Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Those are the words spoken by Jesus’ cousin John, a wild man who was crying out from a wild place, as recorded in Matthew 3:2. This kingdom of heaven thing that John is announcing is what other inspired NT writers have called the Kingdom of God.
This kingdom of heaven (the kingdom of God) is the the theme for Jesus’ most famous, and least understood teaching.
Three chapters: 5,6, & 7, that’s it. It isn’t a lot to read, but it always seems like way too much for me to deal with. The Sermon on The Mount, I want it even though it makes me ashamed of myself and hyper-aware of my behavior. And, I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.
So, why is it so attractive and terrifying all at the same time? Well, the answer, I believe is that Jesus makes it plain. He doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. You can’t come at the King sloppy. He says as much in 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Now, you may hear that and say to yourself, “Perfection is unattainable. Nobody is perfect.” and, you would be right to say that, except that you’re wrong. Nobody is perfect except the one who is. And, in Him, the perfect one, we are wrapped, we are clothed, we are embraced. Jesus, the perfect one, through his perfect life, has purchased for us oneness without sameness. We are one with him, but, we are not the same. We can’t do what he does. Even when he makes it plain we struggle mightily.
Yet, even in the struggle, we are told to repent. For the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, is at hand. In Jesus’ sermon he teaches his first disciples about the character of the person who is called to follow him. He teaches about the influence the one who follows him has to have. He talks about righteousness. He talks to us about ambition. He tells us how we ought to carry ourselves as citizens of our Heavenly Father’s kingdom. He teaches us about generosity and he then teaches us how to pray. And, after all of that, he teaches us to not worry.
Then, Jesus moves us from worry, a negative attitude we have towards ourselves, and he brings us to the topic of judgement, a negative attitude we have towards others. John Stott once wrote, “It would seem quite logical that, having described a Christian’s character, influence, righteousness, piety and ambition, Jesus should concentrate finally on his relationships.”
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 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? 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. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
For the sake of our time together today, I will be calling the kingdom of heaven the way of Jesus. Now, to live the way of Jesus one has to realize, acknowledge, confess, and finally celebrate, that the way of Jesus is not about individualistic achievement, it is about community. And, this community affair doesn’t happen in a closed circle. It is happens around the whole community we choose to worship in, always under the King’s eternal rule and reign. So, the way we behave with one another counts, but, the way we behave with those who don’t believe what we believe counts just the same. We exist as a witness’ in a watching and waiting world. What do you think they see when they look in on us?
Beloved, we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters, as well as to our neighbors, to help and not to judge. Jesus knows we won’t do community perfect. We will fumble and we will fail. So he takes two common behaviors (habits) off the table and places before us a much better way.
First, do not judge. Now, Jesus is not forbidding judgement. Look at John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge by right judgement.” Jesus is not forbidding criticism. Criticism can be a great tool used to build each other up when used lovingly for the better of the other. So, what is Jesus talking about?
Jesus is talking about what happens when a set apart people start to think they are a better people. Jesus is saying it is cool to assess folks critically, but it is not cool to judge them harshly. That is never good. And Jesus tells us why… Judgement invites judgement. Harsh criticism invites harsh criticism. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Now listen, be careful. The line between solid judgement based off of careful observation and hasty criticism based off of a false sense of superiority is thin. It is easy to cross, and when you cross it you will be crossed back. Bottom line, not only should we not judge in this manner, but we can never forget that we will be judged as well.
Second, don’t be a hypocrite! Jesus doesn’t seem to like hypocrisy. Dont’ be calling out faults on others when you can’t see your own. This is real. This is a good reason for us to not rush into judgement. We are poor judges. Stott is money once again here when he writes, “Here is another reason why we are unfit to be judges: not only because we are fallible humans (and not God), but also because we are fallen humans. The fall has made all of us sinners. So we are in no position to stand in judgment on our fellow sinners; we are disqualified from the bench.”
Come on now, you know that’s true. Technically, we shouldn’t even be in the game! Jesus is the unblemished lamb not us. He is the only one qualified to judge our actions fairly because ultimately, he was the only one treated unfairly.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 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?
Thirdly, instead of being a harsh and hasty critic, be a loving and gentle brother or sister.
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.
You don’t wash a white shirt with mud do you? Of course not. So why would you judge someone when you can’t even see your own faults clearly and objectively? Remember, technically we shouldn’t even be in the game! It isn’t that there isn’t a speck in your brother’s eye, it’s that we fail to realize that we are all a little dirty. But, there is one who is so clean, that even when hit with our dirt, he is mighty and able to wash us. So don’t read this as don’t tell your brother/sister about the dirt in their eye. If a brother/sister is in sin, we should lovingly seek to restore them in the spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1), not rebuke them in the spirit of harsh and hasty criticism.
In all of our relationships, we must notice that we are not the judge or the hypocrite.
Now we get to good stuff, Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
What is Jesus talking about here? What is he trying to get across? And why the hard language after encouraging us to brotherly/sisterly behavior? Well, Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and the truth doesn’t tell lies. He calls it like it is. He once called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). As the embodiment of truth, Jesus tells the truth. And here, in this text, he truthfully states that there are some folks who behave like animals.
We were going to get to the whole Jesus says some hard things talk sooner or later. We are now here. Jesus is saying that if we are not going to jump into hard, hasty, critical judgement of others, we should also not pretend that everybody is the same and ignore their faults. All men are created equal but not all men believe the same things. And, if this is true, then how do we tell the difference if we are not to be judgmental?
Jesus tells a story (a parable) comparing the kingdom of heaven to a pearl of great value. He tells of a merchant who comes across this pearl of great value and goes out to sell everything he owns in order to purchase it, to possess it. The way of Jesus is precious. The gospel is precious and what is precious should not be given to folks who won’t appreciate it.
Now, this may sound hard to some, but is it? Jesus didn’t think so. Truth is, to continue to persist and give the gospel to folks who won’t appreciate it is to cheapen the gospel.
To persist in force feeding the gospel to someone is like that 45 minute altar call we have all mocked at some point. You know what I am talking about right? You ever been to a church service, one that you were invited to, and at the end there is an altar call. It starts out painless enough but after 5 minutes you can tell that the altar caller is feeling the pressure. 5 minutes turn into 10, 10 into 15, 15 into “I know the Lord is speaking to someone right now. He wants you to not be afraid…” And you know what happens next right, after enough time passes, one merciful person decides that this won’t stop until someone goes to the front. That right there cheapens the gospel! It takes something precious and turns into a spectacle.
Jesus never cheapened the way of the kingdom. In Matthew 10 we read that Jesus sent out the twelve. And as he sent them out he tells them to go and heal the sick, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons! He sends them out to do hard kingdom work and he tells them to find a worthy home and then enter it, and greet it. Let the peace be peaceful he says. Then, he says if anyone will not receive them, they should wipe the dust off their feet and leave that house (Matthew 10:14). We should not cheapen the gospel!
Paul understood this as well. In Acts 13 we read of Paul and Barnabas going out to Antioch for some kingdom grind. They preached the gospel. They taught the way of Jesus. Many converted. Then, some Jews got jealous. They started to run their mouths against Paul and Barnabas. They assumed that judgmental posture. These brothers were not wanting to build up their brothers, they sought to tear them down. How did Paul and Barnabas react to this harsh and hasty critical contradiction? Listen, “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46).
Discernment is real and we are called to use this great tool in the work of ministry. We have seen Jesus instruct this to his disciples. We have seen Paul and Barnabas understand this well. But, just to drive the point home let’s go back to the one preaching the sermon. You see when dealing with the hard stuff it is always good to follow the advice and teaching of D.A. Carson who writes, “Here, again, we do well to try the example of the Teacher himself. It is eminently profitable to examine his approach to different individuals and groups. He can dismiss a group (as we seen him do, in Matthew 15:140, write off Herod (Luke 13:31-33), promise judgement to whole cities (Matthew 11:20-24); but he can be patient with a group (see Luke 9:51-55; Mark 6:31-34), offer indisputable evidence to a doubting Thomas (John 20:24), and weep over a city (Luke 19:41). Christians dare not decide which side of Jesus’ reactions they will follow most closely; they must follow both. And I suspect that the stronger the inclination to follow one side at the expense of the other, the greater the danger of imbalance, and the stronger the need to grow in discernment and conformity to Christ.”
We don’t want to be about that imbalanced life do we? No, we don’t. What we want to is to live a life of love and loyalty under the eternal rule and reign of God. We want to live a life in the way of Jesus. We want to live a life that is free of fear, lust, and worry. We want to live a life of generosity and trust. We want to live a life that allows us to participate in the care of the hungry and thirsty, one that allows us to participate in the care of the lonely and naked.
What we want is to experience the life Jesus has purchased for us. What we want is freedom. We want the promise of freedom that has already been made good through him who grants forgiveness of sins. We want freedom from a judgemental and critical spirit. We want to know the truth.
“The reason for judgement, then, is not that we might condemn others, but that we might be able to minister to them.” - Warren Wiersbe
Saying don’t throw your pearls to pigs doesn’t mean you don’t share the great news of new life in Christ. It simply means that we don’t cheapen the gospel by engaging in ministry that lacks discernment. Be slow to judge, be patient in discernment. What is precious is not to be given to people who have no appreciation of it.