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“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.” Matthew 7:1-5

These words of Jesus do not forbid us to judge another’s doctrine; for Jesus says, just a few verses later in His Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.…” (15-16a).

They do not forbid us to judge between right and wrong and to admonish our brother when he sins; for Jesus also tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone…” (Matt. 18:15ff.).

So, what does Jesus mean when He says, “Judge not….”? A reading of the verses which follow will provide the answer. Jesus is warning against our propensity to pick out and condemn the faults in others, no matter how small, and to overlook our own sins and shortcomings, even if they are large.

Thus He says, “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.”

It is hypocritical of us to condemn the faults of others while, at the same time, overlooking or excusing our own.

And Jesus warns, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

It often happens in life that we end up being treated in the same way that we have treated others. Thus, if we have been overly critical and judgmental, we are likely to learn what it is like at the hand of others.

But, of far more serious consequence, is God’s judgment. If we condemn the sins of others and are unwilling to forgive them, our Father in heaven will condemn us for our own sins and not forgive us, either! As Jesus says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Rather than being overly critical and judgmental of others, we should first look at ourselves in the light of God’s Word; for when we compare our thoughts, words and deeds to God’s commandments, we all come far short of God’s holy expectations.

Again, as the Scriptures say, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23).

Rather than look at the sins and shortcomings of others, we ought to agree with God that we are sinners and acknowledge and confess our sins before God, trusting that He will forgive us and cleanse us for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).

“Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures … he was buried … he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4).

Rather than being judgmental and unforgiving toward our fellow sinners, God’s Word tells us to “be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36); and to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).

O dear Jesus, forgive me for being quick to judge and condemn others when I myself am a sinner and full of faults deserving of Your just punishment. For the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world, forgive me and cleanse my heart and move me to love others and seek to bring them to You that they too may know Your love and forgiveness and walk with You unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The ESV® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” Psalm 51:4

We don’t often think of our sins as offenses against God. Rather, we see our sins as offenses against those people to whom we have done wrong or caused harm. But, truly, all our sins are sins against God, for even when we hurt others through our sins, God is offended as our Creator in that we fail to honor Him in our thoughts, words and actions, and we abuse and harm others whom He has made.

Psalm 51 was written after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then tried to cover up his sin by having Uriah the Hittite killed in battle. Certainly, David sinned against Uriah. David first took his wife and then his life. Cf. 2 Sam. 11-12.

Yet, David could pray: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”

So also, it is with us. We may have offended our spouse, our parents, our children, our boss or our fellow employees, and yet we have sinned against the LORD God who created us and commanded us to love Him above all else and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

With David, we confess: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”

And God would be perfectly just if He were to condemn us to the eternal fires of hell for our sins against Him. He made us to love Him and serve Him but we have turned aside and become self-centered and self-serving.

It is for that reason that we join with David and believers everywhere in confessing our sins to the LORD God and asking Him to deal with us in love and mercy for the sake of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-3).

And we know that God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” … because “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:9; 2:1,2).

Against You, and You only, I have sinned, O God. Wash away my sins in the shed blood of Christ Jesus, Your Son and My Savior. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The ESV® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” … And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living….” Luke 15:1-2,11ff. (Also read Luke 15:11-32)

In the first verses of Luke 15, we are told that the Pharisees and scribes murmured against Jesus because He received known sinners who came to Him to hear His life-giving Word. Rather than rejoicing with the angels of heaven over these lost sinners who were being converted and saved through Jesus’ Word (cf. v. 3-10), the Pharisees and scribes were critical of Jesus for receiving such persons. The parable of the prodigal son was told by Jesus to show them that they too should repent and that they should rejoice over the repentance of lost sinners.

The prodigal son in this parable must certainly have been considered to be the worst of sinners in the eyes of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees. Not only had he wasted his inheritance on prostitutes and in riotous living; he even cared for, lived with, and tried to eat with pigs. Yet, when he came to his senses and returned to his father seeking forgiveness for his sins, his father forgave him and rejoiced at his return.

This is a beautiful description of our heavenly Father and His forgiveness for our many sins against Him. Our heavenly Father created us to serve Him and do His will. He placed us over His creation on the earth that we might use these things according to His will and for His glory (Gen. 1:26ff.). But man disobeyed the LORD God and fell into sin. Instead of living for the LORD and using His creation in accord with His will, we have all turned aside from the LORD and His holy will and have used His creation for our own selfish ends. Like the prodigal son, all of us sinners need to confess: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (v. 21; cf. Gen. 3; Rom.3:9-20,23).

Because God sent His only begotten Son into the world to suffer and die for our sins, we can be sure that our heavenly Father will also forgive us when we repent of our sins and turn to Him for forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2; Rom. 3:23-26). Through faith in Christ, our heavenly Father not only forgives all our sins against Him; He receives us as sons and gives us an eternal inheritance with Him in heaven (Gal. 3:26-29; 4:4-5).

Jesus’ parable goes on to describe the great rejoicing which took place when the prodigal son returned, and of the anger of his brother that such a wicked son would be received back with joy and celebration.

Because the Pharisees and scribes did not see their own need to repent and receive forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ, they, like the angry brother in the parable, could only see the great sin of those coming to Jesus. They did not see the great blessings of forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation which were being imparted to these penitent sinners for Jesus’ sake, and they were, therefore, unable to rejoice over the salvation of these lost souls.

Note the father’s response to the angry son: “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (v. 32).

When we remember that we too “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked” and that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:1,4-7), then we will be filled with joy when others also receive the salvation God has provided for them in His Son!

Alas, my God, my sins are great, my conscience doth upbraid me; and now I find that in my strait no man hath pow’r to aid me. Lord, Thee I seek. I merit naught; yet pity and restore me. Just God, be not Thy wrath my lot; Thy Son hath suffered for me. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #317, Verses 1,3)

[Scripture quotations are from The ESV® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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