Part 3 in the Things Jesus Said series.
March 6, 2016 | text: Matthew 7
“Money is the root of all evil.” “God helps those that help themselves.” “This too shall pass.” What do all of these sayings have in common? They are either misquoted or wrongly attributed to the Bible. Let’s add “Do not judge” to the list then go to Matthew 7 for context.
Judging others is the section headline in the ESV; the NKJV titles the same text “Do Not Judge.” If we only read verse 1, then we might conclude judging others is always wrong in every case. By reading all the way to verse 5 we see that hypocrisy, not judgement, is what is being forbidden. Recall that three in Matthew 6 Jesus warned not to be like the hypocrites are, and this chapter is a continuation of the same sermon. That’s why we have spent these weeks looking at Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Individual verses require context for understanding. If Jesus had meant to say that we are to never judge, he would not have suggested taking the log out of one’s own eye to see clearly the speck in your brother’s eye. What is really saying “is that we should all amend our own behavior and live properly before exercising judgment and helping others to do the same.” (Thanks to Jason A. Staples for putting that thought into words for me.) As we continue through chapter 7, look at Jesus’ warning to beware of false prophets. He teaches us to discern, or to judge, between the true and the false. They will be known by their fruit and so will we. Be careful who you listen to and choose to follow, a thought we will come back to at the end of this sermon. Further consider John 7:24 in which Jesus says “Judge not by appearances but judge with righteous judgement.” The best commentary on the Bible is still the Bible.
The Golden Rule in verse 12 is a continuation of the asking and giving discourse in verses 7 – 11. No Bible translation is perfect and in this case I prefer what the NKJV does with verse 12 over the ESV. Anytime you see a verse that begins with so or therefore, go back and see what was said before that. Verse 12 draws a conclusion based on what is said previously, in this case about knowing how to give good gifts. Therefore, do to others what you would want done for you.
We have discussed previously the wording of Jesus’ Golden Rule to a similar wisdom saying of the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. He said “Do not do to anyone what you would not want done to you.” Some have even suggested Jesus borrowed the idea from Confucius who lived a couple hundred years earlier. But the two are not the same. The Confucian rule is stated in the negative; do not do a type of thing. Jesus’ statement is both positive and proactive. You could sit down and do nothing and keep the Golden Rule of Confucius. To put Jesus’ teaching into practice actually requires us to do good unto others, fulfilling the command to love others as you love yourself. Jesus described that as the greatest commandment. The so called “Golden Rule” is a man man title that came after the fact.
Build your house on the rock. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” This is Jesus’ conclusion to the entire Sermon on the Mount. Once again the NKJV begins v. 24 with therefore, and we have to consider not only the preceding paragraph but all of Matthew 5, 6 and 7. In our context, with a collection of Gospels readily at hand, we must hear all the words of Jesus available. The sermons, parables, lessons and miracles recorded are only a sample of all that he did, as Mark and John both explain, but they give us a representative sample. We first must hear the words by reading the scriptures privately, meditating on them, and asking God for wisdom and understanding. We gain further insight by studying together, in Sunday School, discipleship and hearing the preached Word. But all of those things together is only half of Jesus’ command. To be the wise building on the rock we must hear his words and do them. His brother James will remind us in his epistle to be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22). In other words, application. Christianity is not an academic discussion; we must put our beliefs into practice. Jesus said “Follow me” not “study me.” What we do in here is preparation for what we are called to do out there.