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Two taxidermists stopped before a window where an owl was on display. Immediately they criticized the way the owl was mounted. They noted that the eyes were not natural, nor the wings proportionate to its head, and its feathers were not neatly arranged, and its feet needed improvement. When they had finished their criticisms, the owl turned its head and winked at them.
Someone once said that the art of being wise is knowing what to overlook, and that fits our teaching; that judgment and criticism says a lot more about who we are than it does about those who we are judging or criticizing.
“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 out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV)
Just for a kick, let’s look at the Message’s paraphrase version.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Matthew 7:1-5 MSG)
Before we get overly critical of others for their critical attitude, we must understand that criticizing and judging others is a sin that we all struggle with.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best-known movie role is “The Terminator.” He plays a machine from the future that is sent back to the past, first to kill, and then later to protect an important personage in humanity’s struggle against the machines of the future.
In our passage Jesus is talking about another type of terminator that we’ll call, “The Criticizer.” The Criticizer is deadly and causes great harm, not only to the individuals they judge and criticize, but to the church, which is a representative of Jesus here on earth.
Jesus is dealing with the judgmental attitude and critical spirit that exist within the church that He’s the head of. So serious is criticism and judgmentalism within the church that Jesus pulls no punches; that they will be judged in the same way they judge others.
These criticizers are self-righteous, spiritual blind, self-deceived, and lack Christ-like love. As such they are hypocrites and abuse the gospel of grace they say they proclaim.
It might be advantageous; therefore, for us to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying as Jesus speaks to “The Criticizer.”
There is a fine line, however, in this whole judging thing, because Jesus never says that we’re not going to judge. In Matthew gospel Jesus talks about how we can rightly judge someone who is false by the way they live their life.
“You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16 NKJV)
In John’s gospel Jesus said that we are to judge righteously.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24 NKJV)
The Apostle Paul tells us that in matters pertaining to the church we are to judge, because we’re going to be expected to judge the angels.
“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3 NKJV)
The type of judgment Jesus is speaking about in our passage, however, is condemning, censorious, and faultfinding. It is a criticism of others with no comparable self-criticism or self-correction of our own shortcoming, faults, and sins.
Why are we so judgmental and critical?
• First it helps boost our own crumbling self-image. When we point out someone else’s faults, we seem to be a little better in our own eyes. The Bible says that we better be careful lest we go on an ego trip, because pride always comes before a fall.
• Next we enjoy criticism because of our own sinful nature that takes pleasure in hearing and sharing other people’s shortcomings, which is why gossip is so popular.
• Criticism also helps us justify and rationalize our own sins, decision, and wrongful action, and gives us an outlet to express our hurt and need for revenge.
There are several reasons why we should reevaluate before we start criticizing.
• First, all the circumstances and facts are never truly known. There are always behind the scene facts, things that happen behind closed doors that contribute to other people’s actions.
o This is why Jesus tells us to go to whoever we have an issue with and see if we have the story right so no vain imagination may exist.
• Second, we fall short and often fail. We are all sinners, and no one is exempt from sin. So when we judge someone else, we fail to recognize that we are just as guilty as the person we are judging.
o We need to acknowledge our own true conditions as sinners save by grace, and then we’ll act with a lot more care and compassion instead of being critical.
• Finally, when we judge others, we are actually usurping God’s authority. Whenever we pass judgment over another person’s life, we are saying we are worthy to judge.
o The Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4 NKJV)
There is a danger when we take upon ourselves the job of judging.
“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2 NKJV)
This is called the law of equal weights. The same measure we use in judgment will be used to measure and thus judge us. And what’s even scarier is that the Lord measures it out against us. So we better show a whole lot of love and compassion on those who have fallen on hard times, and help restore them instead of rejecting them.
James gives us this law of equal weights saying, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13 NKJV)
God will judge the judgmental but He will forgive the humble. This is brought out in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14.
One day a Pharisee and a tax collector enter the temple. The Pharisee walks up towards the front and thanked God because he wasn’t like others who were extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or this tax collector.
The tax collector, on the other hand, entered but stood in the back beating his chest proclaiming himself a sinner and asking for God’s mercy.
Jesus then said it was the tax collector who left justified, that is, right before the eyes of God, and not the Pharisee. He said that everyone who exalts himself, like the criticizer, would be humbled, and whoever humbles themselves, like the repentant tax collector, will be exalted.
In verses three through five Jesus said that criticizers fail to examine themselves and therefore their judgment is inconsistent and hypocritical. Therefore we need to do a thorough examination of ourselves before we start to examine others.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV)
We all have these great big huge beams in our eyes as compared to the splinters in the eyes of those we are judging. These beams then effectively blind us to our true spiritual condition.
The church also suffers from a judgmental and critical spirit. We are to restore, not criticize. We are to be compassionate, not censorious. We need to pull people up, not push them down, and we need to speak words of kindness and love, not negative and destructive words.
At seminary, a professor was known for some pretty elaborate object lessons. One day he put up a large target on the wall and told the students to draw a picture of someone they disliked and put it on the target and then throw darts at them.
The students took to the task with great energy and their pictures and the target behind started to get ripped to shreds. At the end the professor removed the target on the wall to reveal a picture of Jesus which now as completely mangled.
Quoting Jesus, the professor said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Mathew 25:40 NKJV)
I am told that you could hear a pin drop.
In verse five Jesus gives us another way we can overcome this deep-rooted fault finding flaw. It is known as the mirror effect. It’s where we see in ourselves what we criticize or judge in others.
Therefore, if we’re to mirror anybody, it really should be Jesus Christ.
When we begin to see Jesus in our own life, then we’ll begin to see Jesus in the lives of others, and when we see Jesus in them we’ll be a lot less likely to toss darts in their direction.
But like so many, when we see even the tiniest flaw, we make it into a mountain. Therefore, when we criticize for even the smallest thing, we’re producing massive problems, not only for those we’re criticizing, but also for ourselves.
Therefore, let’s start seeing Jesus in others and ourselves so that we can then truly judge with righteous judgment.
To stop this critical and judgmental attitude, we need to change our thinking.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)
To change our thinking, we need to replace our can not’s with God’s can’s, because through what Jesus has done for us, becoming that sin offering, we now have the power of God, through the indwelling Holy Spirit to accomplish what God asks.
When we get re-aligned with God, we can now believe, change, love and be loved, forgive and be forgiven, make a difference, accomplish great things, stand in the midst of adverse circumstance, defeat the enemy, and finish the race God has set before us.
No one wants to be known as “The Criticizer.” Instead we’d rather be known as Christ-like. That is, someone who has a Christ-like attitude who forgives the sins of others.
We need to be more like Jesus and be able to say what He said to the woman caught in adultery.
“‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” (John 8:10-11 NKJV)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study