PHARISEES AND FRUIT INSPECTORS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 11, 2017
37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
41 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? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
— Luke 6:37-45, ESV
Judges play a crucial role in our culture. They make sure court proceedings are fair. They recognize the winners in our athletic competitions. They give the blue ribbon to Aunt Bee’s apple pie. Judges make for a just, fair, and civil society. We need judges.
Or, do we? In one of His most oft quoted commandments in Scripture, Jesus said, “Judge not.” But can you imagine a world with no courts to punish criminals or settle disputes? Can you imagine any kind of fair competition without judges or referees? If there is a difference between right and wrong in the universe, and there most certainly is, how will we tell which is which without judging? So what did Jesus mean?
Once again it is clear that the Christ had the Pharisees in mind when He preached these words to His disciples. The sermon on the plain offered a reverse ethic to the prevailing platitudes provided by the Pharisees. They were the most judgmental men on the planet, and Jesus did not want His followers to be like them.
The False Judgement of the Pharisees
If you had lived in Israel during the first century, you would probably have liked the Pharisees. They were biblical scholars in a land where the Hebrew scriptures were of tantamount importance. They represented a moral majority repulsed by the immoral excesses of the Roman Empire. They were financially successful, laymen of means which they claimed were a blessing from God owed to their faithfulness to Him. What’s not to like?
Yet Jesus provoked constant confrontation with them. He is no doubt referring to them in this text when He talks about bad judges, blind guides, blatant hypocrites, and brazen evil. So why was Jesus so judgmental towards the Pharisees?
The Pharisees were racists whose racism extended even beyond race. The combination of “judge” and “condemn” in the same sentence meant literally that the Pharisees separated themselves from all people who were different from them and considered them bad because of those differences. Klu Klux Klan Christians and Black Muslims illustrate this kind of Pharisaical racism. So does anyone who lives any way of life that devalues a person because of the color of their skin. God does not take kindly to racism.
The Pharisees were religious bigots who castigated people with different religious beliefs, even within their own religion. For the Pharisees it was not enough to be Jewish, you had to be their kind of Jew. They hated other Bible-believing Jews for not understanding the Bible the exact same way they did. No struggle between Catholics and Protestants can compare with the animosity felt by Pharisees towards the Sadducees, Herodians, and Essenes. It reminds me of my early days as a Baptist when I was taught to look down at all the other denominations and traditions of Christianity. I don't think God takes kindly to this kind of bigotry.
It would have been tolerable to be a Pharisee if the Pharisees had been right. If the Jews were the only race of people that God loved, and if the Pharisees’ system of rules and regulations were an accurate understanding of the word of God, then you could not really blame them for finding it hard to be humble since they were perfect in every way. But, they were not, and very far from it. Their rules about Sabbath days and other days were wrong. Their judgments about other people were harsh and hurtful. They were influencing others to think the way they think, much to the chagrin of God.
That is why Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides, a bunch of snakes (ref. Matthew12:34), and children of hell (ref. Matthew 23:15). That is why Jesus preached the sermon on the plain. That is why Jesus does not want you to be a Pharisee. But, He has called us to be fruit inspectors.
The Fruit Inspectors of the Kingdom of God
Jesus’ judgement against judging should not be judged as a juggernaut against judgment. We all must serve as judges is some capacity. We all must judge between right and wrong. We all must judge ourselves to see if we are following the right and eschewing the wrong. We all must care about others and caution them to do the right instead of the wrong, which entails judging them on some level. This kind of judgment is good and judicial, according to Jesus, as long as we keep it in this proper order.
First of all, we just judge between good and bad, right and wrong. Those terms flow in the finale of this passage, but we must take it as of first importance. The Pharisees judged right and wrong based on their own opinions, writings, rules, and regulations, vaguely drawn from Scripture. What could have been helpful proved harmful because they elevated their conclusions above a more careful exegesis of the text. When man’s words stand above God’s word, we are bound to fall. When God’s word is our guide, we walk with God. But this requires judgement, a judgement concerning the veracity and dependability of the Bible.
If you judge the Bible to be the word of God, then you must allow it to judge between good and evil for you, starting with you alone. If the Scriptures lead you into a relationship with God, then you will travel the path of grace until you get to the place of faith where you will meet your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Once you experience the new birth, eternal life, and the forgiveness of sins, Christ bids you to go and sin no more. Logs do get in our eyes, though, and the only way to get them out is to judge yourself according to the spiritual and moral standards of Holy Scripture. If the Bible says it is good, grab it. If the Bible says it is evil, get it out of your life. Of course, this will require becoming familiar with the Bible through personal study, prayer, and participation in the life of a biblical church. But if you’ve entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, loving His word and learning in His church is an easy thing to do.
Next comes the tricky part. You must judge others. Wait, Jesus said, “Judge not.” No, He did not. He said not to judge like a Pharisee. But clearly, when the log is removed from your own eye, you are commanded to at least attempt to get those pesky specks out of the lives of others. But just who are these others? The others are brothers (or sisters), according to Jesus. The only others we are allowed to judge are our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We are not to judge the atheist and the agnostic, the Muslim and the Buddhist, any person nor any group that chooses to live life outside of the parameters of the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. God will judge them, so we should leave it up to Him. Those trees are outside of our grove.
However, when it comes to our own orchard, the kingdom of God, the church of Jesus Christ, we must be fruit inspectors, our own first, of course. Then, when others we call brothers or sisters are speaking or acting in a manner which clearly contradicts the revealed will of God, then we must become spiritual ophthalmologists and engage in a little eye surgery. But use great caution, and make sure the speck is not some violation of your own pharisaical rules, but the clear interpretation of the word of God. Don’t be a Pharisee! But, don’t be a coward, either.
If they say, “Don’t judge me!” Say, I’m not, but the word of God is. Be able to show them, with love. If they are a good tree, they will love you for it, and forgiveness will flow. If they are not, let the Lord handle it some other way. As it is written in 1 Peter 4:17, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Evangelism demands that we approach unbelievers without judgment, offering only the gospel of Jesus Christ. Discipleship demands that we approach our fellow believers, with some judgement, inspecting their fruit and confronting sins that are hurtful to them and others. Both evangelism and discipleship demand forgiveness which, when given, comes back to you, too.
At the end of the day, we become like our teacher, master, and lord. If your lord is a Pharisee, you’ll become one, too, and into the pit you will fall. If your Lord is Christ, then Christian speech and actions will fall from your tree, a tree that reaches Heaven. So don’t judge. Be a fruit inspector instead.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org