Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Specks, Planks, and Fruit

Today is the second day in our 30th week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  2 Kings 9-10; Matthew 7; Psalm 49.

Some years ago, when I turned 35, I was feeling a bit old so I decided to go to the doctor and get a physical.  I'm not the sort of person who goes to the doctor unless there's a problem, so this was a big deal for me.  I asked the doc to give me a complete workup.  When all the tests were in, he told me that my cholesterol was high (never mind that he didn't tell me I was supposed to fast before the cholesterol test) and that I had some weight to lose.  "Just eat a few more vegetables and a few less desserts," he said.  Then, patting his own massive gut, he said shrugged and said, "But who can really do that, anyway?"

That was the last time I visited that doctor.

I mean--what kind of doctor gives medical advice that he himself isn't willing to take?  And, something so basic, too!  He was trying to take the speck out of my eye, when all along he had a plank in his own eye.

In Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV), Jesus says:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Come to think of it, as I'm writing this blog post this morning and using Dr. So-and-so as my example, I'm judging him quite a bit, aren't I?  See, this is how it works.  When you judge me, then I judge you right back.  I might have a speck, and you might have a plank.  But then once I realize that you have a plank, I get judgmental about you judging me, and my speck turns into a log!  And round and round it goes!

That's why Jesus said it's better not to judge at all.  "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."  

Once I read an article in which the author addressed that commonly used Christian aphorism, "Love the sinner; hate the sin."  The writer said, "I have a problem with that.  It takes so much time getting to the point where I hate my own sin, that I don't have time to hate yours."  

Things that make you go "hmmmm...."

Now, I know what some will say.  I've also heard that Christian aphorism that says, "God hasn't called me to be a judge, but He has called me to be a Fruit Inspector."  This is based on Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV), which says:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Let's be very careful here, and understand what Jesus is talking about.  Here, our Lord isn't talking about evaluating people's sin.  People who use the "fruit inspector" phrase generally mean that they're not judging the people who commit the sin; they're simply judging the sin according to God's righteous standard.  This is often a way of getting away from admitting our own judgmental attitude.  We sanitize it and call it "fruit inspection."  But all the while, we're pointing out someone's speck while our planks vibrate like a diving board that somebody just jumped off of.  What Jesus was talking about here were false prophets.  These folks aren't just "sinners" who are minding their own business in their sin, but people who are trying to spread their rebelliousness and lies to other people.  In other words, sin-missionaries.  What they have to say sounds good (sheep's clothing) but in the end the sin that they spread will devour like a ravenous wolf.

There's a big difference between someone who sins (don't we all fall into that category) and someone who tries to spread their disease to other people.  When we convince other people to sin, then we feel more normal ourselves.  If we can convince enough people that our sin is okay, then maybe it will become culturally acceptable even.  Maybe we can convince some preachers to say that our sin isn't really sin.  In fact, if we're all born sinners, then our sin isn't really sin because God made us that way, so it's really God's fault--right???  And anyway, doesn't God want us to do the things that make us feel good???

You see the way false prophets work?  They warp the truth and twist the mind until you don't know truth from lies anymore.  Jesus sounds awfully judgmental when he calls these people names.  But these people are worthy of His judgment!  Their fruits are open for inspection by all believers, because it's only by inspecting these fruits that we can identify true teachers from false.

Turn on any episode of trash TV and you can see someone whose life is an immoral train wreck, defending their own sin before a live audience.  Sometimes audience members will even get into verbal throwdowns with the TV show guests.  Invariably, the guest will use this oft-quoted Bible verse.  "The Bible says don't judge or you'll be judged," they say.  And they're right.  They might be wrong in their behavior, but they're right in their quote.  It's not our job to judge or to condemn another person.  "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone," Jesus says in John 8:7 (NLT).  Be careful about trying to take the specks out of someone else's eye when you have a log in your own.  Don't "love the sinner but hate his sin."  Love the sinner and hate your own sin instead.  

But when it comes to false teachers who claim to speak for God but who actually spread falsehood, sin, and lies--these you will know by their fruits.  Don't trust them, for they are wolves in sheep's clothing.   

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