John T. Willis

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Do Not Criticize Others--Luke 6:37-49

As Jesus continues the Sermon on the Plain [Level Ground], he addresses the common human problem of criticizing other people. This appears in Luke 6:37-49 [which is parallel to Matthew 7:1-5, 15-27). This falls into three parts.

I. Do not judge; Do not condemn. Luke 6:37-42.
a. Jesus specifically tells his disciples to do FOUR things.
1. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. 6:37a. Many people misunderstand and misuse this command. "Do not judge" does not mean to make a judicial decision in a court. "Do not judge" does not mean to approval sinful actions or sinful people. Jesus himself emphatically "judged" many people who were sinful and did sinful actions. A clear example is treating other people unjustly or unrighteously. This principle appears in texts like Luke 7:43; 12:57; John 7:24. What Jesus has in mind is criticizing and finding fault with other people. This is a common human tendency. This same idea appears in Romans 2:1-11; 14:1-6; James 4:11-12.
2. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. 6:37b. This is a synonymous parallelism of the previous line.
3. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 6:37c. All of us are sinners. We turn to God for forgiveness. But God through Jesus Christ is our example. If God forgives us, we must follow God's example to forgive others.
4. Give, and it will be given to you. 6:38a. From a human point of view, this does not make sense--BUT it works. God works out the problems of life so that when we are generous, God blesses us superabundantly. "A good measure [of grain], pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." 6:38b-d. See Luke 8:18; 19:25-26; Isaiah
65:7; Jeremiah 32:18; Psalm 79:12.
b. Jesus then told a parable to communicate this truth.
1. A blind person cannot guide a blind person. 6:39. See Matthew 15:14. The idea is that if a person does not realize his or her own faults, he or she is in no position to criticize other people and lead other people in the right way.
2. A disciple or student or learner is not above his or her teacher. At best, that person might some day become like his or her teacher. Of course, God through Jesus Christ is our only complete TEACHER. 6:40.
3. It is very easy for each of us to see the faults of other people, but very difficult to see our own faults. Jesus contrasts a log and a speck in the eye. Often, a huge log bulges out of my eye, while only a speck is present in the eye of another person. Jesus calls such a person a "hypocrite," a "play actor," pretending to be who he or she is actually not that person. The comment of Joseph Fitzmyer in the commentary on Luke in the Anchor Bible, page 642, is very important and pointed: "The figure in all its forms is intentionally grotesque in order to illustrate the human tendency to criticize and the natural reaction to it. The saying illustrates the need of honest self-evaluation and serious self-improvement; only the one who overcomes one's own fault(s) can gain the sight to help one's fellow. Jesus' words do not forbid Christian disciples to form moral judgments about human conduct, but they proscribe attempts to make others better without a similar and prior application of such judgments to oneself." 6:41-42.

II. The HEART is central to Christian Living. Luke 6:43-45.
a. Jesus first gives an illustration: a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Each tree is known by its fruit. Thorns cannot produce figs, and a bramble bush cannot produce grapes. The reason we criticize others is because this comes from the heart. 6:43-44.
b. Now Jesus explains the meaning of his illustration: a good heart produces good, and an evil heart produces evil, "for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks." When we criticize others with the mouth, this is the overflow of a prior evil heart. 6:45.

III. The Importance of a Good Foundation. Luke 6:46-49.
a. Many people call Jesus LORD, but do not DO what Jesus says. Mere external religion is not acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. True religion is based on the heart and obeying God. 6:46.
b. Jesus uses this illustration to emphasize this point:
1. One man builds a house on a rock, a solid foundation. When a flood comes and the river rises, that house will stand. 6:47-48.
2. Another man builds a house without a foundation. When a flood comes and the river rises, that house will fall and crumble. 6:49.
c. As in the previous paragraphs, the whole issue is HYPOCRISY, the external pretension of serving God when one is living in ways contrary to God.

This section of the Sermon on the Plain is challenging for all of us. Let us hear and follow God's truth through Jesus Christ.

Share YOUR insights and concerns and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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