Jesus continues to teach kingdom ethics and offers some examples for practical application as the Sermon on the Mount comes to a conclusion. The righteous demands of the law will require Jesus' disciples to keep watch over their own hearts as they relate to others. Jesus instructs his followers not to be judgmental toward others. This passage is often misused as a way to say that no one should question, critique, or call anyone to give an account for their beliefs or behavior. However, Jesus also instructs his people to confront one another in their sins and to bring it publicly before the church if they continue in that sin (Matthew 18:15-20). The people of the kingdom are called to analyze and evaluate every spirit and teaching and "judge" whether it is from God (1John 4:1). The disconnect comes when people are unwilling to submit to one another or receive correction because they are being "judged." There is a righteous judge, and when he declares something is a sin, his judgment stands. Jesus is reiterating that motives matter and those who would bear witness to his judgment must be careful because God has not called his followers to condemn or avenge. Jesus makes several points that must be considered before one judges another. The people of the kingdom have a responsibility to their brothers and sisters, but not until they have assessed their own hearts (v. 5). Those who would judge must first judge themselves because they may have far more serious sins of their own to address. It is easy to be critical of others without being critical of ourselves, and the parable of the speck and the log used by Jesus illustrates the tendency to demand more from others than we are prepared to deliver ourselves. The type of judging condemned by Jesus is the hypocritical judgment of a fellow believer from a heart filled with self-righteousness and condemnation. Galatians clarifies the way Christians should love and serve one another when a brother or sister is in a sinful state saying, “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.” (Galatians 6:1, ESV) The way of the kingdom is to love our brothers and sisters while seeking repentance, reconciliation, and restoration. Jesus offers a recommendation in verse six because disciples should not be judgmental, but they should be discerning. Disciples do not have to continue indefinitely with those who vehemently reject the wisdom of the kingdom.
Relationship To God And Others
The people of the Kingdom must remain dependent on God. Asking, seeking and knocking are all points of application, but the lesson is not that persistence will force the hand of the Father. The point is that the Father loves his children and he will answer them. Jesus uses an argument from the lesser to the greater. If human beings can grant requests, our good Father will certainly give good things to those who ask him for them. The golden rule is the Law and the Prophets, and it is to be practiced regardless of whether others follow the rule or not. It is the way of the kingdom, and it is a narrow way. A transformed heart will be accompanied by the fruit of righteousness. One may give the appearance of piety, godliness, and spirituality, yet not belong to the kingdom God. False prophets are like wolves dressed as sheep, and they will be identified by their fruits. God’s people, on the other hand, are to be like healthy trees which bear the real fruit of the kingdom.
Who Are You?
Jesus makes a terrifying statement about those who say the right things. Jesus teaches that the kingdom is about the heart and not religious formalism. Verbal affirmation that Jesus is Lord does not guarantee that one belongs to the king or knows him. Lives of obedience serve as proof of citizenship. This startling warning from Jesus reminds us that some pastors, exorcists and those who did great works will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Signs and wonders can come from sources other than God. These external demonstrations prove nothing. Knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus are two entirely different things, and there will be many on the day of judgment who will discover that works and religion cannot save you, only Jesus rescues sinners.
Wisdom And Authority
Hearing the truth and affirming some facts are not the same thing as saving faith because faith must have the right object. Those that belong to the kingdom must build on the good foundation so that when the test comes, the strength of our foundation is proven by our standing. When one obeys Jesus, even storms cannot destroy them. However, for the hypocrite or spiritual counterfeit, the storm will destroy the house, and the fall will be great. The distinction here is not between those who hear Jesus and those who do not but between those who hear and obey and those who hear but do not obey. As The Sermon on the Mount comes to a conclusion, the people are amazed at Jesus' teaching. Jesus did not teach like the scribes and refer to other Rabbis or their opinions, practices, and beliefs. Instead, he taught with authority because he is the word of God and he has the authority to speak for the Father because he is God.
Things To Consider:
- How can one know if they are critical and judgmental?
- What should our attitude be when we confront a brother or sister in sin?
- Why are we so tempted to judge others harshly?
- What is the role of the church when it comes to correction?
- How does Christian community help us in daily living?
- Do you submit to others and are you willing to receive correction?
- When was the last time someone in your community corrected you? What does that indicate about your Christian living?
- How can we rely on God and still work hard at Christian living?
- How does the golden rule fulfill the Law and the Prophets?
- Why is the way to life so narrow?
- Why is that so offensive to others?
- What is the difference between recognizing fruits and being judgmental?
- How can we know God?
- How does the word give us a sure foundation in this life?
- Are you recognizing and submitting to Jesus' authority over you? Why or why not?
- How do you know?
- Will you ask someone else in your Christian community?