Is that what He means? Is that what Jesus means when it says, "Judge not, lest you be judged."? I think we are getting to the point where it is kind of anything for peace and quiet, and we want harmony in our society, and so we are willing to tolerate just about any sin. But I don't think that is what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Do not judge or you'll be judged."
II. Overview: Matthew 7… Preparing for Judgment Day
Let's look at that verse, at that expression, and try to find out what it means. And I like to begin by saying what it does not mean. What does this verse not mean? The Greek word "judge" is a simple and very common everyday word. It means to make assessments, it means to condemn eternally as a judge. It means to weigh or to discern. It means all kinds of things. And so you have to kind of begin weeding out and saying, "Well, it doesn't mean this and it doesn't mean that," when Jesus says we are not to judge. I think it does not mean that we are to exercise no spiritual discernment at all, no spiritual judgement at all, that I think it does not mean. Jesus himself, later today gives us a difficult verse, which I think at the heart of it involves a very strong spiritual discernment. "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."
Now, how many of you think Jesus is really talking about dogs and pigs there? Well, I don't think he is. I think He is talking about people. And there are some people that act like a wild boar or like a ravenous dog. And when you are in the presence of someone like that, you should act a certain way. But we will get to that later, all things in good order. You have to be able to discern who is behaving like a dog, who is behaving like a pig. We need spiritual discernment. And it is even attached to a person. It gets clearer as we look down at Matthew 7:13, Jesus gives us a warning in which He says, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." Doesn't this take a certain amount of discernment to tell the difference? Jesus says it is even more difficult. They look good on the outside, but you are supposed to look more carefully on the inside. You are supposed to assess their fruit, "By their fruit you will know them." Could I say by their fruit you will judge whether they are a false prophet or not. We are supposed to be assessing; we are supposed to be judging. I would challenge each one of you to assess everything you hear from this pulpit. Everything that comes out of my mouth must line up with scripture or it is false. You are supposed to be assessing. You are supposed to be judging. Jesus Himself says so.
John 7:24, is another time when Jesus commands us to judge. Actually in this case He was speaking to his Jewish adversaries who were so upset at his healing on the Sabbath. They are getting after Him all the time for this healing on the Sabbath. And then Jesus says in John 7:24, "Stop judging by mere appearances and judge with right judgment." In other words, judge properly. Make your assessment on a firm foundation. A clear command Jesus gives to his adversaries to judge properly. And then in the New Testament, the whole thing branches out even wider. We are to judge whether doctrine is true or not just as I alluded to in reference to my preaching. The early church, the New Testament church, was to test the spirits. It says in 1 John 4:1, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." So you are supposed to test whether what you are hearing is truly from God or not.
False practice was also to be assessed or judged. This is the whole foundation of the principle of church discipline. If there is sin in the church, it needs to the dealt with. 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 deal with this very openly. In that case, a brother was sinning by having illicit affair with his stepmother, I believe. It is hard to find the exact situation, but there was some kind of sexual immorality going on in 1 Corinthians 5. And Paul says, "It's of the kind not even found among pagans, they don't even do that. And yet you're proud, you're boastful, you're not doing anything about this person." And then he gave them a principle, Paul did, he said, "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” If you don't do something about this, it's going to spread. It's going to affect the whole body. There is a time for tolerance, but then there's a time for no tolerance, we must deal with this." So Paul says very plainly that they are to deal with this individual and to bring him to repentance. And if he will not repent, he is to be put out of the body, 1 Corinthians chapter 5. So there is supposed to be an assessing there.
Ultimately, proper spiritual judgment, done properly, is a matter of spiritual maturity. Hebrews, chapter 5, says, "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not yet acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish between good and evil." What is another word for "distinguish" there? It is to judge, between good and evil. You are supposed to be discerning, be able to distinguish things, as a measure of maturity. And so Paul prays in Philippians 1, he prays for the Philippians that they may have a depth of insight, so that they may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless. What is another word for "discern"? Perhaps "judge". So you can judge what is best for your life.
I have kind of weeded out what this does not mean. It does not mean that you are not to judge whether somebody is a false prophet or not. Or to judge whether somebody's lifestyle is wretched or sinful or if they are unrepentant in that, or else there would be no church discipline. You are not called on not to judge a doctrine or to judge your own life. You are called to discern every day, what is best from what is good. So there are all kinds of judging, all kinds of discerning. Okay, then what does it mean? I think there are two aspects to what Jesus means when He gets here. First of all, we are not to condemn. In other words, we are not to put ourselves in the judgment seat as though we are the final judge. Who has reserved that role for Himself? Jesus Christ. And actually it was given to Him by God, the Father. It says in John, chapter 5, that, The Father “has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father." If we sit up there in that great white throne doing the judging, we have taken Jesus' place, and that is not for us to do.
There is a very good example of this kind of condemning in which there is a desire for God's wrath to be poured down on some people. Do you remember this story? It is in Luke, chapter 9. Jesus, going from town to town, came to a Samaritan village. You know the story about the Jews and Samaritans. They really hated each other, couldn't stand each other. And so Jesus, being very gracious was reaching out to the Samaritans. In John 4, he reached out to that Samaritan woman at the well. So He is bridging the gap, reaching across, and He is reaching out to these Samaritans. But the problem they had with Jesus was that He was going to go on to Jerusalem. And they rejected Jerusalem as a wicked city, and they did not feel that Jesus should go on there. And because Jesus had intended to go to Jerusalem, they did not want anything to do with Jesus. They refused to let Jesus come in their city. Well, at that point, James and John took over. And they said, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" [chuckle] They were ready to roll up their sleeves and do a Sodom and Gomorrah at that point, remember? Remember Abraham interceding? The problem was Abraham was on the other side, he was interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah that judgment would not come. But here are James and John saying, "Bring it on Lord. Let's see it happen. I want to see that judgement come down." And what did Jesus say? He rebuked them and He said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you possess. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy lives, but to save them. That's not My purpose here this first time."
The second coming of Christ is a whole different story. Read about it in the book of Revelation. But the first time, it is a time of mercy. It is a time of mercy, a time of compassion, but not tolerance, mind you. It is a time of dealing with sin through redemption and through repentance and through healing, but not a time for judgment to come. We are not the judge. We are not in that position to sit there. I had a great illustration. I'll tell you something, to me, this frees me. I am freed from that role. I do not need to go around discerning whether this person is doing this or that, etcetera. I do not need to be the judge. Jesus will do that. I just need to carry on my ministry. I was working as an engineer at a place, and word got out I think over a period of time, that I was an ordained minister, and that I had a Bible study. A number of people came to the Bible study, but then I noticed people were treating me differently than they had treated me before. It was like they were walking on egg shells around me, I noticed. And there was this one guy who was in the habit of taking the name of the Lord in vain. And I had noticed that he was doing that, but at some point he stopped doing that around me. I thought it was kind of interesting. And then at one point, under a moment of duress, he let it slip. And then he said, "Oh, I'm sorry." He said that to me, "I'm sorry." I said, "Why are you apologizing to me? I'm not your judge. You should behave in front of me the way you do all the other times. But there is a judge, He's invisible, and He's with you all the time. He remembers everything you say and do, and there will come an accountability time. I'm just telling you that when that time comes, it is not going to be me sitting on that throne." We got into an incredible conversation at that point about the gospel.
III. ”Judge not, lest you be judged”
It is so freeing to not be the judge. We are not the ones that are going to sit there and do that final judgement. But I think this actually has a deeper meaning here, more rooted to the overall context of the Sermon on the Mount, and that is the matter of self-righteousness. I think that is the key issue here. Remember that Jesus said, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." And so the Pharisees are the epitome of the opposite of what Jesus is teaching. They did this kind of judging. They went around and assessed people all the time. And Jesus, and this is so beautiful, in Luke 18, tells a parable, this parable about the Pharisees.
The Pharisee and the tax collector were in the temple, praying. But what is so beautiful is the introduction that Luke gives before the parable. And this really sums up Luke 18:9, you could really write that down and just connect Luke 18:9 and also Galatians 6:1, which we will get to in a minute, as key connections to Matthew 7:1. Luke 18:9 says this, "To those who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable.” You could just put that emblazoned over Matthew 7:1 and you will understand what Jesus is getting at here. He says, "To those who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else." That is what He means when He says, "Do not judge."
First of all, to be confident that you are of yourself, righteous, that you are ready for judgement day apart from the grace of God, that you find inside yourself all the resources you need for righteousness. Well, that is not being a spiritual beggar, is it? Remember the very first verse of The Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, [the spiritual beggars] for theirs, [and theirs alone] is the kingdom of heaven." Now, a spiritual beggar cannot do this kind of judging, can they?
And so this is how the parable goes: Two men stood up to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself, isn't that beautiful? He prayed about himself. How do you pray about yourself? I can pray for myself, but how do I pray about myself? Well, listen to how it's done in case you don't know how it's done, and he'll tell you. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ He felt righteousness, confidence, needing nothing from God, certainly not a spiritual beggar. But then there's this tax collector who stands off at a distance. And he doesn't even look up to heaven and he beats his breast and says, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." "God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you the truth, this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” That is a beautiful picture of self-righteousness and judgment on the one hand, and a spiritual beggar who recognizes his need for God's grace, on the other.
Well, let's look at that expression, "To those who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else." I think what ends up happening at that point is you are making comparisons. When it says, "Do not judge or you will be judged," what you are doing is you are looking around at other people and how they are doing in the spiritual race of life. And how do you come out in each of these assessments? A little bit ahead. Maybe even a lot ahead. You are doing pretty well. "Oh yes, I know, there are special spiritual sorts that are way up there, we don't worry about them. I just know that I'm doing better than this guy, and better than this woman, and better than this man over here." So we feel good about ourselves, makes us feel good. And so, therefore, how would that person respond when there is a fault or a sin in somebody else? Secretly happy, I think. Kind of fuels the engine, doesn't it? The worse they are, the better I look. There is a delight in sin, therefore, a keeping of record of wrongs, a catalog of sins. The person is looking around and seeing, "Well there, he's doing that, see? Therefore, he's not a Christian." Or "She's doing that and therefore such and such." Keeping a record of wrongs and delighting in it. They are delighting in stories of failures about other people. That leads very quickly to gossip and slander. Sharing prayer requests of course, but on it goes, and there is a secret delight in talking about it. I have even found myself doing it when I talk about the moral state of our country, when I look at elected officials and I find... I'm saying, "Why do I enjoy this?" It is because I am comparing myself to somebody else and I am feeling good about it. That is wrong. Because once you start looking around, who is it you are not looking at anymore to compare yourself? You are not looking to Jesus Christ. And He is the comparison. God the Father is the comparison. Remember Matthew 5:48, "You must be perfect therefore, [as who? As your neighbor is perfect? As the worst guy you can find to compare... No,] You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Once you start doing this judging, you take your eyes off of God and you start looking around, and you look favorably at yourself.
What are some manifestations of the judgmental spirit? I think the critical eye is one of them. Jesus said, "If your eyes are healthy, your whole body would be full of light." So as you are looking around, it's the assessment, looking for failure, looking for sin, scooping it up and delighting in it. I think a good test of the judgmental spirit is, when you see sin in others, does it break your heart? Cause you to look inward in terms of your own sinfulness? Confess perhaps your own sins, maybe not the same sin, but realize that you yourself are a sinner and then to pray for that brother or sister in a broken-hearted way? If so, then you do not have a judgmental spirit. But if on the other hand, you look and see a fault or failure in somebody else and it makes you feel good about yourself, then there's every indication that you are manifesting a judgmental spirit at that point.
What is the danger of judgmental spirit? Jesus said, "Do not judge, or, [what?] you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." I think what happens is that you stop being a spiritual beggar. If it goes on long enough, I wonder if you ever were a spiritual beggar. And if you never were a spiritual beggar, what does that mean? You never enter the kingdom of heaven. If you are consistently characterized by this judgmental spirit, I wonder if you ever enter. Because how do we enter? We enter on our knees. We enter broken, humbled, mourning over sin. Do we forget how to do that? That is the danger. We stop hungering and thirsting for righteousness. We start looking around for fool's gold, self-righteousness. And we cling to that instead. That is the danger. And the inevitable outcome is that we will be judged.
There is a judging that comes here on earth. And perhaps God will give us the grace to do it to ourselves. Have you ever kind of seen a fault in someone else, and then within a week seen it in yourself? Rejoice and be glad, God is working in you. God did it to me once. I was sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, it was a hot day, and I did not want to be there. And to my right was that thing known as the breakdown lane. Now, as far as I know, the breakdown lane is for breakdowns. It is not for people trying to beat the system, running up, skipping 50 cars and then cutting in ahead. I started to feel self-righteous as I saw car after car streaming past me. And I said, "Boy, what a bunch of sinners. I'm going to sit here and be righteous. I'm going to sit here and be hot and they are going to go one after another." And I was just feeling so sanctimonious with myself. A week later, I did it. I don't even know why. I hardly ever do that. But I found myself in a hurry, I saw there were about 10 cars ahead of me and I just zipped out and... And God just waited and at that right moment, conviction. He said, "Is there anything that you can judge someone else about that you can't find in yourself?"
Romans 2:1, it says, "You, therefore, have no excuse. You who pass judgment on someone else, for whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." Spiritual beggar knows that. So a spiritual beggar says, "I don't need to judge anymore. I want to pray, I want to minister, I want to help. But I don't want to judge. That's not what I'm going to do." God uses on us the measure we use on others. And this is the standard reaction He gives us, "Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy." You see? "If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." That is at the end of the Lord's Prayer. It is consistent. How about Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule? "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." The measure you use to others is what you get back on yourself.
Then Jesus gives us a vivid example here, and I love this. He says, "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 is a plank in your own eye? 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." I want you to know the very last phrase there is the key to understanding this whole passage, "And then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." People forget that that is in there when they do, "Judge, not lest you be judged." There is a ministry. There is something we are to do, but there is a way to do it and then there is a way not to do it. And that is what He is getting at.
I don't involve myself in much speculation in terms of the life of Jesus, thinking about what it was like for Him when He was growing up, or what it was like for Him in the carpentry shop. But I do not think it is a stretch to think that illustration came perhaps from Jesus' experiences in working with his father who was a carpenter. Perhaps when He was working, and by the way, it says "a speck" in your brother's eye, it really could better be translated "a splinter". It's not just like a little piece of lint. It is something that causes pain. And so perhaps Jesus, while working, found a piece of sawdust or some splinter in His eye, and so He picks up on this. But He is giving a really ridiculous scene. We have one person who has this 2 by 4, a plank, sticking out of his eye. How close can he get to see clearly and do anything in anybody's eye? Jesus is ridiculing this kind of judgmentalism. He thinks it is ridiculous that anyone should do that. Now, someone as pure as Jesus who knows everyone's heart, can see how foolish it is, that we have all this sin, even more we who may be self-righteous, should go around and behave in this kind of attitude. It is ridiculous. Key word here is, "You hypocrite."
Remember what a hypocrite is. A hypocrite is an actor, somebody who pretends to be something he is not. That is what a hypocrite is. It is somebody who acts as though they have no need of grace. They act as though they have no need of righteousness or forgiveness, and in that spirit goes and says, "Let me take that splinter out of your eye." You see, that is self-righteousness. So the plank sticking out of the eye is self-righteousness. It is not sin itself, because there is no sinless eye surgeon in this world. If so, we would never be able to take a speck out of our brother's or sister's eye. No, it is self-righteousness, and that is what must be removed. The speck or the splinter is some kind of sin in the brother's eye. And then the basic question I have to ask you is, “Should that splinter be removed from the brother's eye? Should we do it? Should we be involved?” The New Testament answers unequivocally, "Yes, yes, yes, we should." But there is a way to do it, and then there is a way not to do it.
I'm reading a story right now about Douglas MacArthur, who was a general during World War II. He was a very brilliant general, very intelligent, also had by all accounts, somewhat of an ego problem. Many of those great generals did, and he was that way. Anyway, he got rescued four months after Pearl Harbor from the Philippine Islands and was snuck by a Japanese blockade and made his way down to Australia. And they landed in the center of Australia, and Australia is a huge country. And then they were taking a train going from the center of Australia to one of the port cities. And on the way, this general, who was very famous, no question about it, heard... And the train was slowing down and stopping and heard that some sheep ranchers were stopping the train. They were hailing the train and asking the train to stop.
So he presumed that they were there to welcome him and they were so excited to see him. And so he put on his best dress uniform, began to primp and get some quotes ready and started to come out, and somebody stopped and said, "No, it's not you they want. It's your doctor, it's your surgeon. Because one of these guys has a steel splinter in his eye and he heard that you were here and that you have a doctor." And so he stopped this whole train for the general so that he could get this steel splinter out of his eye. Well, needless to say, Douglas MacArthur was greatly disappointed and went back to his private quarters. But think about it this way. What would a sheep rancher do to get that steel splinter out of his eye? He'll do anything; even stop a train with a powerful general on it just so he can talk to his surgeon. The splinter must be removed from the eye. Who's going to do it? It is a matter of brotherly love. It is a matter of the purity of the church. It is a matter of church discipline, if need be, but the speck must be removed.
Now, I was reading a book recently called, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. It is a great book, by Dr. Paul Brand. Some of you perhaps have seen it. But he was talking about the surface of the body and the nerve endings in different parts of the body, and the sensitivity found in each part of the body. For example, he said, "The soles of the foot require 250 milligrams per square millimeter before it'll feel anything." In other words, your feet are so filled with calluses and they are so tough that it takes a while before you feel anything. It takes 250 milligrams per square millimeter of pressure. Back of the forearm, 33 milligrams and you'll start to feel it. 33. The back of the hand, 12, 12. So a smart mosquito would go for the sole of the foot, back of the neck, forearm, rather than the back of the hand. Fingertips, three milligrams of pressure and you'll start to feel it. It takes three milligrams. The lips only take two milligrams. Two milligrams of pressure and you'll feel it. So mosquitoes should never go for your lips. You will feel it right away.
But this is what Dr. Brand writes, "All nerves seem sluggish when compared to those in the cornea of the eye, transparent, deprived of blood and thus incredibly vulnerable. The cornea fires off a response if just two tenths of a milligram of pressure is applied." Two tenths of a milligram and you will feel it in your eye. So if you have a splinter in your eye, you want somebody to take it out. That is what Jesus says is true of sin. And so He wants the procedure done, but it needs to be done gently. If your eye feels two tenths of a milligram, somebody with a 2 by 4 in their eye will only smack your eye. They will only poke you in the eye. They certainly will not get close enough to do that fine, careful, gentle work needed to do to help you get past that sin problem in your life. Gentleness is essential.
On your outline, I've given you Galatians 6:1. Just look down there and see. This is, I think, probably the most key verse in understanding Mathew 7:1. It says, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him," what's the next word? "Gently." "You who are spiritual should restore him gently but watch yourself or you also may be tempted." In other words, gently and with humility, "watch yourself or you may also be tempted." So the person is going to have that gentle touch, but they are also going to be humble enough to recognize that, "Any sin that that person is in, I could be in too. If the person is struggling with their marriage, I could have problems with mine. If the person is struggling with this sin pattern it could be me too. Maybe a month from now it will be me, and then I'll need them to come and help me out." That's a whole different approach than the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, isn't it? The gentleness, the humility, but we must do it. Galatians 6:2, says, "Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." We need to go. We need to help. We need to purify the church, but it must be done gently, it must be done humbly, it must be done carefully.
Satan's ultimate plan from the church is this, either we are going to be judgmental on the one side, and there are churches like that, there really are. Where everything is judged, everything is set even down to dress codes, and speech patterns and attitude. Everything is going to be judged. Judgmentalism, on the one side, and tolerance, anything goes. And there are churches of both kinds. We, end up walking a balance in the middle.
Recently, I saw a movie in Louisville in the IMAX Theater. Have any of you heard of the IMAX? It is this huge theater with this incredible screen. And I saw one on Mount Everest. It is incredible. There was an article recently in USA Today about how they filmed that. Now, if you want to get up to the summit of Everest, you have to walk along this knife edge with a steep decline on each side. And right about that time that you are starting to get weary from lack of oxygen and fatigue, you are really getting close. And it is dangerous; there is a steep drop-off on each side. That is the way I see this passage. You have walk along between judgmentalism on the one side and tolerance or anything goes on the other. You have walk in the middle, or else the church suffers- either with judgmentalism in which the person is self-righteous and doesn't look inward for sin, or tolerance in which sin isn't dealt with at all. Either way, sin is allowed to flourish, and it must be fought.
Well then you say, "Okay, well what is this verse six?” “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Well, within the context, it may be a matter of doing eye surgery or eye procedures on a dog or a pig. Now, realize this is not a household pet. The dog is not a household pet. Most dogs roamed around in junk yards eating what they could find. They were wild animals. It was the same with a pig, more like a boar, a wild boar. Would you try to go and steady the boar or steady the wild dog and say, "I see a splinter in your eye and I'd like to get that out for you." Well, what do you think is going to happen if you go to that kind of a wild boar or a pig and try to get anything out of its eye? It's going to turn on you and trample you, tear you to pieces.
What does it mean going to a non-Christian, a rebellious person who has no interest in spiritual things and saying, "You know, I think you have a problem with slander, and I think you might want to work on that because, you know, slander's just sin. For you to talk behind people's back about them is character defamation." How do you think they're going to react to that? Even if you go gently, even if you go in prayer, are they going to receive that? So it could be that that's what Jesus means here. I think more likely it's talking about the gospel ministry as a whole. He says, "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs." That could be the whole gospel ministry. As you are moving through the world and evangelizing, you're going to come to some people who are vigorous, even violent in their opposition to the gospel. Don't waste your time, is what He's saying. Don't keep trying to minister to those who will do nothing but arrest you or torture you or torment you. There comes a time for shaking the dust off your feet, for recognizing that these people will never receive it.
You remember as we were preaching through 2 Timothy, chapter 4, Paul said, "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message." Watch out for Alexander. He's a wild boar. He's a wild dog. Don't get near him. He's going to tear you to pieces. That's the warning. Jesus himself gives His disciples this warning, He said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves." What's a wolf? It's like a wild dog or wild boar, it's a violent animal. He says you should be discerning like a snake to know when and how to act, how to be as you move through the world, doing the gospel ministry.
Just to sum up what we're saying here. Realize the beautiful balance that Jesus puts in this text. How many verses are there on the danger of judgmentalism? Five verses on the danger of judgmentalism. How many verses on the danger of lacking discriminating spirit? We see only one. I think there is a much greater danger for us to slip off into judgmentalism, than for us to be undiscerning in how we carry on the gospel ministry. So the great danger here is judgmentalism. And as we look around the world, we should look around as broken-hearted sinners, who seek a desire to minister with gentleness and with humility rather than with that judgmental spirit.
Applications: I've written them out on your sheet here. I think you need to begin by constantly reminding yourself that you are a spiritual beggar before God and that you have no right to a condemning, judgmental attitude. The second is that you should pray that God would work a genuine work of humility in your heart. Pray for it, ask it and God will do it. And when you are ready, ask God to give you a ministry of gentle eye surgery for the body of Christ. Say, "I want to be one of the ones able, with humility, with gentleness, to help brothers and sisters with sin problems in their lives, because I can see the sin in my own life and I want brothers and sisters to be free from that as much as I want to be. I want them to do it for me too." Pray that God would give you that kind of a ministry. Don't let sin just fester, go to the sinning brother. Go to him or her gently, humbly, privately with the Holy Spirit, and take that splinter out of his or her eye. Take it out, minister, help them.
Number five is to ask God, of course, for a spirit of discernment to see if someone is hostile or angry or opposed to the gospel of the ministry you are doing, fit to trample you under foot. Be discerning, but ultimately be on your guard against delighting in evil, against judgmentalism. And in this way, we can carry on the ministry that Jesus intended in these verses. Let's close in prayer.