Nov 252016
 

pearls before pigsDo not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6)

The bible is not always an easy book to read. Some passages are straightforward and the meaning is obvious, whilst passages like the one today require a little more thought. You cannot just read today’s passage and move on; we need to dig a little.

The first thing we need to do is look at the elements of this verse. What (or who) is Jesus referring to when He talks about dogs and pigs. There are clues in the bible.

Dogs in the bible are not ‘man’s best friend’ like they are today. They were not treated as pets, although they were used to guard houses and protect sheep, the majority were scavengers and would hunt for food in packs, they would have been wild or ‘feral’. They were known for hunting and eating dead carcasses and so were classed as unclean animals.

And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” (2 Kings 9:10)

Evildoers were classified as ‘dogs’ in this prophecy about Jesus’ death;

For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet (Psalm 22:16)

There are many other places in the bible where to call someone a dog was an insult.

Pigs too were considered unclean. They were forbidden to be eaten (Leviticus 11:7) and Jesus made a point to His listeners when He told the story of the prodigal son who became a pig herder, the most utterly shameful job that an Israelite could do.

I think the reference to pearls is obvious. If you recall the parable Jesus told about the merchant who found the pearl of great price;

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

So a pearl represents the precious gospel we present to others.

So dogs and pigs in this context represent unholy people and in the way that Jesus is speaking, people who we are not to waste the priceless pearl of the gospel with. Strong words indeed!

So what does that mean for us, should we not even present the gospel to certain people?

I believe Jesus is calling us to be wise and discerning and to be led by the Holy Spirit just as He was. We certainly need to always be prepared to share our faith whenever an occasion arises;

but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)

But there are some occasions when we encounter hostility and antagonism on an ongoing scale where we just need to move on. As I said this requires discernment but sometimes it just has to be done. Jesus was clear about this when he sent out the 72 disciples:

But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:10-12)

I think for many of us (and I include myself in this), that Jesus’ warning is a little redundant for us.

This is what the bible teacher Sam Storms has to say:

Matthew 7:6 probably does not need to be taught in certain churches or to certain Christians. Their problem is not that they are inclined to be undiscerning and often cast their pearls before swine. Their problem is that they aren’t casting their pearls at all! This verse is addressed to those who are so zealous for evangelism that they fail to discern the scoffer from the hungry soul. Most likely, our problem is that we have no such zeal to evangelize in the first place.

Something I am certainly going to consider.

 November 25, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 182016
 

Plank eyeWhy do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

It just so happens that I visited the optician this week to have my eyes tested. Using various implements to see what sort of health our eyes are in, they get very close don’t they? I was thinking about how difficult that would be if the optician had a plank in their eye, actually impossible!

In this part of Jesus’ sermon, He injects some Hyperbole to get His point across. He used this form of exaggeration on a number of occasions and I’m sure His listeners found it quite amusing (well, not all of them anyway!). He used it in a similar context when He told the religious leaders that they strained out gnats and swallowed camels (Matthew 23:24). He also talked about camels passing through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). This form of exaggeration and ridiculousness really drives the point home.

The simple point made in today’s passage is to stop focussing on other people’s faults before looking at and addressing your own.

Jesus has been looking at the whole subject of judging other people and He has an eye on the scribes and Pharisees as He recognises their hypocritical spirit. They need to get their own house in order first before they even consider focussing on other people’s problems.

Jesus is speaking against ‘meddling’ in other people’s affairs, especially without having all the facts. I mentioned in recent weeks that it is God’s job to judge our thoughts and motivations and His alone.

I am reminded of the story of Job in the Old Testament who had a number of ‘comforters’ who were intent on meddling and presuming to tell Job where he had gone wrong. In the end God firmly rebukes them for their meddling and tells them outright that they were wrong. If we are not careful, we can be very much like Job’s comforters, we may have the best of intentions, but we should be very careful when we make assumptions, especially when we can never be in full possession of all the facts.

As I have said previously, Jesus is not condemning every type of judgement. Sometimes we need to correct people when they are clearly in the wrong, but that involves humility, honesty and kindness, with a view to loving restoration. Verse 5 even shows us that when we have removed our own logs we will then see clearly to help our brother or sister with their speck. When you think about it a log in your eye would be pretty obvious to everyone, especially the one you are trying to help. Most of us would refuse any help from someone so hypocritical to presume to correct us when their fault is far worse than ours. By removing our plank we are much more likely to be received.

 November 18, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 112016
 

Judged by your own standardsFor with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

Human beings love to judge, not always audibly or so that it’s obvious to others, but often in our thought life. We can do it all the time without even realising it. Many times we judge others for the simple reason that we want to feel better than them. We are very good at noticing the faults of others but completely incapable of seeing those same faults within ourselves.

Judging others is one of the most basic of human sins, it produces all sorts of evil within us including; hate, pride and jealousy.

In this part of His sermon, Jesus is very keen that we should view ourselves honestly. He wants to expose the sins of the Scribes and Pharisee’s who couldn’t see the wrong they were doing. The bible talks elsewhere about our ability to perceive ourselves honestly as ‘sober judgement’. That is a very good description. If you can imagine the opposite as ‘inebriated judgement’ when people have had a few drinks they start to lose their ability to see clearly, to maybe over exaggerate and view things in a distorted way.

The Scribes and Pharisee’s were very prone to making harsh judgements on other people and being a lot more lenient on themselves. They were so proud, self-righteous and smug. So convinced about their own superiority that they found it very easy to be condemning and judgemental. They would even go as far as adding to God’s law, lots of extra regulations and rules, as if to say “God, you haven’t quite covered all the bases, your laws aren’t quite good enough. Here, let’s give you a hand!” No wonder Jesus got so angry and came after them.

Do you see anything of yourself in the Scribes and Pharisee’s? Perhaps if you don’t you are more like them than you think!

Today’s passage is very sobering. God says that He will use the standard we use to judge others to judge us. Think about it, unchecked we can be very harsh in our judgements. God is going to be just as harsh with us.

As we saw last week, this verse doesn’t mean that we don’t judge at all. It also doesn’t mean we are blind to others’ faults and pretend that everything is alright when it isn’t. It also doesn’t mean we are not critical sometimes. We need to confront sin when it presents itself.

What we are not to do is judge motives and intentions, second guessing why people are like they are and do what they do. Only God knows the motives of people’s hearts and it is extremely dangerous to try to muscle in on His territory.

We can make these sorts of judgements very easily, almost subconsciously. When I was analysing my own attitudes, I was thinking how easily I can make judgements about people because I perceive they are not committed to the church as I think they should be or don’t serve or attend prayer meetings or many other reasons that I consider important. I have to constantly check myself now and repent of any wrong attitudes. When we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, this becomes a lot easier. We need to be sensitive to His leading and not ‘sear’ our conscience by ignoring his promptings. The Holy Spirit is the most precious guide to help us maintain good relationships and attitudes.

In today’s verse, Jesus is giving us a choice. Choose to forgive and you will be forgiven, choose to show mercy and you will receive mercy. God will judge you in the same way you judge others. It will be far better for you if you show grace, mercy, kindness and forgiveness because guess what? That is what you will get!

If you don’t show mercy and kindness, know that you will be judged as harshly as you judge others, because God is very fair. Judgement may not happen instantly, but know that it will surely come. It can be very dangerous to think you are getting away with something when in fact Judgement is being stored up against you. It would be much better for us if it did happen sooner so that we can deal with it immediately. I for one would much rather get things sorted now and be in good relationship with God and others than to wait for stored up judgement, wouldn’t you?

Next week we will continue in this theme and look at what Jesus said about fixing a speck in someone’s eye when we’ve got a plank in our own.

 November 11, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 042016
 

Do not judgeJudge not, that you be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)

I believe this verse is one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the whole bible. It is probably one of the favourite verses for unbelievers who want to carry on doing what they want to do, usually in rebellion to God and His ways. They direct it at God himself. “Who is He to tell me I am wrong what I am doing? It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.” “Don’t judge me God.” And if they direct it at Him, they will most certainly direct it at His followers.

In today’s society, judging other people is very wrong, but is Jesus saying we shouldn’t judge at all? I don’t believe so, because there are other passages that call us to exercise judgement;

You have to exercise judgement to fulfil these two verses:

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

And what about:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? (1 Corinthians 6:1-2)

It is so important, as in all scripture, to look at passages in context. This verse should not be taken in isolation. Jesus has been talking in ‘The sermon on the mount’ about our attitudes, about our humility and singling out the religious leaders who led in a hypocritical way. They pronounced moral judgements on others whilst being guilty of those same sins themselves.

Jesus is not condemning all moral judgement or accountability but rather the harsh, prideful, hypocritical judgement that condemns others without first evaluating one’s own position and spiritual condition. We should judge lovingly, not self-righteously. There is a big difference and it is all in the attitude.

Jesus said himself in John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.

Let’s look at what sort of judgement is right:

Not judging superficially– We shouldn’t judge solely based on appearances, ensuring we don’t jump to conclusions before establishing the facts. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13) We do not judge motives and intentions of the heart, only God can do that.

Not judging hypocritically– Jesus has already been confronting, in this same sermon, hypocritical behaviour (see Matthew 6 verses 2, 5 and 16) and He will continue challenging this behaviour as He goes on.

Not harsh, unforgiving judgement– We need to be gentle towards one another. to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy towards all people. (Titus 3:2)

True judgement– The bible clearly forbids ‘false witness’ A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape. (Proverbs 19:5)

The world says “Do not judge, do not make moral evaluations, don’t condemn anything!” but Jesus is not saying that. He is saying don’t be hypocritical in your judgements or judge people with different standards than you would hope to be judged by. When you judge; be loving, kind and gracious with a spirit of restoring people to their right relationship with God. But don’t tolerate sin!

We will start to look at the consequences of judging wrongly next week.

 November 4, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »